The J.C. Hubinger Museum in Cardwell is a vital community-owned facility of the Cassowary Coast Region. Its location on Australia’s National Highway One beside the Pacific Ocean in the centre of Cardwell is ideal for people travelling through to get a quick glimpse of the fascinating local history. The Cardwell & District Historical Society maintains and runs the museum under an honorary lease arrangement, in conjunction with the Regional Council. A heritage-listed building, the museum dates from 1892 and was originally the Cardwell Shire Hall and centre of Shire administration.
CWA roof on CHDS building
For around 80 years it was the principal venue for most of the formal and social history that is now recalled in the exhibitions within. Our museum has survived many cyclones, including two of the four most intense yet recorded along Australia’s east coast according to the Bureau of Meteorology: an un-named cyclone which devastated Innisfail and the government’s Aboriginal settlement at Mission Beach in 1918, and cyclone Yasi in February 2011.
Many treasured and precious exhibits were lost or damaged in cyclone Yasi, and major reconstruction of the building was undertaken. The rear section of the museum, which includes the concert stage, remains complete from the original 1892 building. This section also contains the marble honour roll where it was erected by the Hubinger brothers, John and Joe, in 1922. Our museum is part of Cardwell’s heritage precinct, which in 2016 became the Cardwell Visitor and Heritage Centre, where travellers are able to also obtain tourism information. The Centre is staffed principally by volunteers and the entire precinct is now open seven days per week: Monday to Friday 9.00am-4.30pm; Saturday 9.00am-1.00pm; Sunday 10.00am-1.00pm. This website is another doorway to our museum and we plan to gradually expand its volumes of historic documents, photographs, videos and information, making them available to anyone wishing to browse our history from anywhere in the world. Within Cardwell’s Visitor and Heritage precinct and next door to the museum is the Bush Telegraph, a building erected in 1870 for the arrival of the electric telegraph in Cardwell early the following year.
The story of that major advance in communication in north eastern Australia, only six years after Cardwell was settled, is vividly presented throughout the building, which was also Cardwell’s Post Office for a century.
The Bush Telegraph, J. C. Hubinger Museum and the old Court House and gaol, together, form Cardwell’s Visitor and Heritage precinct on a single contained site. A short walk across Balliol Street is an Outdoor Museum in a large shed near the public library. It contains a collection of many historic pieces which reflect early lifestyles mainly relating to transport, life on the land and manufacturing in the blacksmith shops.
At the other (northern) end of Victoria Street (National Highway One) in Cardwell, is the Girringun Keeping Place, a museum which provides a fascinating insight into the ageless history of this region before white settlers arrived in 1864.
Direct descendants of some of the Aboriginal families who lived here at the time of white settlement still live in the district, and also contribute to productive organisational and cultural development at the Girringun Aboriginal Corporation within which the Keeping Place is housed.
In April 2015 Girringun artist, Abe Muriata, had a major exhibition unveiled at the British Museum in London. Girringun artists were commissioned to create bagu, fire spirit figures, for an international exhibition of art and culture of Oceanic people, launched at the Oceanographic Museum of Monaco at Monte Carlo in March 2016.