Kim-Maree Burton is the perfect person to compile a book detailing the history of Mount Isa and the North West. She is highly knowledgeable and extremely passionate about the area and her research is meticulous. 'Whispers in the Spinifex' will be a great resource for school students, journalists and history buffs for generations to come.
Contributed Content Journalist – QLD/NT Group FairfaxMedia
It is difficult to imagine Mount Isa's miners going to the pub and drinking water or soft drink but that's what they did for nine long months during the 1929-30 beer strike.
It’s just one of the many tantalising tales from the past that has been unearthed through in-depth research and personal interviews by Kim Maree Burton and detailed in her new book "Whispers through the spinifex … memories of Mount Isa in the making".
I lived in Mount Isa for more than 30 years all of that time working at The North West Star. The founder of that paper, the late much-respected Sir Asher Joel called it Mount Isa and insisted his staff did too. And I never changed that wise decision. Kim-Maree discovered that Mr. A. P. Beard (Mount Isa Mines Limited, Controller of Accounts) sent back mail incorrectly addressed Mt instead of Mount, a move worth following.
I am really looking forward to the release of Kim-Maree book. It will be one of my treasures from living in Mount Isa.
Former Editor of The North West Star and Current Affairs Presenter on ITQ8
Whispers through the Spinifex … Memories of Mount Isa in the Making, is based on historical snapshots Kim-Maree has produced for the local newspaper, The North West Star, over the past four years.
Her subjects include the contributions of Indigenous diggers, the North Queensland Games in Mount Isa in 1986, The North West Star over 50 years, the naming of Mount Isa, and dance bands in the 1960s when Mount Isa was in its heyday.
She is well qualified to write about the history of Mount Isa, being born and raised in the city and fortunate to experience its evolution from dusty mining town to vibrant inland city.
And has worked in the media, the non-profit sector, hospitality, event management and marketing, before moving back to her beloved hometown seven years ago.
Each story, from the obscure to the mainstream, will evoke memories of life in a unique community where the town grew up around the mine site.
Her treatment of subjects is approachable and sensitive, rich in detail and blending archival research with interviews, oral histories, local knowledge and photographs.
The famous quote about journalism and history (attributed to Washington Post writer Alan Barth, 1906-1979) goes on to say that it “will never be completed”. Let’s hope Kim-Maree produces more of her fine work on the historical social fabric of Mount Isa, allowing readers to continue to evoke, ‘Whispers Through the Spinifex: Memories of Mount Isa in the Making’.
A historian who has researched aspects of Australian social history and popular culture. Her latest work is about to be published by Encyclopaedia Britannica.
Mount Isa has been good for so many people over its life. It is approaching the venerable status of being a century old community and will no doubt go on longer yet. Its early years defied all odds when the fledgling mine fought for survival. Leaders in mine and town were sorely tested while early residents tolerated difficult conditions before the trappings of an urban community came to fruition.
The community benefited from several different factors, including the mine’s early leaders seeking not to have a ‘company town’ and a number of resolute and resilient business people setting up in the growing community. Add the creation of a road to Darwin by the Americans in World War II, followed by arrival of people from many countries, particularly those seeking to escape the trauma of war in Europe. Around this time the magnitude of the mine’s ore bodies became evident. This resulted in some decades of growth and continued modernisation.
Kim-Maree has picked some of the aspects of Mount Isa that made it ‘different’, a great place to work and raise a family and an important influence on North Queensland. Her stories will remind those who have been involved why they have such good memories, and others reading this book what they missed!
(former Director of MIM Holdings Ltd and Executive General Manager of Mount Isa Mines Limited)
Kim-Maree with her folksy style has encapsulated the life of the city during a period of unparalleled growth in the rebuilding of the Isa following the disastrous “strike” in the early sixties.
Having lived the period with my wife and family I can attest to the friendly community we all so enjoyed.
Mount Isa Mine leaders recognized the necessity of a socially cohesive workforce and were attentive to the community needs. People were leaving the city and it was imperative that the flow be stemmed.
This exceptional time in its history allowed our children to be reared, educated and fulfilled comparatively free of the drugs and outside worldly temptations that ruin the lives of so many in larger communities.
Some may say that it was the isolation that contributed greatly to these social successes but I assure you it was not felt as the population of the city was at its zenith and services rivaled any large metropolis.
In a sense it was a golden era in the city’s development.
At the time one could have been excused for thinking that sporting facilities outnumbered their users.
Every sport seemed to be catered for and the results, as Kim-Maree points out, speak for themselves. National and international sporting representatives were produced.
I commend these articles to all who were part of the era and to historians alike who would wish to feel the vibrations of a small enthusiastic growing western community so ably recorded.
(former Member for Mount Isa)
That was a great story Kim-Maree, I'm going to read that to my class when we learn about the history of Mount Isa.
Tanya Stepanov Pollard
School of the Air teacher (Article on George Thorpe)
I have read the West Street Article and the word picture you paint had me back in West Street buying and even selling tickets.
I guess all painted pictures have a background whether they were painted with the brush or the pen!
May a background to this word picture of West Street could have mentioned the Leichhardt River or the silhouette of the mines in the background.
Anyhow I am not a authors bum. On this story wonderful made me feel like I was there used a big word I had never seen before.
Long term local resident, former cricket stalwart, Apexian, and bon viant.