Queanbeyan Showground | NSW Environment, Energy and Science

Culture and heritage


Queanbeyan Showground

Item details

Name of item: Queanbeyan Showground
Type of item: Complex / Group
Group/Collection: Aboriginal
Category: Other - Landscape - Cultural
Location: Lat: -35.35659990 Long: 149.23070301
Primary address: 19-41 Farrer Place, Queanbeyan, NSW 2620
Parish: Queanbeyan
County: Murray
Local govt. area: Queanbeyan
Local Aboriginal Land Council: Ngambri
Hectares (approx): 8.8
Property description
Lot/Volume CodeLot/Volume NumberSection NumberPlan/Folio CodePlan/Folio Number
LOT6 DP1116082
LOT1-24 DP13963
LOT144 DP13963
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
19-41 Farrer PlaceQueanbeyanQueanbeyanQueanbeyanMurrayPrimary Address


Organisation NameOwner CategoryDate Ownership Updated
former Queanbeyan City CouncilLocal Government 

Statement of significance:

The Queanbeyan Showground site is of strong cultural significance to the Aboriginal community. Historically the site is of value as a traditional camping and ceremonial place that was in use before and after European settlement. In the 19th century the site also became associated with gatherings of Aboriginal people for the annual government blanket distribution. The place has research potential as demonstrated in previous archaeological finds on the site. Aboriginal burials are also associated with the place. The showground site is a rare example of a place where large annual gatherings were held involving Aboriginal groups from surrounding districts and as far afield as the coast, the lower Lachlan and the Murrumbidgee Rivers. The cultural significance of these events continues to this day with the Aboriginal community demonstrating a strong connection to the place.

The showground is valued by the Queanbeyan community for its social and cultural associations having been used over a long period for agricultural shows and a variety of recreational uses. The showground has historic and aesthetic significance at a local level.
Date significance updated: 12 Nov 14
Note: The State Heritage Inventory provides information about heritage items listed by local and State government agencies. The State Heritage Inventory is continually being updated by local and State agencies as new information becomes available. Read the OEH copyright and disclaimer.


Physical description: The following is an extract from the National Heritage Database: "The Queanbeyan Showground Reserve comprises a roughly triangular area of approximately 8.78ha (about 22 acres) in central Queanbeyan. The body of the reserve is composed of Lot 6 DP 1116082 and Lot 4, section 56, DP 758862 while a strip of land along Glebe Avenue consisting of Lots 1 to 24, DP 13963, contributes another 1.5ha to the ground. The whole of the area is Crown Land dedicated for showground purposes. The principal feature of the reserve is the showground arena, which has a trotting track on its perimeter and is overlooked by a grandstand. The grandstand is a brick building with a corrugated iron awning roof. A walkway runs across the front of the grandstand at the foot of the seating area and above the ground floor hall; the walkway, which has a balustrade, is accessed by stairways (not original) at each end of the building. The hall extends to the rear in a lean to form."
Also located on the grounds are other ancillary structures relating to the various uses of the showground. At the Farrer Place entrance to the site is a gateway constructed in 1934 as a memorial to J.T Collett, a Queanbeyan businessman, Council alderman and founder of the Agricultural Association. The gateway is a rendered masonry art-deco style parapet with two single pedestrian arches flanking a wider vehicular entrance archway. There is another matching gateway on Lowe Street.
There are several mature trees on the ground, mainly at its western (Cameron Road) end. Archaeological finds and a burial have been recorded on the site.

The structures and buildings on the site relate to the use of the reserve as a showground and as a place with various uses associated with recreation. The grandstand and other historic elements such as the original gates have local heritage value. There are no structures or buildings on the site which relate to the State significant Aboriginal history of the site.
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
Site is currently in use as a showground.
Date condition updated:14 Oct 11
Modifications and dates: Entrance gates built in 1934.
Grandstand built circa 1939
Current use: Showground and recreational uses.
Former use: Aboriginal camping and ceremonial place.


