Blood, sweat and tears go into reopening of Rabbit Works
LESTER Dawson has handled a lot of news since establishing the MacIntryre Gazette newsletter 22 years ago.
But there are few headlines of which he is more proud than 'New Texas Rabbit Works Opens Doors on History'.
That's because the secretary and former president of the Texas Qld Inc volunteer committee, which is custodian of the building, knows first-hand just how many people's blood, sweat and tears went into the renovations, which have allowed the Rabbit Works to reopen to visitors.
"It's part of our history and we are proud of our community and their dedication to convert the Rabbit Works into a wonderful visitor experience and bring this story to life,” Lester said.
Goondiwindi Regional Council's David Hayward said the development had been guided by a community engagement process that invited hundreds of residents to share their stories, photos and history of the district's rabbit days.
In the 1930s-60s, Texas was riding on the bunny's back after the rabbit plague hit Queensland in the 1920s.
Within 10 years, despite (or perhaps partly because of) the Great Depression, the Rabbit Works employed 30 men, processed 6000 rabbits daily and exported three tons of rabbit meat weekly to England.
Tradesmen earned more money trapping rabbits than by plying their trade and schoolchildren could earn more than their teachers.
Some of their stories have been digitally recorded to be shared with visitors.
"The rabbit industry was huge not just in Texas but across Australia at that time,” Lester explained.
"But this is the last remaining building of its kind in Australia.
"What we have here is a little time capsule for the whole industry, which we think is pretty unique.”
Lester said it was important to recognise both the economic impact the rabbit industry had on the community in its heyday and its historical significance.
"It's a building that's quite unique in that it acts like a giant refrigerator - with a big engine and compressors and ammonia piping through - at a time when producing ice was a very new thing,” he said.
While a major government grant fast-tracked the project, Lester said fundraising had taken many forms through the years, including giving birth to the Texas Country Music Round-up, which will mark its 11th year this September.
"We think there will be a lot of interest in what we have achieved here,” Lester said.
"A lot of people have been involved in making this happen. The industry touched the whole district in some form.
"Whether you were from a grazing background and wanted rid of the rabbits, or the shearers and other working-class people who made a lot of money from it, generations of people are aware of the impact rabbits had.”
The Rabbit Works will be open Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays at Mingoola Rd, Texas.