Passion and loss behind project
IN 1979, John Walker lost his father, Ronald Walker, in a single fatality mining accident at No. 2 Underground, and this Sunday Mr Walker will proudly stand to honour his dad and as part of a community formally recognising those who have lost their lives while on the job in the Moura-Kianga Coalfields.
The official opening of the Moura Miners' Memorial this Saturday, Mr Walker said, would reflect the community's dedication to honouring those who have died in mining disasters and separate mining accidents since 1961, while also paying their respects to the families, friends and workmates of those who died.
"It's dedicated to the survivors and their families who faced a difficult road to recovery and the many people in our community still struggling to cope with the enormity of the disasters,” he said.
On September 20, 1975, the Kianga No. 1 explosion killed 13 miners; on June 16, 1986, 12 miners died in the Moura No. 4 explosion; on August 7, 1994, 11 lives were lost in the Moura No. 2 mine explosion; and 14 men have died in separate mining accidents in the region.
"My dad is one of the 14, and there's been no recognition for them,” Mr Walker said.
Ronald Walker, aged 32 at the time, was killed when an underground roof collapsed while he was working on November 13, 1979.
"I was 15,” Mr Walker said, "and I had three younger brothers. With my mother we all stayed in the area and did our schooling in Moura.”
Mr Walker, who still lives in Moura, working at the Dawson mine where he has been employed for 38 years, said he has worked in many areas including as a fitter and turner, in the processing plant, underground workshops, and in production.
President of the Moura Community Progress Inc, Mr Walker has been instrumental, along with an "incredible” committee, in creating the memorial.
"It was a small-scale project to start with - we didn't have the tunnels or the dome roof initially - and we went back and said that Moura is a hot, dry climate a lot of the time and we needed shade.
"We eventually came up with the structure as it is now. I was very passionate about trying to get this done.”
The final design is contemporary and industrial, and features a centre podium with structures representing a miner's helmet.
It's indicative of a miner's helmet, underground shaft entry and terrace open-cut.
"It is our history. Unfortunately Moura has had a history of the tragedies.”
Mr Walker said that in 1960, Moura was the first Queensland large-scale coal mine to export coal to Japan steel mills.
"It was a new industry that developed. Moura became a major mechanised mine in Queensland.”
The tragedies and deaths that became part of Moura's mining past also spurred increased legislation to bolster and improve safety in the industry around the country.
"There's legislation from the inquiries which has made the coalfields in Queensland and Australia the safest in the world, which is a key part of it.
"Safety is the number one priority of all companies, particularly coal companies. Their slogan is safety first, production will follow.”
Mr Walker said he hoped the memorial would inspire a focus for ongoing healing in the community while also providing a place where people could come together and remember their loved ones.
"We have something for the families now. Also, many families have moved away and as people travel around and, in time, they can visit Moura and know there's a place for them to come to.
"There's children and grandchildren and they might want to know where their grandfather worked, and now there's also something that recognises his death.
"We've had huge support from the majority of the community - this is our history and history is part of tourism too, so as people come through Moura and into the future, there'll be a place where they can learn about our history.”
The timeless architecture of the memorial, Mr Walker said, would not date and would continue to evolve with a vision to include technology and people's stories.
"This is significant, as Moura mine was the first export coal mine to Japan.
"With the history of it though comes the tragedies.
"This is a way of the community moving forward, and a recognition of the past has been and the acknowledgement of all the guys who have died.”
Funding and donations for the project - which cost $770,000 - have come via community support, Anglo American and Mitsui Coal Holdings, BHP, Thiess Pty Ltd, Peabody Energy, Banana Shire Council and State Government departments.
The sponsors Electrical Trades Union, Australian Manufacturing Workers' Union, and Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union all gave funding from local, state and national levels.
Donations were also received from many individuals and businesses from Moura, its wider community and throughout Queensland.
The Moura Miners' Memorial opening ceremony will be held from 9am on Saturday, November 10, with guest speakers, ribbon cutting and a morning tea at the RSL from 10.30am. There will be limited shade so please bring a hat.