Historical notes: In the 19th century names associated with Aboriginal groups in the district around Weereewaa (Lake George) were the Kamberri, Kgamberry, Nganbra and the Nganbra-Pialligo (Jackson-Nakano: xviii). In the 1820s the first Europeans travelled beyond Weereewaa (Lake George) in search of the Murrumbidgee River and "discovered" the Molonglo Plains. Severe drought during the 1820s impelled colonists to search for more pasture land and in 1828 Major H.C. Antill from Picton sent his cattle and sheep to Molonglo Plains. The town of Queanbeyan grew up on the lands owned by innkeeper Timothy Beard, who had a collection of huts on the banks of Molonglo River. The town centre later shifted to Queanbeyan River about one mile east and was officially proclaimed as a township in 1838 with a population of 50. (Queanbeyan Museum)
From 1861 onwards new waves of British and European migrants arrived in the district to take advantage of Robertson's Free Selection Act and take up small allotments. Queanbeyan Aboriginal groups continued to host regular gatherings and corroborees and began to align these events with the annual government distribution of blankets.

Archaeological evidence and historical records show that the Queanbeyan Showground site was a traditional gathering place and burial place for Aboriginal people. Aborigines are first recorded camping on the site some time in the period 1846-50. The memoirs of W. Davis Wright describe a group of Aboriginals camping on lands in Farrer Place across the street from the showground. Records show blanket distribution took place in 1841, 1844, and 1861. The 1861 gathering took place in early April and is specifically associated with the annual distribution of blankets to the Aborigines in preparation for winter (The Golden Age 1861). A larger gathering is recorded in Queanbeyan in 1859 and another annual visit in 1861. The showground is specifically mentioned as the site of an 1862 gathering of tribes from Braidwood, Yass and Bland Plains (The Golden Age 1862). The gatherings of 1859 and 1862 which took place in June and April respectively were probably also connected with blanket distribution. Up until 1861 the blankets were distributed from the police station and court house located across Queanbeyan River; this seems to indicate the gatherings and camping took place at the showground site because it was a traditional location rather than for access to blankets (AHIMS Site Card 57-2-65).

The available evidence suggests that the gatherings served a much more significant purpose than the acquisition of blankets. The visits of large numbers of Aborigines from distant areas and the holding of corroborees are recorded in connection with the 1859, 1861 and 1862 gatherings (The Golden Age). Local tradition maintains that corroborees were held on the current showground reserve around this time. Indeed, the reserve was the site of the last Aboriginal corroboree held in the Queanbeyan district in 1862. Held over many weeks, the corroboree was attended by many hundreds of Aborigines. Tribes gathered from as far as the coast and the regions of the lower Lachlan and Murrumbidgee Rivers (Australian Heritage Database). Visiting groups included the Moolingoolah from Captains Flat and the upper Molonglo, Queanbeyan and Shoalhaven River districts, the Tinderry Mountains and Bungendore; Ngambri and Ngurma groups from Tumut, Brungle, Tuggeranong, Wanniassa, Pialligo, Yarralumla, Ginninderra, the Murrumbidgee regions and other parts of their extensive country; and even groups from Parramatta and Liverpool (Jackson-Nakano).
The tribes congregated at or around the same time each year for celebratory and ceremonial purposes, with the current showground reserve serving as one of the important sites for these events. Among local Aboriginal people there is an oral tradition that the showground was formerly a camping ground for their ancestors (AHIMS Site Card 57-2-65).

Part of the showground and some land to the south of it was also reputedly an Aboriginal burial ground. In his memoirs W. Davis Wright described the death of an Aboriginal man in a fight at a gathering on the current reserve in the period 1846-50 and that this person was buried on or near the site. According to AHIMS Site Card 57-2-65 in 1866, a local Queanbeyan resident discovered an Aboriginal skull, bones, a spear, a carved parrying shield and other Aboriginal implements on the showground: artefacts of a kind that were customarily buried with their deceased Aboriginal owners. The shield is said to have been given to the Historical Society. The site card also refers to an incident in 1935 where workmen digging a trench discovered the remains of an Aboriginal person buried in a sitting position on the northern side of West Avenue, approximately 80m south of the showground (AHIMS Site Card 57-2-65). In the Queanbeyan Showground Heritage Study historian Brendan O'Keefe refers to the 1935 find in West Avenue as well as the discovery of a burial during construction of the grandstand in 1939; the burial in the latter case was left in-situ and covered over (O'Keefe).

