It idea to build this memorial started at the Ipswich Historical Society, where in June 2008 a group of retired mineworkers, who later became known as the Coalminers Committee, met regularly every Tuesday. In addition to mining a few ton of coal, the group generally discussed both past and present issues of the coal mining industry. The group was composed mainly of former Booval Mines Rescue Brigade members, and former Box Flat, Westfalen and Rhondda employees.
However, the main purpose of the meetings was to establish a Mines Rescue display at the society's Heritage Centre at Cooneana, and to also ensure the memories of their mates who were lost in the Box Flat tragedy on the 31 st July 1972 were maintained. The group had taken it upon themselves to be the honorary guardians of the Box Flat Memorial. During their discussions, the question was raised of how many miners had lost their lives in the Ipswich and Rosewood coal mines since mining started in 1843. Naturally, no one knew the answer but it started them on the journey of discovery.
Research initially revealed that 184 men and boys had lost their lives in the mines since 1882 when records began, remembering that mining commenced at Redbank in 1843 some 39 years earlier. Further research established there were four deaths between 1843 and 1882 making a total of 188 deaths.
The observation was also made as to the pivotal role Ipswich Coalmining played not only in the Ipswich community, but also in the infant colony of Queensland's development, initially through supplying bunker coal to steamers delivering their produce to Moreton Bay, thus eliminating the need to bunker sufficient coal in Newcastle for the return trip. It was also the catalyst for the commencement for the first steam train between Ipswich and Grandchester, and indeed in addition to the Bremer River steamers coal was supplied for fuel for industry boilers. This remained the case until around 1948 which saw the start of the diesel engine revolution. It could be argued that 1948 was the commencement of the modern mining era with the dangerous and inefficient carbide lights being phased out and improved employment conditions around the corner. Electric power borers were in their infancy, replacing hand borers and gradually in the next 20 years mines became fully mechanised.
Having agreed that a memorial to those who gave the ultimate sacrifice was not only a good idea but one that was necessary to perpetuate Ipswich Rosewood coalmining and the souls who lost their lives, the Committee investigated a location for the Memorial. An approach was made to the Ipswich Historical Society and the request that it be located at Cooneana was willingly agreed to by the Society.
The Committees next challenge was to decide what form the Memorial would take. An approach was made to Liam Proberts, co-founder of the architectural firm bureau^proberts who was the designer of the Australian Police Memorial in Canberra and the King Abdullah University of Science Memorial Beacon in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Liam willing accepted our invitation and the Architectural Practice of bureau^proberts agreed, on a no fee basis, to present a concept ensuring to preserve the uniqueness of these fields. The other consideration was an image of St Barbara the Patron Saint of Mining is incorporated into the design, thus ensuring the Ipswich Memorial would have both longevity and a celebration date of 4th December each year.
The concept was presented in March 2011 for review and received the Committees final approval a short time later. A meeting was then arranged with Cr Antoniolli as Chairman of the Ipswich City Council Parks and Memorial Committee to seek Council support to utilize the Societies site at Cooneana as leased from council. He fully endorsed the proposal. Armed with the concept, we approached local resident Mr Andrew Vickers, General Secretary of the CFMEU Union and Chairman of the Mine Workers Trust as a sounding board for our Ipswich initiative. His immediate reaction was to undertake to present the concept to the next Trust Board meeting. This resulted in a $50,000 from the Trust. The Committee then held a discussion with the Mayor of Ipswich, Councillor Paul Pisasale, and Councillors. As a result, the Mayor announced in a media release on 27 June 2011 that Council was committing $100,000 to the project.
In October 2011, the location of the Memorial was agreed with Council to be on the north-east corner of Limestone Park. In the meantime, we continued seeking additional funding. As a result the Willis L. Haenke Historical Foundation, a body founded by Willis, who was the former Chairman of the Board of Directors of Rhondda Collieries, pledged $25,000 and brought the amount raised to $175,000.
The Committee felt that more corporate structure and governance should be put in place to handle these increasing donations, and in October 2011 met with representatives of the Combined Rotary Clubs of Ipswich. The five Rotary Clubs that made up the Ipswich Clubs and their 180 members, all agreed to support it and advised the Committee that they were prepared to auspice the project.
Following legal advice, in December 2011 the Ipswich Rosewood Coalmines Memorial Trust was formed to administer the project. The five Trustees include representatives of the original Coalminers Committee, Combined Ipswich Rotary Clubs, and the Haenke Foundation. The Trust then formed an Advisory Committee which included representatives of the Coalminers Committee, Rotary, Ipswich City Council, Haenke Foundation and the New Hope Group.
The Trust and its Advisory Committee continue to meet regularly and have an additional $115,500 donated, including $100.000 from the New Hope Group. Total funds received to date are $290,600
We are still a long way off raising the $800,000 required to complete the project, but with the support we have had and continue to have are confident of achieving our aims.