Charleville looks to bilbies to attract grey nomads

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National Bilby centre in Charleville
Bilbies are a huge drawcard for grey nomads and other travellers. PIC: Save the Bilby Fund

Like most Queensland country towns, Charleville is increasingly looking to the grey dollar to help keep its economy ticking over. And it’s now hoping Australia’s own ‘Easter Bunny’, the bilby, might be the ‘point of difference’ that will help bring caravanners and motorhomers flocking.

The largely nocturnal rabbit-like species with silky fur is under threat as its habitat reduces. The Brisbane Times reports that, compared with rabbits, bilbies are not prolific breeders. While rabbits can have 72 offspring a year, bilbies can have just eight, of which many fall foul of foxes and feral cats.

The Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service says that, in a bad year, there could be as few as 400 to 600 bilbies around Charleville and maybe 2,000 in a good year.

A decade ago, there was a push to build a largely underground national bilby centre in Charleville where tourists could watch the bilbies in their burrows … but that never came to fruition. Now, the town wants to be part of a new business case for a bilby centre because 70,000 to 80,000 tourists, mostly grey nomads drive through the shire each year.

The outback Murweh Shire Council, which takes in Charleville, has recently invested in a new planetarium at its Cosmos Centre, and sees a bilby centre as another great opportunity.

Murweh’s economic development officer, John Nicholson, says bilbies certainly draw visitors.

“Anything with an eco-tourism slant is really very, very popular and anything to do with endangered species will always have an impact with tourists,” he said. “When you get the shops and the small businesses asking you ‘Have the tourists started? Have the tourists started?’ you realise just how important tourism is to the region.”

The council has the support of local federal MP David Littleproud.

“I see tourism is an important element to the diversification of the economy in rural and remote communities and think a national bilby centre in Charleville would be an exciting addition,” Mr Littleproud told Fairfax Media. “Not only would this centre promote the bilby as a national icon and work towards protecting this endangered species but also this centre’s creation would provide another great drawcard to the Murweh region.”

He said that the federal government has funding programs – like the Building Better Regions Fund – which could help to get it off the ground.

Tourism Australia statistics show the industry is worth about $33 million a year to the Charleville region.

  • Would a National Bilby Centre potentially persuade you to stop at Charleville? Comment below.

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2 Responses to Charleville looks to bilbies to attract grey nomads

  1. Great idea. I’d certainly stay & volunteer at such a place if it came to fruition.

  2. The National Bilby Centre would not make us specifically stop at Charleville as we already always stop at Charleville on our way up to Darwin for the winter. It would however give us another reason to spend more time in Charleville, Charleville is a wonderful place to visit and I would urge anyone travelling through that region stop and explore this area. There is a wonderful caravan park just north of Charleville on the Adavale Rd called Evening Star so call in a give them a call, they have a wonderful evening for all that turn up there.

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