The outback town of Wyandra is easily passed by, blink and you’ll miss it.
- A local post office’s transformation is a hit with travellers and grey nomads
- The once-thriving town’s population has receded to below 100 in recent years
- The town’s old fuel depot sits on the post office site and its 44-gallon drums replaced by old fashioned-style cinema seating
Town postie Glenn Paterson has set about changing that, creating a place that travellers want to stop at on their journey along the Matilda Way.
Established as a settlement on Queensland’s historic Western Railway Line, the proximity to the Warrego River made the town a vital part of the now-suspended line.
It provided water supplies for freight moving up and down the rail network, located just off the Mitchell Highway between Cunnamulla and Charleville, over 800 kilometres west of Brisbane.
But once a thriving hub for the graziers of the district, Wyandra has seen its population recede below 100.
Even so, and going against the trend of moving away from the outback to the coast, Mr Paterson reversed that and headed west after a “three-line scatter ad” in his local paper.
That was 17 years ago.
When he brought the Wyandra Post Office there was not much else there.
Mr Paterson has transformed the post office and adjacent block into an outback attraction for anyone passing through.
“You couldn’t even by an ice cream or a drink. There was nothing else,” Mr Paterson said.
“I converted the shop doing Devonshire teas and burgers and then it just grew.
Using locally sourced Australiana relics, the grounds now offer a view of life in the bush from a bygone era.
The town’s old fuel depot sits on the site and its 44-gallon drums have been replaced by old fashioned-style cinema seating.
The former utility has been transformed into a picture theatre where patrons’ sense of nostalgia is whipped up by running old black and white newsreels and classic movies.
“That’s what you used to do, you’d go to the movies and sit there and watch the black and white news reels, Movietone,” he said.
“They just love it, it brings them back to the past.
Lock up the grey nomads
Four years ago, Mr Paterson also purchased and moved the old town jail onto the grounds.
“That was built in 1909 and it’s always served as the local jail behind the police station,” Mr Paterson said.
“Sometimes when they [grey nomads] get a bit rowdy we threaten to put them in the jail pyjamas and lock them in overnight.”
The 600km round trip mail run is done on Tuesday and Friday which has kept Mr Paterson and his newly wed wife Roscia busy.
But with travel restrictions in the country still limited, he has never seen the highway so quiet.
“With the COVID we’ve got no tourists around, there’s nothing on the highway, we are more or less isolated,” Mr Paterson said.
“Hopefully they’ll end up coming [back] this way.”
Thankfully for tourist operators, intrastate travel restrictions have been lifted with half of the traditional outback tourist season still ahead.
The roadmap to lifted restrictions nationwide is still a work in progress but hopefully will be next month.
Mr Paterson has a simple message for anyone thinking about a trip to the outback.
“It’s a lovely place come on out and see us,” he said.