Most of the present showground reserve was included in a large area that was designated by 1862 as a Recreation Ground for the people of Queanbeyan. The ground was located on the south-western edge of the original square mile grid of streets laid out by Government Surveyor, James Larmer, in 1838. In 1883 the Queanbeyan Pastoral, Agricultural and Horticultural Association succeeded in having part of the Recreation Ground resumed and a 3.7 ha portion of it (Lot 4, Section 56) dedicated as a showground. Agricultural shows were held on the ground from this date. By 1906 the showground was expanded by approximately 4 hectares (Lot 6, Section 56). This area had also been part of the original Recreation Ground. A segment of the showground reserve on its north-eastern side (part of Lot 6, Section 56) was sold to the Catholic Church in 1920 so that it could erect a church and school on the site. With the money realised by this sale a 1.5 ha strip of land along the southern boundary was added to the showground reserve. In 1939 the Council became the trustee of both the body of the showground and of the extension along Glebe Avenue. (Local Government Heritage Inventory Sheet)

From its inception in 1893, the annual Queanbeyan Show developed into one of the most important community events in the Queanbeyan social calendar. Over the years the showground also became the venue for a variety of other activities. Trotting having become one of the main attractions of the annual shows, it was decided to construct a proper harness racing track on the ground in 1927. Until 1968 the showground track was one of New South Wales's most important venues for regular trotting meetings up. The showground also hosted carnivals, circuses and poultry exhibitions. Greyhound racing commenced in the early 1930s on a properly constructed coursing track. At the outbreak of World War Two, the showground was used as the drill ground by the Canberra troop of light horse. On many occasions, the showground has served as an emergency caravan park when the Queanbeyan River has been in flood. (Local Government Heritage Inventory Sheet)

At the Lowe Street entrance to the reserve there is a set of memorial gates erected in March 1934 to the memory of Thomas Collett, a Queanbeyan businessman, council alderman and founding member of the Queanbeyan Pastoral and Agricultural Association.

The annual show continued to be a popular after World War Two and continued to be a successful event until at least the early 1970s. After this time the show's fortunes began to decline and pressure to develop the showground increased. The site was seen by a majority of Quanbeyan City Council, the New South Wales Department of Lands and some local businesspeople as a valuable and under utilised piece of real estate close to the commercial heart of the city. In 1988, the council issued development plans for the showground. The development proposals roused considerable opposition in the city from various individuals and groups, including the Show Society, the Ngunnawal Land Council, the Monaro Conservation Society, the Queanbeyan and District Historical Society, the Coursing Club, the Trotting Association and a group specially formed to campaign for the retention of the showground, the Friends of Queanbeyan Showground. The council and Department of Lands pressed ahead and in mid-1989 twenty-four lots on Glebe Avenue were resumed. Following action by members of the Queanbeyan community, the New South Wales Legislative Council disallowed the resumption. The protracted dispute over the proposed development of the showground generated a great deal of publicity and a revival of interest in the ground. In the last few years, the annual show has undergone a strong resurgence. (Local Government Heritage Inventory Sheet)

Historic themes

Australian theme (abbrev)New South Wales themeLocal theme
2. Peopling-Peopling the continent Aboriginal cultures and interactions with other cultures-Activities associated with maintaining, developing, experiencing and remembering Aboriginal cultural identities and practices, past and present. All nations - sites evidencing occupation-
2. Peopling-Peopling the continent Aboriginal cultures and interactions with other cultures-Activities associated with maintaining, developing, experiencing and remembering Aboriginal cultural identities and practices, past and present. All Nations - Maintaining Aboriginal communities-
2. Peopling-Peopling the continent Aboriginal cultures and interactions with other cultures-Activities associated with maintaining, developing, experiencing and remembering Aboriginal cultural identities and practices, past and present. Aboriginal Culture-
4. Settlement-Building settlements, towns and cities Towns, suburbs and villages-Activities associated with creating, planning and managing urban functions, landscapes and lifestyles in towns, suburbs and villages Cultural Social and religious life-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Leisure-Activities associated with recreation and relaxation Showground-

