It is 30 metres high, as inspiring as the community for which it was created, and as memorable as the environment in which it sits.
“The Watering Hole”, Thallon’s Graincorp silo mural, is much more than a masterfully painted mega structure that is pretty to gaze upon. It’s also a town saviour.
The tiny town of Thallon, 550 kilometres west of Brisbane, was once a bustling railway town with shops, cafes and a burgeoning population. Then the trains stopped, the rail depot ceased operating, jobs dried up and families moved on.
The small community that was left then struggled through years of drought and finally three crippling floods in four years. So it is no surprise that Thallon was struggling to keep its head above water.
The town’s sole surviving commercial enterprise, the pub, was also looking like it would close. That is when a group of farmers and former townsfolk – teachers who became firm friends while working many moons ago together at Thallon State School - stepped in and brought the hotel. The woman who instigated that joint purchase lives nine hours away now, and yet Leanne Brosnan remains passionately supportive of the community through the Thallon Progress Association.
She was also the driving force behind getting the Graincorp wheat silos painted in a brave bid to get a few people to detour and maybe spend a buck or two. Leanne said back in 2018, “I also really wanted something exciting and really positive to happen in Thallon – it was a statement to say we’re important and we’re here for the long run”.
Her vision came to fruition in 2017 after artists Joel Fergie aka The Zookeeper and Travis Vinson aka DRAPL spent three days immersed in the community to identify what makes this place unique.
Their mega-mural reflects what the duo found:
The mighty Moonie River, which runs from the Darling Downs west through Thallon and down into New South Wales.
Ewes running through the landscape on a surviving sheep property, in a nod to what once dominated the surrounding land.
A scarred tree, evidence of the local Kamilaroi people’s long connection to land and their pivotal part in the Thallon community.
Two pale-headed rosellas perched high above the ground that were originally photographed by a local enthusiast.
All set against a stunning western Queensland sunset.
Thanks to the mural, in 2018 and 2019 Thallon began to pull back from the brink of economic disaster imposed by the years of drought and flood. Visitors who pulled in to see the silo art contributed to a steady rebirth.
Caravaners and families on camping trips remain pivotally important to the community, and you can play a part too.
Head out to St George and Surrounds to enjoy a couple of peaceful nights at Thallon’s community-operated campground. It offers nine low-cost powered sites, plenty of free non-powered space to spread out, plus toilets and showers. The best part? It is smack bang in front of the silo art!
An easy 350m stroll will take you to the Francis Hotel, which is waiting to serve you café-style lunches, hearty evening meals and icy cold beers. The pub is also the place to pick up vibrant stubby coolers, post cards, wine coolers, fridge magnets and tea towels that feature the stunning mural, as well as a popular and well-priced range of silo-themed wines. (Psst, there's another mural at the pub too - check out the wombats on the water tanks!)
It is no wonder that travellers sharing their experiences on TripAdvisor, Google and Wikicamps constantly reiterate how Thallon has gone the extra mile to welcome them - from being supplied fuel and rain water when they found themselves out of luck, to the town’s ambassadors dropping off firewood at the campground, to being delighted when the local Fijian Community Choir performed an impromptu show under the stars.
And if that’s not enough, Thallon also has its own Big Thing. William the Wombat was designed and installed after the silo mural. He’s an incredible 3.5 metre high sculpture with purpose - a functional art piece that teaches children to rock climb while also educating the public about the almost-extinct Northern Hairy Nosed Wombat. These marsupials are only found in this region plus one other place.
Isn’t it incredible what a small community with determination, courage and pluck can achieve? It is thrilling, actually. Thrilling Thallon.
"The Watering Hole' won the Best Rural Art category and the pinnacle Best of the Best title at the most recent Australian Street Art Awards. Watch The Zookeeper's video to watch this amazing project come to life.
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