An unassuming ghost gum tree growing in the main street of Barcaldine in 1886, earned its fame as the founding of a political movement now known as the Australian Labor Party.
Under the shade of the tree, located at the front of the railway station, the Central Queensland Carriers Union was formed in 1887. Around the same time, the Queensland Shearers’ Union was formed at Blackall .
In 1891, Barcaldine was the centre for striking shearers during the “Great Shearers Strike”. Shearers marched with the Eureka flag with protests against low wages and poor working conditions.
The area beneath the Tree Of Knowledge became the location where decisions were made that affected the future of labour and politics in Australia. It became an icon for the Labor Party and Trade Unions.
The Tree of Knowledge was included in the National Heritage List in January 2006. It was soon killed in an act of vandalism, poisoned with glyphosate, and declared dead in October the same year.
The tree was removed in 2007 for the remains to undergo preservation. It was then returned to Barcaldine under a structure as a monument of the historical tree.
The space of the structure is based on the extent of the tree’s canopy from the period around the 1890s. The external timbers are charcoaled. Inside, the timbers are a lighter reddish colour that contrasts with the ghost gum’s white timber.
The size of it and the square/cube design makes it rather prominent in the main street. The best time, however, is to see the Tree Of Knowledge and the memorial created for it is at night. The structure and tree are lit up with special lighting that is quite beautiful.
A plaque for the Tree Of Knowledge Memorial has the following:
The Tree of Knowledge was a Eucalyptus Papuana (Ghost Gum) that stood on this site until its death in 2006.
During the 1891 National Shearers’ Strike, the Tree was silent witness to the momentous struggle between Shearers’ and Pastoralists’ over wages and working conditions.
These and subsequent events played an integral part in the formation of the labour union movement, the establishment of the Australian Labor Party and the formation of the Pastoralist Union.
A full interpretation of this history is provided at the Workers’ Heritage Centre.
This memorial was erected by Barcaldine Regional Council to permanently recognise the events of 1891 and the idealistic desire to create a better Australia.
The Memorial marks Queensland’s Q150 sesquicentennial celebrations and was formally opened by Queensland Premier, the Hon Anna Bligh MP on 2 May 2009 in the company of Parliamentarians from throughout Australia and a wide cross-section of the Australian people. It was made possible through the generous support of many including:
The Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government.
The Queensland Government’s Q150 Legacy Infrastructure Program and various Queensland Government Departments and authorities
Barcaldine Regional Council
To get there:
The Tree Of Knowledge is on the main street, Oak Street, in Barcaldine. Oak Street is the Capricorn Highway through the township. The memorial structure is dominant in the street and easily seen. The brown sign is at the location itself, not immediately on the road.
Wheelchair accessible: Yes
Pets: Yes, on leash