Muttaburra
Collage of Muttaburra.

Muttaburra is the geographical centre of Queensland, located on the banks of the Thompson River.

Not too many towns have a dinosaur named after them and we suspect Muttaburra is the only one in Australia. In 1963 Doug Landon unearthed a eight metre, 3 tonne monster at Roseby Downs Station. It could walk on two or four legs and was a meat-eating, vegi-munching omnivore. The name it was given - Muttaburrasaurus.

Muttaburra is also one of numerous towns that claims Harry Readford (or Redford) as the local historical hero, which is unsurprising as Australians often empathise with outback bushrangers such as the Kelly's and Kenniff's.

Readford may or may not have been partially inspirational for the lead character in Rolfe Boldrewood's classic tale of bush ranging adventure - Robbery Under Arms. Fiction may have found it's way into folklore as Readford is claimed to be the notorious Captain Starlight of the novel - bushranger extraordinaire. Whatever the truth, Harry Readford was a known cattle 'duffer' (thief) and responsible for famously stealing a herd of 1000 cattle and pushing them across into South Australia where their Queensland brands wouldn't hinder a sale. It was a distance of nearly 1300km and realised a profit of nearly quarter of a million dollars in todays money.

The feat is recreated each year in the form of 'The Harry Redford Cattle Drive', 19 days and 200km pushing a 600 strong mob through the Queensland outback on horseback. Essentially the event is a tourist attraction and a chance for 'city dudes' to saddle up and take part in a bit of pioneering nostalgia.

The first inhabitants of the Muttaburra district were five aboriginal clans - the Ilba, Jagalingu, Jirandi, Niau and Mootoburra people. Muttaburra is obviously a corruption of Mootoburra, meaning a confluence or meeting of waters. The indigenous diet consisted of berries, ground seeds, kangaroo, wallaby and emu. Early white settlement was notably intrusive on the local indigenous people as settlers took over valuable waterholes and prime hunting country.

Pastoralists moved into the Muttaburra area in the early 1860's and a township was established several years later. These early Queensland towns grew to supply local stations and the droving teams pushing sheep or cattle along the established stock routes. Before long Muttaburra boasted a butcher, baker, bookmaker, saddlery, tobacconist and the usual government facilities such as a telegraph and post office, gaol, teaching post and police presence. At one stage Muttaburra was home to five hotels.

The infamous shearers strike of 1891 affected most towns who relied on wool and sheep as the primary industries. Four hundred armed strikers formed a picket at Muttaburra and riots and arson attacks were the order of the day. A large military contingent was required to maintain law and order.

Harry 'Breaker' Morant lived for a time in and around Muttaburra and despite the romantic legend that surrounds his historic execution by the British in South Africa, the 'Breaker' was a rogue and a thief. He appeared in the district courts of the region on numerous occasions, in relation to theft and swindling charges. His wife, for a short period, was famous anthropologist Daisy May Bates who threw him out after he refused to pay for their wedding and absconded with some livestock.

Today Muttaburra is home to around 100 residents who have done a fine job of preserving the rich heritage and history of the town.


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