Uproar about possible closing of Katherine Museum



Sir – The possible closure of the Katherine Museum (pictured above) due to financial considerations resulted in 200 local residents attending the recent council meeting to express their concerns. 

While the Katherine Gorge is indisputably the largest attraction for tourists in the Katherine region, the museum has been described by many southern and foreign visitors as one the best small museums in Australia.
It has no Van Goughs or Mona Lisas on display but items from our 150 years of settlement in the region provide an insight into our heritage. 
The Tiger Moth plane (pictured) flown by the legendary Dr Clyde Fenton occupies pride of place in the museum.
Wartime relics, agricultural machinery from days gone by together with family histories of people long since passed are on display. They certainly remind our present  generation of how tough things were in the Territory for our pioneers. 
Staff members at the museum, together with volunteers, provide a high level of service for visitors while many past and present community members have made huge contributions to ensure that the museum and its associated  gardens are such an excellent facility, a facility that Katherine should be proud of.
It is undeniable that things are becoming tougher in the Territory today from an economic perspective, thus making belt tightening necessary. 
Many Katherine residents however are of the view that the council is endeavouring to prune costs in the wrong area.
Concerns were expressed at the open forum that while Katherine is in danger of losing the museum, the council is spending, some would say squandering, funds in other areas.
Millions of dollars of public money being spent at the Hot Springs for example has certainly been heavily criticised. 
The Knotts Crossing Cemetery is not part of the museum but it is of historical significance for Katherine.
Unfortunately it is a part of our heritage that is in a shocking state of neglect. In fact it is so neglected that many Katherine residents are unaware of its existence.
On two occasions now when I have raised the matter of the shameful state of the cemetery with the council, I have been told that it is on private property and therefore outside of the council’s area of control.
I find this to be  rather strange when considering that the area has been fenced off and signposted by the council some time ago.
In 2003 the Council published the Katherine River Plan of Management which clearly shows that the cemetery is on council controlled land. The NT Government has subsequently confirmed the fact that the cemetery is on council land.
I find it ironic that the council pays its respects to the traditional owners of the land we are living on while being totally disrespectful to our Caucasian pioneers.
The council should now clean the cemetery area up and fence it off properly while ensuring that all of the graves are inside the fence line, unlike the present situation with the most easily identifiable grave is outside the rudimentary fence.
A memorial with a name plaque showing the thirty seven people who were buried there between 1873 and 1914 should be erected on the site. 
The museum has a list of those buried there and showing how they died. The first burial at Knotts Crossing was only a couple of years after John McDouall Stuart passed through on his history making trip across the continent. 
It has frequently been said that we study history so as to learn from mistakes made by our predecessors.
The Katherine Town Council will be making a huge mistake if it doesn’t listen to the people of Katherine and make every conceivable effort preserve our history.
Bruce Francais


  1. This is the first time I have read about the possible closure of the museum and the neglect of the cemetery in Katherine. I am not sure on the details of everything, however one thing I am sure of is the council (owner of the cemetery land) and who ever owns the museum should apply for a Federal grant.
    Each year the Australian Government have heritage funds available for protecting and preserving historic and important sites. The terms and conditions of the funding alongside what needs to happen is given on their website.
    I do believe that rather than closing the museum now, a business case should be made for funding next year. Please note funding for the 2019/2020 year closes October 22.

  2. Sad to hear of the possible closure of the museum, sadder still to read of the lack of investigate ability of the author.
    The aircraft in question is a DH60M Moth.
    This information would be on the information board at the museum or by checking the type of aircraft Dr Fenton flew.


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