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Oakey, QLD

Darling Downs town - home of Bernborough, one of the country's most famous racehorses

Oakey is a pleasant rural service town west of Toowoomba. It is noted for two things: it was the home of Bernborough, one of Australia's most famous racehorses and, just outside town, is the best aviation museum in Australia, the Australian Army Flying Museum.

Location

Oakey is located 155 km west of Brisbane via Toowoomba. Located on the Warrego Highway it is situated 402 m above sea-level.

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Origin of Name

Oakey is one of those unintentionally funny town names. It was, reputedly, named after the river oaks on the banks of the Oakey Creek.

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Things to See and Do

Bernborough
The highlight of the town is a life-size bronze horse cast (the first in Australia) which stands outside the Jondaryan shire office and records the life of legendary local racehorse, Bernborough.
The plaque reads: "Bernborough. Bay horse foaled at Rosalie Plains, Queensland in 1939. By Emborough (GB) out of Bern Maid (Aus). Career race record: 37 starts, 26 wins, 2 seconds, 1 third, 8 unplaced. Bernborough's early racing was confined to Clifford Park Racecourse at Toowoomba, where from 20 starts he recorded 11 wins, 2 seconds and 1 third."
His trainer Harry Plant believed that Bernborough was the greatest horse ever to race in Australia.
"For the first four years of his life Bernborough was restricted to racing in the local area (because of a ban the Queensland Turf Club had placed on his owners) and he became something of a legend on the tracks around Toowoomba.
"In 1945 Bernborough was sold to the well-known Sydney restauranteur, Azzalin Romano, who bought him for 2,600 guineas.
"Over the next eighteen months, trained by Harry Plant and ridden by a young Athol Mulley, Bernborough became a legend. Carrying horrendous weights (he won the Doomben Cup carrying 10 stone 11 pounds and the Doomben 10 000 carrying 10 stone 5 pounds) he won 15 consecutive races in three states between 22 December 1945 and 19 October 1946. He seemed capable of winning at virtually any distance, from six to eleven furlongs. On 19 October, carrying 10 stone 10 pounds he lost the Caulfield Cup and Athol Mulley was replaced as rider. In the next race he fractured a bone and was forced to retire to stud. Taken to the USA he sired progeny that won over $US4.5 million in prize money. Amongst his progeny were Berseem, the champion sprinter in the USA at the time, and Bernwood who broke the world record for the mile. Bernborough died in the USA in 1960."

Oakey Historical Museum
Located on the corner of Ramsey and Bridge Streets, and open Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday from 9.00 am - 1.00 pm, the museum has historic farm equipment outside and an extensive collection of local memorabilia. For more information tel: 0429 177 852.

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Other Attractions in the Area

Australian Army Flying Museum
Located 4 km from Oakey at the Army Airfield on Museum Drive, the $13 million Australian Army Aviation Centre has a superb collection of historic aircraft. It is unique because, obviously, flying was mainly the role of the Air Force and this is a celebration of the role it played in the Army. "The very beginning of he 'Australian Army Flying' ... and the pride of the museum" is the Bristol Boxkite, known as the Bristol Bi-Plane which is an accurate copy of the 1909 boxkite which was developed in 1910 and sold to the Australian Government in 1912. It was the first military aircraft to fly in Australia (1914 at Point Cook in Victoria) and, when parts wore out, another was built in Australia.

The displays in a large hanger range from old uniforms to actual aircraft. There is a replica of a box kite as well as every aircraft flown by the army. These include the Sioux helicopter,a rare replica of a Deperdussin training aircraft,  the Link Trainer, a famous Black Hawk helicopter, a Boomerang CA-19, a GAF Nomad, an Iroquois UK-1H, an old Spitfire and a replica of Sir Charles Kingsford-Smith's Southern Cross.

The Australian Army Flying Museum is located north of town, at the Oakey air base. Take the turn off the Warrego Highway to Acland and turn right across the railway line. It is signposted at the northern end of Oakey. The museum is open from 10.00 am - 3.00 pm, Wednesday to Sunday. Tel: (07) 4577 7666.

Acland
Located 19 km from Oakey is the tiny settlement of Acland where controversial shock jock and Liberal Party enthusiast, Alan Jones, was schooled. He started school in Acland in 1946. The town used to have one of the most interesting coal mining museums in the country. Privately run, the museum operated until the 1980s and was sited on the old Acland coal field. It was recognised as a significant historic coal mine. Sadly it is now closed, but is still recognisable as a remnant of a previous era of coal mining in the area. In 1999 New Hope Coal established the open cut New Acland Mine and, anticipating that the mine would cut through the town, they systematically purchased all the houses in the town ... except one. So this town which won the first Queensland Tidy Town award in 1989 (there is still a sign celebrating the award) is now a ghost town with a closed mining museum.

In recent times Acland has become something of a cause celebre. Radio commentator Alan Jones has railed against it regularly on his radio show and has attempted to save it. This is unlikely as the mining company now owns most of the houses and all that is left, in the distance, is a huge open cut mine. Not surprisingly large coal trucks are the most common transport on the surrounding roads.

On 20 December, 2014 the ABC published the following: "The Queensland Government has approved a $900 million mine expansion near Oakey on the state's Darling Downs. In a statement, Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney said the new Acland coal mine expansion would create hundreds of jobs and would be subject to more than 130 environmental conditions. A spokeswoman for Mr Seeney said the project was still subject to approval from the Federal Government and was still to be assessed under the State Government's new Regional Planning Interests Act."

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History

* Prior to European settlement the area around Jondaryan was occupied by members of the Barunggam Aboriginal people.

* Oakey was first settled in the early 1840s when pastoralists moved into the area and claimed large areas of land for grazing.

* In 1859 Jondaryan Woolshed was established in the area.

* The railway reached the district in 1867 and a settlement grew up around it.

* The Oakey Post Office was opened in 1869.

* In 1871 one daring entrepreneur opened a short-lived meatworks near the town. The plan was to tin and export kangaroo and wallaby under the dubious marketing name 'Australian Game'. The enterprise was unsuccessful and closed down in 1876.

* The town's moment of glory came with the birth of Bernborough at Rosalie Plains in 1939. For his first four years Bernborough was restricted to racing in the local area and became something of a legend on the tracks around Toowoomba.

* During World War II an air base was established to the north of the town. At its peak the base housed 2,000 troops.

* In 1945 Bernborough was sold to the well-known Sydney restauranteur, Azzalin Romano, who bought him for 2,600 guineas.

* Today Oakey is a prosperous service centre.

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Visitor Information

Oakey Community and Tourist Information, Historical Railway Station on Bridge Street, tel: 4401 INFO, Open seven days from 10.00 am - 4.00 pm.

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Useful Websites

There is a community website - http://oakey.qld.au/ - which provides useful information on the town.

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Got something to add?

Have we missed something or got a top tip for this town? Have your say below.

2 suggestions
  • Oakey also has a local historical museum situated on cnr Ramsey and Bridge sts. It is currently being renovated but 90% of exhibits are viewable. We are open Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday mornings from 9.00 am – 1.00 pm. We are here. Come visit. $3 per person or $6 per family.

    Denis Bennett
  • Yes, how about some more history about the people who lived there for THOUSANDS of years before Europeans. That would be nice to see for a change.

    Anonymous.