Culture, Arts, Tourism and Community Heritage

The Culture, Arts, Tourism and Community Heritage (CATCH) program was established in 2009 in response to the need for an independent and flexible source of funding to support worthwhile activities in the areas of culture, tourism, arts, history and heritage across rural, regional and remote Australia.

In 2013/14, a total of $335,305 in grants was distributed to 32 rural communities.

Grants of up to $20,000 are available to not-for-profit organisations for projects of a cultural, historical or public tourism nature, assisting in providing community renewal through economic stimulus.

This is a unique program and the projects funded foster strong, vibrant communities, build local pride and regularly bring the community together.

A wide variety of projects were funded this year, from music and performance projects to museum improvements, heritage restorations and oral history projects, like Cobb & Co's historic birthday celebrations.

Cobb & Co celebrate 90 years of rural Australian history

boyintrain.jpgCobb & Co was Australia’s most important stage coach company in its day. Established in Melbourne in the 1800s at the height of the gold rushes, it was a very popular means of transport to the goldfields. Soon horse-drawn coaches were used to carry passengers throughout Victoria, New South Wales and into Queensland.

FRRR, via the Culture, Arts, Tourism & Community Heritage program was proud to be a part of the Cobb & Co 90th Anniversary celebrations. The CATCH grant for $11,000, funded by the Vincent Fairfax Family Foundation, helped the organising groups to create a re-enactment of the last stage coach run in Australia, from Surat to Yuleba along the 78 km Cobb & Co Way in Queensland.

In 1884, Cobb & Co Mail Service No. 177 commenced, travelling from Yuleba to Surat and on to St George. It was a valuable service for local, remote property owners to access supplies, receive mail and to transport passengers between the towns and beyond.

Celebrating the last coach service

catch3.jpgThe Surat & District Development Association (SDDA) and Yuleba Development Group (YDG) ran the Cobb & Co 90th Anniversary Celebrations on 22 to 24 August 2014. It celebrated the last service by the Cobb & Co Coach when its final stop was at Yuleba on 14 August 1924, retiring the Cobb & Co service in Australia.

Many local groups and individuals volunteered for this event to educate the community about the heritage of the area and attract visitors to enhance the profiles of Surat and Yuleba.

Each leg of the coach journey had a ‘hold-up’ by bushrangers and stops were made at the historic changing stations, which were catered for as fundraisers for local community groups.

The community puts in a huge effort

The community support and customer participation for the 90th anniversary was a huge success:

  • 72 horses and riders participated along with 6 wagons and buggies;
  • Coaches were fully booked a month before the event, with a waiting list;
  • Approximately 350 people attended the event;
  • Approximately 400 people attended the Yuleba markets;
  • 50% of Surat local businesses were involved and 70% from Yuleba;
  • Strong publicity: numerous newspaper articles, cover in Downunder magazine and mentioned in Outback magazine;
  • ABC radio presenter travelled on the coach and the event received fantastic coverage.

Continuing the celebrations every five years

catch2.jpgThe celebrations have taken place since 2009, every five years. The organising groups (SDDA and YDG) intend to commission a planning tool that will be a template for the 95th Cobb & Co Anniversary. This will enable the event to be improved and save valuable volunteer time spent reinventing the wheel. It will include information such as promotional material, historical articles, maps of routes and road closures, a list of sponsors and volunteers/groups, registration pack contents, signage, lessons learnt and a timeline for running the event.

The YDG and SDDA are non-profit organisations with goals of promoting, maintaining and growing viable, vibrant communities. Profits from the event will be divided between YDG and SDDA, and used by both as starter funding for the next event in 2019, continuing to mark the important role the Cobb & Co coach service played in Australia’s history.