Like old times: Winton dinosaur may rise again as new state emblem

The wheels are in motion to create a new state emblem, with a dinosaur unique to western Queensland a frontrunner to claim the honours, writes Brad Cooper.

Feb 17, 2021, updated Feb 17, 2021
Age of Dinosaurs museum founder David Elliott.

Age of Dinosaurs museum founder David Elliott.

The community of Winton is set for a nail-biting wait as the wheels of bureaucracy start the process to decide a new fossil emblem for Queensland, tipped to be strongly favouring the Diamantinasaurus.

The discovery of the long-extinct animal in the northwest Queensland district in 2006 set the palaeontology world alight.

Now the species, classified as a sauropod and the largest of the world’s dinosaurs, is once again poised to share the glow of revived public interest, along with its place of origin.

If successful, the Diamantinasaurus would join five other official Queensland state emblems, which include the koala, brolga, sapphire, Cooktown orchid and the Barrier Reef anemone fish.

It would also make Queensland the third state in Australia to include a fossil among its suite of emblems, following the leads of Western Australia and NSW.

Winton Mayor Gavin Baskett said if the Diamantinasaurus got the nod, he may push for a statue of the imposing animal to be built in the town’s main street to mark the occasion.

“How phenomenal would it be to have a fossil unique to Winton named as a state emblem?” he said.

“It would truly be the jewel in the crown of what Winton brings to Queensland, through its many outback festivals, and the place it holds in Queensland’s cultural heritage.”

A Diamantinasaurus.

David Elliott, who founded Winton’s Age of Dinosaurs museum in 2002 to capitalise on the interest generated by Winton as a region rich with dinosaur fossils, said he couldn’t think of a more fitting emblem for the state.

“They were big and powerful animals and they have been found nowhere else but in western Queensland,” he said.

“I couldn’t think of a better emblem to represent our region and the Queensland state as a whole.”

Elliott’s museum was responsible last year for collating more than 700 signatures to petition the State Government on the naming of a new fossil emblem.

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While Winton is pushing hard for its local fossil to take line honours, Queensland remains a goldmine of highly prized treasures from the ancient dinosaur age, including other worthy contenders such as Muttaburrasaurus or Australovenator.

The state also has a wealth of diverse and unique fossil mammals including the killer kangaroo Propleopus.

With the state election delaying normal proceedings, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk was unable to table her government’s response to the Winton petition until this week in the State Parliament.

“I wish to acknowledge the genuine interest and initiative that the Winton community has shown through this e-petition requesting the naming of a new Queensland state emblem,” she said.

“I have asked the Department of the Premier and Cabinet to proceed with a process of identifying a short-list of potential fossils that could become our state fossil emblem.

“I will ask the Honourable Stirling Hinchliffe MP, Minister for Tourism Industry Development and Innovation and Minister for Sport to the lead the public consultation throughout the State, given the important link to outback tourism.

“As you would appreciate, a robust selection process of a new state fossil emblem will take some time.”

Hinchliffe’s office has provided no guidance on how long it may take to arrive at a decision, although Queensland Day on June 6 is being discussed as a possible milestone date.

The outback tourism season, which took a battering at the hands of COVID travel restrictions early last year, will be officially launched for 2021 in Brisbane next Monday.

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