Division 10 Councillor David Pahlke said the council was very pleased the students had agreed to continue the caretaker role. This memorial park holds special significance to the Ipswich and Walloon communities and so it is important to local history that it be preserved and respected.
The Henry Lawson Bicentennial Park gained its name after it was discovered the famous bard had written a poem about two local sisters who drowned more than 100 years ago in a Walloon waterhole. On March 21, 1891 Bridget Kate and Mary Jane Broderick, aged six and nine years – daughters of a lengthsman on the railway at Walloon – were sent on an errand by their parents
They didn’t return home when expected and hours later were found drowned in the waterhole not far from their home. It is believed they got sidetracked and wandered to the waterhole, to pick lilies. Henry Lawson later wrote a poem about the tragedy and called it The Babies of Walloon. In honour of the girls’ deaths and the poet who immortalised them, council erected a memorial in the nearby local park more than 100 years later.
The Walloon State Primary School is located across the road from the park. For the last few years, the students have been keeping a mindful eye on the park and the memorial, and doing safety audits and reporting incidents.
The responsibilities help students develop a social conscience and a moral community responsibility to be aware that we all contribute to the care of our locally recreational areas and community facilities. The students take an active role in caring for the park, being the eyes and ears for our community, suggesting improvements and being involved in twice-yearly maintenance reports. They keep a close eye on the park’s facilities and report any issues.”
Preserving the memorial was an honourable way to not only remember the tragic drowning of these local children but also the relationship between Henry Lawson and the Ipswich area. The park was formerly known as Bicentennial Park but was officially renamed the Henry Lawson Bicentennial Park on March 24, 2007 in the presence of Henry Lawson’s grand nephew Peter Lawson.
Public artworks form an entry feature to the park to capture and highlight The Babies of Walloon story and poem. Bronze sculptures of the girls playing were built and positioned over a composite ceramic tile and Italian glass mosaic designed to represent the waterhole in which they drowned.
It is surrounded by timber seats and cast bronze replicas of the girls’ belongings, such as a rag doll and hula-hoop. There also is a large shelter for community events with lighting, as well as a poet’s platform made of timber featuring a bronze bust of Henry Lawson set into the lectern.