The Cunderdin Historical Society contated Smith Sculptors, who are experienced designers of public artworks all over Australia, in particular, The HMAS Sydney Memorial in Geraldton and asked them to come up with a concept design to Commemorate the workers who built the Rabbit Proof Fence.
The Cunderdin Historical Society also accepted the role of initiating body and will act as a leader for wider WA heritage groups, either a special project group or as a subsidiary to an established museum/tourist association. The initial project at Cunderdin will act as a catalyst and model for the subsequent projects along major tourist routes that touch the three fences.
A steering group has been established, initially with Cunderdin as chair, and has representatives of the various government agencies and communities associated with the fences. The creation of such a body and its operation is being developed through ongoing extensive consultation with interested parties.
It is timely to address this oversight and celebrate the historic significance of the RPF project, as the Commonwealth is in the process of creating a new Heritage List for Australian heritage icons that contributed to the building of the nation.
The recent adverse impact of the global recession on regional communities has caused distress to many regional areas such as Ravensthorpe. Here where the No.1 RPF traverses the shire there is the opportunity to not only locate an interpretive site on the South Coast Highway but also support the proposal for a coastal scenic road that would take in the southern terminus of the fence at Starvation Boat Harbour.
It is also appropriate in the case of road safety as there are opportunity sites where there is little of interest for tourists and these sites would provide relief on a long journey and raise awareness of the environment by pointing to the immense scope of the fences.
A network of rural heritage attractions and tourist interest places around the Cunderdin venue would emerge if all the attractions could be linked related to each other and marketed as a Wheatbelt lifestyle experience. It would consist of mutually supportive and closely identified features with their supporting communities. Following this stage could be the establishment of similar venues on the major national highway crossings in locations including the shires of East Pilbara, Meekatharra, Northampton, Merredin and Ravensthorpe. Subsidiary centres could be more modest information centres where they would be part of local tourism projects. A drive trail would be one later project that could be developed and this would enhance links between the participating communities.
Informing people of the historic fencing project is but one benefit as the project will undoubtedly save lives by allowing drivers time to refresh at interesting and varied sites located alongside national and regional highways.
A series of dramatic artworks at key sites will provide a unifying theme to the project while reflecting local variation. As well, the local stories and how they have contributed will provide sufficient variation and colour in the exhibits to make them each worthy of a visit that enriches the whole experience. Additional commercial opportunities can be developed to help sustain the exhibits, such as a DVD and other retail items for visitors that will assist maintain this historic and unique aspect of Western Australia.
Staging the project will enable a statewide development plan to be agreed while the initial Cunderdin exhibit can be commenced as Stage 1.
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