Hall’s moniker fails to make the grade

DEPUTY Prime Minister John Anderson yesterday opened the imaginative $21 million Mining Hall of Fame in Kalgoorlie-Boulder, which hopefully will become a significant WA tourism venue.

The Hall’s chairman, gold miner Ron Manners, said it was expected to attract 200,000 overseas, interstate, and local tourists annually.

That’s sizeable – about a fifth of Perth’s population each year, nearly 4000 each week – so it’s set to have a marked impact on the economies of the Goldfields region and the State overall. One million visitors are expected by Christmas 2006.

Mr Manners said the Hall’s organisers and its 380 individual and company donors hoped it emerges as a national icon.

They want the Hall to be on a par with the Longreach-based Australian Stockman’s Hall of Fame & Outback Heritage Centre, marketed nationally and internationally as the Stock-man’s Hall of Fame.

The Mining Hall of Fame will focus on the history of mining and the resources sector, as well as their future prospects, so will be a blend of museum and something akin to West Perth-based SciTech.

This marriage of past and future is good.

“It’s situated on an eight hectare site that incorporates a working tourist gold mine,” Mr Manners said.

But it would be a great pity if two crucial words in the Hall’s official name – The Australian Prospectors & Miners Hall of Fame Ltd – as opposed to the marketing name chosen for it, Mining Hall of Fame, continues being down played.

They are, of course, prospectors and miners.

The chosen title, Mining Hall of Fame, unfortunately seems to fall flat, it’s ho-hum, certainly not as catchy as Longreach’s Stockman’s Hall of Fame.

It fails to capture that romantic and adventurous flavour all see as part and parcel of the lives of Australia’s early prospectors and miners.

Prospectors & Miners Hall of Fame seems far more appropriate, more appealing, evocative, welcoming, even magnetic. But it’s being avoided.

Prospectors and miners, who often left wives and children on the coast, add a colourful slant, one evoking images of blood, sweat and tears, hopes achieved and hopes dashed.

Why not promote these widely appreciated aspects of these dogged outback battlers who sought to better themselves? And both words are already in the Hall’s officially registered name.

Those who conceived and built the Longreach Stockman’s Hall of Fame didn’t opt to promote their outback institution as, say, the Cattle Industry Hall of Fame.

No, they deliberately honoured the historic Aussie stockman, the human dimension, not a commercial sector.

The Stockman’s Hall of Fame was completed in 1987 and opened the following year by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

Since then it has hosted 840,000 visitors – 60,000 annually – with about 40 per cent from Queensland, nearly 30 per cent from NSW and 18 per cent from Victoria.

WA, the Northern Territory, South Australia and Tasmania each registered about 2 per cent, below the 2.5 per cent from overseas.

And Longreach is in the middle of Queensland, more than 1000 kilo-metres from Brisbane.

Central to its promotion is a conscious emphasis on the romantic flavour of that lonely man on horseback, the one in the saddle, the outback rider working out in the sun, sleeping beneath the stars, ever with an eye on his herd, and sometimes with his blue heeler.

Prospectors and miners, like stockmen, led lonely lives, working in a harsh outback, ever hopeful of unearthing another Golden Eagle or finding another Golden Mile.

Only few struck it rich. Many died trying.

It’s therefore difficult to comprehend why the Mining Hall of Fame’s organisers so deliberately shied clear of all these romantic, noble, self-sacrificing, and adventurous dimensions evoked by the words “prospector and miner” in their promotional literature.

Some suspect that perhaps there’s an anti-prospector bias deep within the budding Mining Hall’s organising fraternity, or perhaps among some of its big corporate backers.

If that’s so, Kalgoorlie-Boulder’s commendable initiative has gotten off to an unfortunate start.

But it’s essential it succeeds.

No one wants it to flounder and have to (perhaps) undergo a second launch to capture the theme most already associate with WA’s golden age.

Mr Manners, in defending the name, hastens to point out that the WA Mining Act, when referring to mining, encompasses all activities, including fossicking, prospecting, exploration, milling, treatment and even financing.

That’s undoubtedly true.

But such an erudite point is likely to go over the heads of potential tourists who, more often than not, opt to visit particular venues for quite subjective, usually romantic, reasons. Reasons arising from childhood reading of history books and fiction, not business tomes.

Let’s hope the Mining Hall of Fame’s organisers carefully monitor their venue’s performance and its public acceptance and prove willing to re-orient its marketing focus if they’re hoped for 200,000 annual visitor target isn’t reached.

It’s too valuable an asset not to realise its full potential.

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