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
The Queanbeyan Showground site is of historical value as a traditional camping and gathering place for Aboriginal people. Records of large gatherings of Aboriginal people were recorded in the area as early as 1841 and specifically on the showground site in 1862. These annual gatherings were important cultural occasions which included corroborees such as the one documented in 1862. According to oral tradition the showground site was a campground for the ancestors of local Aboriginal people. The annual gatherings were significant as they were attended by Aboriginal groups from as far afield as the coast, the regions of the lower Lachlan and Murrumbidgee Rivers. The congregation of tribes was an important means to communicate, trade and arrange marriages and were ceremonial as well as celebratory occasions.
The showground site is also historically significant as an Aboriginal burial place.
The showground site as an area of open space used for recreational purposes is important as a product of the original square-mile plan for Queanbeyan and demonstrates 19th century planning processes, distinctive customs and land use. The Queanbeyan Showground is historically significant at a local level as a country showground.
SHR Criteria b)
[Associative significance]
The area of the Queanbeyan Showground is associated with the Ngambri Aboriginal community. As well as being a camping and burial place, it was also a gathering place during the annual government distribution of blankets in preparation for winter.
The showground also has important historical associations at a local level through the annual Queanbeyan Show and with recreational uses including competitive sports and entertainment.
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
The grandstand is a good example of a grandstand circa 1939 and together with the original entrance gates, has aesthetic value at a local level.
SHR Criteria d)
[Social significance]
The Queanbeyan Showground site is of high cultural significance to the Queanbeyan Aboriginal community. The local Aboriginal community has an oral tradition which demonstrates their cultural connection to this place through their ancestral history. Aboriginal people have strong connections to the place which are unchanged despite the century of recreational uses by the wider community. A sense of place and identity is embodied in the place.
The showground is valued by the Queanbeyan community for its social and cultural associations having been used over a long period for agricultural shows and a variety of recreational uses.
SHR Criteria e)
[Research potential]
Documented archaeological finds throughout the 20th century, together with records on the Aboriginal Heritage Information Management System of the Office and Environment and Heritage, indicate that Queanbeyan Showground has archaeological potential. Whilst the more recently found artefacts are thought to possibly have originated in fill material brought on to the site, there are records of a burial being found beneath the grandstand and another nearby in West Avenue. There are also records that refer to ceremonial objects being found on the site (Feary and Shaughnessy).
SHR Criteria f)
The site of Queanbeyan showground is a rare example of a well documented Aboriginal ceremonial and camping place that was used during the 19th century as well as prior to European settlement. The description of the corroboree held on the site in 1862 provides a rare insight into Aboriginal ceremonial practices in NSW in the 19th century.
SHR Criteria g)
The Showground site is an excellent example of an Aboriginal ceremonial and camping place in use both before and after European settlement. The place exemplifies the resilience of Aboriginal culture in the time of colonial expansion.
Integrity/Intactness: The site is intact as a showground. The cultural and historical significance are embodied in the place.
Assessment criteria: Items are assessed against the PDF State Heritage Register (SHR) Criteria to determine the level of significance. Refer to the Listings below for the level of statutory protection.

Recommended management:

The showground is owned by the Queanbeyan Showground Reserve Trust which is managed by Queanbeyan City Council.

Procedures /Exemptions

Section of actDescriptionTitleCommentsAction date
57(2)Exemption to allow workStandard Exemptions SCHEDULE OF STANDARD EXEMPTIONS
Notice of Order Under Section 57 (2) of the Heritage Act 1977

I, the Minister for Planning, pursuant to subsection 57(2) of the Heritage Act 1977, on the recommendation of the Heritage Council of New South Wales, do by this Order:

1. revoke the Schedule of Exemptions to subsection 57(1) of the Heritage Act made under subsection 57(2) and published in the Government Gazette on 22 February 2008; and

2. grant standard exemptions from subsection 57(1) of the Heritage Act 1977, described in the Schedule attached.

Minister for Planning
Sydney, 11 July 2008

To view the schedule click on the Standard Exemptions for Works Requiring Heritage Council Approval link below.
Mar 15 2013
57(2)Exemption to allow workHeritage Act - Site Specific Exemptions HERITAGE ACT 1977


Queanbeyan Showground

SHR No. 1890

I, the Minister for Heritage, on the recommendation of the Heritage Council of New South Wales, in pursuance of section 57(2) of the Heritage Act 1977, do, by this my order, grant an exemption from section 57(1) of that Act in respect of the engaging in or carrying out of any activities described in Schedule C by the [owner, mortgagee or lessee of the land] described in Schedule B on the item described in Schedule A.

