Burrum and District Museum

The Burrum District Museum incorporates the collections of the former Torbanlea Mining Museum and the Howard Museum and is run by the Burrum and District Heritage Society Inc. in conjunction with Hervey Bay City Council's Museums Support Officer. The primary aim of the Museum is to collect, preserve, exhibit and interpret objects of natural and cultural significance to the Burrum District. A particular emphasis is placed on the following themes:

1. Historical development of the townships & settlements of the Burrum District;

2. Mining history specifically linked to the Burrum Coal Fields.

The museum provides a venue for colection development combined with storage of documentary and photographic collections, and be the focus of research, exhibition and collection development activities.

Brief History of the Burrum District

The discovery of coal on the southern bank of the Burrum River in 1863 signalled the beginning of rapid development in the Burrum District and led directly to the establishment of the towns of Howard, Torbanlea, Burrum Heads and Toogom. Furthermore, as only the second coalfields to be exploited in Queensland, the Burrum Coalfields played a major role in the early development of the entire region, accelerating the growth of Maryborough and Hervey Bay and providing impetus for the extension of the railway north from Brisbane and the construction of the Urangan Pier.

Despite its narrow seams, the high quality of the coal contained within the Burrum coalfields allowed mining to remain economically viable throughout the majority of last century. Despite this viability diminishing significantly post WWII through developments such as the introduction of diesel locomotives, local demand for Burrum coal continued, led by the Howard Power Station (operating from 1951 to 1980), which supplied the entire region with electricity generated exclusively from local coal. In total, mining of the area spanned some 130 years, from 1866 until the closure of the last coalmine (Burgowan Number 12) in 1997, and saw some 94 shafts and tunnels dug and, at its peak, employed over 400 personnel.

Alongside mining, a number of other industries have also been prominent in the history of the Burrum District; in particular timber getting, citrus growing, cattle farming and small crop agriculture. The ocean has also provided a livelihood through fishing, oyster farming and the manufacture of dugong oil. Washing powder and cordial (Burrell's) were also manufactured in Howard in the past.

Finally, a particularly interesting feature of the history of the Burrum District lies in its important contribution to both the union movement and to national politics. This contribution is marked by the fact that the district has been home to two Australian Prime Ministers (Andrew Fisher and Billy Hughes) and also to Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin.

In conclusion, it is the combination of the rich history and the natural beauty of the area that makes the Burrum District unique. We hope that this small selection of memories provides you with a glimpse into the richness of our past - ENJOY!

Some Important Dates

1878 Burrum school, post office and Hotel open

1882 Howard named and land allocated for cemetery and police station

1883 Railway links to Burrum and Howard open

1887 Andrew Fisher (Australia's first Labour Prime Minister) builds his house in Howard (still standing in Watkins Street today)

1889 Six hotels now operating in the area (including Miners Arms, Torbanlea which is still open today)

1890 Brooklyn House, Howard completed for William Rankin by S. Ward

1893 Queensland Smelting Company formed at Aldershot

1900 Mining explosion at Torbanlea - five casualties

1926 Burrum River Road Bridge opened to traffic

1930 Shop fire destroys majority of William Street timber shop row in Howard

1948 Traviston changed to Burrum Heads

1951 Howard Power Station opens

1962 Burrum coal tonnage reaches 7.5 million tons

1976 Burgowan Number 13 Mine closes - this was the last pick and shovel mine to operate in Australia

1984 Bruce Highway bypass completed

1997 Last coal mine (Burgowan Number 12) closes on Burrum coalfields

2003 Second Royal Hotel burns down


As with many small museums the Burrum and District Museum collections cover a broad variety of areas relating to the history and development of the local area. In particular the collection includes a large number of historic objects and photographs focussing on the rich mining heritage of the Burrum Coal Fields.