Saturday the 25th March 2017 marked the opening of the recent 3.3 million dollar expansion of the Roma Regional Airport Terminal in Central Queensland and the official unveiling of my bottle tree sculptures ASHBURN WILSON. This pair of 3.0m tall steel sculptures won the 2014 Santos Acquisitive Sculpture Award and after more than two years in fabrication and then storage, finally found their place astride the Airport’s main entrance.
Roma is famous for it’s abundance of Brachyciton rupestris, the Queensland Bottle tree. More than 90 of them line Roma’s Heroes Avenue, planted to commemorate soldiers from the region who lost their lives in the First World War. As 2014 marked the 100th anniversary of the beginning of WW1, I felt it was appropriate to revisit that symbolism, reinterpreting it in rolled steel plate. It was a wonderful design challenge and I am thrilled with the result.
Ashburn and Wilson are the first and last soldiers listed on the Cairn located outside Roma’s Post Office and the sculptures are named for these two. Like book ends, they stand for themselves and everyone in between. Two sentinels to remind us of the sacrifice of many.
Sandra MacDonald, past president of the Roma on Bungil Gallery Management Committee (the group that coordinate the annual prize) suggested the Airport was an appropriate location for ASHBURN WILSON. The original memorial begins at the Railway Station, the primary point of arrival and departure from the town at that time. Now a century on, Roma Airport is one of the busiest in regional Queensland, winning the Qantaslink award for most Outstanding Regional Airport in 2014 and 2016. For many locals and visitors alike, the Airport is their first and last experience of Roma.
Puddy Chandler from the Maranoa Regional Council officiated the opening ceremony and together Andrew Snars (Regional Manager of Santos) and I cut the ribbon. The ceremony was attended by many Local Councilors, Corporate representatives, the Roma on Bungil Gallery Management Committee and interested locals. One of whom offered to take me on a sight seeing tour of the region in his light plane. A definite highlight of a memorable trip.
This is Greg who offered to take me up for a ride in his Cessna 172. We flew North over Pony Hills, west to Injune and finally back to Roma. At around 3500ft we skimmed just below the clouds. The open countryside was green and all the dams were full. We flew over the feed lots, where cattle are fattened before heading to the sale yards, busier now than ever before according to Greg, We saw the gas fields and talked about their impact on the local community including the many benefits. Santos has been mining in this region or over 50 years. May locals are employed by Santos and a great deal of the local economy relies on their presence.
It seemed Santos had a good working relationship with the community here, no doubt a result of interconnectedness forged from long association. But the construction boom of recent years had apparently bought new players, many of whom it seemed didn't enjoy the respect of the community, nor done anything to earn it. Like so many human interactions, the current energy debate is a real hot mess.