The Hon Robyn Parker, MP.
Minister for Heritage

Sydney, 3rd Day of September 2012


The item known as the Queanbeyan Showground, situated on the land described in Schedule B


All those pieces or parcels of land known as Lot 6 DP 1116082 and Lots 1 to 24 of DP13963 and Lot 4 Section 56 of Deposited Plan 758862 in Queanbeyan, County of Murray shown on the plan catalogued HC 2478 in the office of the Heritage Council of New South Wales.


All Standard Exemptions

Existing approved permits under the National Parks and Wildlife Act:
All works and activities in accordance with a current and valid consent from the Office of Environment and Heritage in force at the date of gazettal for listing Queanbeyan Showground on the State Heritage Register.

A Plan of Management approved by the Heritage Council:
All works and activities specified in detail in accordance with a current and valid Plan of Management that has been adopted by the Heritage Council of NSW.

Excavation or disturbance of land within precincts identified in an endorsed NSW Heritage Council Archaeological Zoning Plan:
Excavation or disturbance of land within precincts identified in an endorsed NSW Heritage Council Archaeological Zoning Plan as having no or low archaeological potential provided; the works are undertaken in accordance with the recommendations of the Heritage Council endorsed Archaeological Zoning Plan; there are no associated works that require consent of the Chief Executive Officer of the Office of Environment and Heritage under the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974; and the Director of the Heritage Branch has been notified in writing of the works proposed to be undertaken under this exemption prior to commencement of works and the Director has provided written confirmation that the works are exempt.

Ploughing or scarifying of main arena:
The periodic ploughing and scarifying of the main arena, where such activities has previously occurred over a number of years.

Temporary uses, buildings and structures:
Temporary uses, buildings and structures (being for a period of two months or less) associated with Queanbeyan Show, festivals, minor and major events, markets, carnivals, outdoor cinemas, interactive video screens, street performers, entertainment, recreation and leisure activities, information booths, merchandising, food and beverage outlets, trade shows, exhibitions, public meetings and emergency accommodation where these do not cause disturbance of the land.

Maintenance of existing utilities and other similar services (such as above or below ground telecommunications, electrical infrastructure, water or sewerage pipelines).

Signage for the purposes of event promotions, directional and identification signage, building identification signage, visitor way finding and signage for interpretative purposes.

Maintenance and upgrading of non-significant fabric where non-significant fabric includes: all existing buildings and structures; fences and poles; and trees, shrubs and gardens.
Mar 15 2013

PDF Standard exemptions for works requiring Heritage Council approval


Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Heritage Act - State Heritage Register 0189015 Mar 13 35646 & 647

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
WrittenAnn Jackson-Nakano2010Queanbeyan Showground Aboriginal Place Nomination Report
WrittenAnn Jackson-Nakano2001The Kamberri : A history of Aboriginal Families in the ACT and Surrounds
WrittenBrendan O'Keefe2011Submission by Queanbeyan Heritage Committee
WrittenCox Architects & Planners in Association with Brendan O'Keefe1998Queanbeyan Showground Heritage Study
WrittenErrol Lea-Scarlett1968Queanbeyan: District and People
WrittenHelen Cooke and Chris Bentley1987Queanbeyan Showground Reserve AHIMS Data Sheet 57-2-65
WrittenNational Heritage Database Queanbeyan Showground Reserve View detail
WrittenNewspaper 11th April 1861 and 5th April 18621861The Golden Age View detail
WrittenQueanbeyan City Council2007Queanbeyan Showground Heritage Inventory Sheet
WrittenSue Feary and Patrick Saughnessy1989Queanbeyan Showground Reserve AHIMS 57-2-64

Note: internet links may be to web pages, documents or images.

rez rez rez rez rez rez
rez rez
(Click on thumbnail for full size image and image details)

Data source

The information for this entry comes from the following source:
Name: Heritage Office
Database number: 5061375
File number: 11/06869; EF17/12379

Every effort has been made to ensure that information contained in the State Heritage Inventory is correct. If you find any errors or omissions please send your comments to the Database Manager.

All information and pictures on this page are the copyright of the Heritage Division or respective copyright owners.