Jack O'Chin's Boomerang
Queensland Museum South Bank and the Sciencentre are closing for renovations on 3 October 2011.
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The boomerang depicts two of O’Chin’s sporting contemporaries - Frank ‘Big Shot’ Fisher and Edward ‘Eddie’ Gilbert.
Beginning in the 1950s, O’Chin fought to have Aboriginal art recognized as a viable industry. Up until his death in 1978 O’Chin was instrumental in establishing an artefact industry at Cherbourg and other Aboriginal communities. He is credited as one of the first people to promote Queensland’s Aboriginal artists.
The Gilbert-Fisher boomerang will be on permanent display at Queensland Museum South Bank from April.
Edward ‘Eddie’ Gilbert
Eddie Gilbert is a sporting hero: only the second Aboriginal to play first-class cricket in Australia, he bowled cricket great Sir Donald Bradman.
A member of the stolen generation, Gilbert was taken from his Woodford home in 1908 and placed in the government-run Barambah Aboriginal Reserve (now Cherbourg) north of Brisbane.
In 1917 the Barambah Aboriginal Cricket Club was formed and Gilbert, a natural athlete, was introduced to the game. While beginning as a slow to medium-paced bowler Gilbert developed a unique fast bowling technique which he credited to a flexible wrist cultivated through years of boomerang throwing.
Gilbert's success in local matches brought him to Woolloongabba for a demonstration. At the age of 25 he was chosen to play for Queensland against the New South Wales Colts. He captured six wickets, was picked for the Queensland Sheffield Shield team against South Australia and subsequently named bowler of the match.
On 6 November 1931 Gilbert played his most memorable match. In the space of one over, Gilbert relieved Don Bradman of his bat, knocked him to the ground of the Gabba and then dismissed the world's greatest batsman for no score. Bradman said it was the fastest bowling he had ever faced.
Gilbert played 23 matches for Queensland during which he took 87 wickets at an average of 29. Despite his natural ability, he was never selected to represent Australia. Many critics dismissed his bowling style as ‘chucking’ and he was repeatedly 'no-balled' in matches. Gilbert was also unpopular amongst many white Australian’s who did not believe an Aboriginal could out bowl the great Bradman.
Gilbert retired from cricket in 1936 and returned to Cherbourg. He died in 1978. Sir Donald Bradman attended his funeral.
Frank ‘Big Shot’ Fisher
Frank ‘Big Shot’ Fisher was a talented rugby league player and the paternal grandfather of Olympic athlete Catherine Freeman.
Like Eddie Gilbert, Fisher was raised in the government-run Barambah Aboriginal Reserve. During the 1930’s he was captain of the Barambah Rugby League team. He was selected to play half-back for Wide Bay in 1932 and 1936 against touring Great Britain teams.
Known for his strength and speed, Fisher was, like his granddaughter Catherine, a great sprinter. He could have pursued a career as a track athlete had he been able to overcome what he identified as the loneliness of the sport.
Fisher was offered a contract in 1936 from a club in Salford, England to play Rugby League through a recommendation by their then team Captain, Gus Risman. The Queensland Government refused his passport application as Fisher was still bound by the limitations of the ‘Aboriginals Protection and Restriction of Sale of Opium Act’ of 1897.
His success as a footballer is honoured with a bridge and memorial stone in the Cherbourg region. In 2010 Fisher was named as a member of Australian rugby league's Indigenous Team of the Century along with Steve Renouf, Greg Inglis, Jonathan Thurston, Gordon Tallis and Sam Thaiday.
Funds raised by the Queensland Museum Foundation allowed the Cultures and Histories program to purchase a boomerang for the State Collection.