Big Things in Australia’s Biggest State
But, first, a BIG recap
The first leg of our journey to visit Australia’s famous oversized sculptures in nbn™ ready-to-connect towns, suburbs and cities saw us navigating around New South Wales.
Starting with The Big Golden Guitar in Tamworth, we then flew the coop to The Big Chook in Moonbi, hit Barellan for a gander at The Big Tennis Racquet, before finishing up at the catch of the day: The Big Trout in Adaminaby.
Today, it’s time to head to wonderful Western Australia.
Spanning a whopping 2.5 million square kilometres, Western Australia (WA) is not only Australia’s largest state, it’s also one of the largest states anywhere in the world.
Home to 2.6 million people – that’s just over one person per square kilometre – WA is among Mother Nature’s finest mixes of beautiful beaches, stunning outback and expanses of lush green.
Setting out from Perth, the country’s most westerly capital city, we take the Graham Farmer Freeway (named for Australian Football Hall of Fame Legend ‘Polly’ Farmer), and on to the Great Eastern Highway to wind our way out of town.
Continuing northeast for just shy of two hours, or 141 klicks, we pass an abundance of national parks, nature reserves and state forests – including the first of its kind in WA, the John Forrest National Park, proclaimed in 1900 – before our destination comes into focus: The Big Camera.
The Big Camera, Meckering
Situated on the Great Eastern Highway in Meckering, it’s hard to miss The Big Camera as you head into town.
And it’s not just any BIG Camera – it’s also a connected BIG Camera!
Not only is it one of Australia’s impressive Big Things from the outside, there’s plenty to discover inside too, with the colossal camera doubling as a photography museum.
Starting out life as a service station, the building was constructed in the early 1970s after the Meckering Earthquake rocked the now 236 people-strong town.
Hang on a minute – an earthquake, you say? Yes, but more on that in a minute.
Fast forward to 1995 and the now-vacant building was snapped up by Charles ‘Chic’ Wadley, a passionate camera collector.
“I started collecting cameras seriously in 1988 as it was not only Australia's bicentenary but also the 150th anniversary of the invention of photography, and also the 100th anniversary of the first Kodak camera,” says Chic.
“I started The Big Camera as a hobby to keep me occupied – now, it’s more like an obsession.”
To pay homage to a 35mm SLR camera, Chic – today, a retired electronics engineer – altered the front of the building to attract attention. And it obviously worked: it’s also now the information centre for all of Meckering.
Behind the scenes
Stepping through the giant lens is like entering a photography lover’s dream.
Dedicated to all things photography, it features the nearly 3000 cameras Chic has collected, repaired and restored over the years.
“The cameras start from eight years before photography was invented, up to modern day equipment – only film or glass plate not digital,” says Chic.
All fully operational, there’s also projectors, enlargers, processing equipment, magic lanterns and slides, zoetropes, phantascopes, 3D cameras, movie cameras and projectors, flash guns, and light meters.
“I still purchase cameras but also get cameras donated to the museum from all over the world,” says Chic, “as people know that the cameras will be restored and put on display, so I am still adding to it.”
While Chic may not have any digital cameras in his collection, The Big Camera itself is online.
“My nbn™ [access network] connection is via the Sky Muster™ satellite [service]. I am very happy with it and use it every day.”*
While it may not be ‘big’ in the traditional sense of Australia’s Big Things, at Colton’s Café, there’s certainly a big range of flavours and products on offer.
It all started more than 20 years ago when Louise and Ralph Colton decided to open up shop.
“Ralph and I opened the business in Meckering because we loved the community and there’s so much to see here.
“When a building became available in town next to The Big Camera, we decided to give something back and invested everything we had.”
The building, says Louise, was built shortly after that earthquake rocked the town in 1968 (we’re getting to it, promise!) inspiring the store’s vintage theme and “good old-fashioned handmade quality”.
With Ralph already the proud owner of a small, 30-year-old business making beef jerky – in five varieties from mild to spicy – they added to their product range and threw open the café doors.
“We have a wide selection of jams, pickles and sauces, including our own recipe called ‘Colton’s Sauce’ that’s proving to be popular,” says Louise.
“A couple of our sauces were entered into the Merriden Show on our behalf and both won prizes. Our tomato took out first and our Worcestershire came third. We try to use mostly heritage recipes.”
Cakes, coffee and connectivity
There are also homemade cakes, generous serves of breakfast and burgers, and their popular Rum & Raisin ice-cream on offer. The coffee is from Pound Coffee Roastery, a family business in Fremantle, whose small batches and handmade ethos are right at home at Colton’s.
Handmade cosmetics including soaps, natural deodorants, body balms, shampoo bars, bath bombs, lip balms and candles also line the shelves.
And while, no doubt, man’s best friend would be on his or her best behaviour anywhere near that beef jerky, Louise explains there’s something for pets too at Colton’s Café.
“We’re pet friendly and have a pet section in the store. We welcome travellers to sit outside with their pets, and we donate to animal rescues and members of the community in need – we’re passionate about these things.”
So how do Louise and Ralph take advantage of connectivity to help run their business?
“We use our connection to services over the nbn™ access network to help us connect with our customers through Facebook and Google where we promote our products, which change daily,” says Louise.
“We also manage our bookkeeping online and have entertainment running while we work. Soon, we plan to open up stores through Amazon, Etsy and eBay so it will help us execute this.”*
See, we told you we’d bring it back to the earthquake. And it was a BIG one.
On 14 October 1968, at 10:59am, Meckering was rocked by a 6.5 magnitude earthquake – the largest in WA’s history.
While it may have been all over in 40 seconds, devastation was left in its wake: railway lines buckled, buildings were destroyed across town including a bank, hotel and churches, and around 60 out of 75 houses were razed.
The first tectonic ground breakage to be recorded in Australia also occurred. Now known as the Meckering Fault, the quake caused the ground to rupture along a line for almost 40km, shifting it up to two metres vertically and 1.5 metres horizontally.
In all, the damage bill totalled more than five million dollars in 1968 money.
To mark 50 years since that fateful day, in 2018, the Meckering Earthquake Walk Trail officially opened. The trail takes visitors on a journey through the old town to discover what Meckering was like before the earthquake changed it forever.
Pick up a walk trail map at Colton’s Café when you grab that cuppa, bath bomb or jerky.
Well, after a big day of touring Meckering, we’re pulling into a rest stop to take a little kip.
Join us again next time as we continue our journey through Western Australia to visit some of Australia’s Big Things in nbn™ ready-to-connect towns, suburbs and cities.