While the Cairns Performing Arts Centre only opened in December of 2018, the site has a long history connected to the community and the arts.
In 1884, only eight years after Cairns was founded, the need for a public hall was first felt when it was proposed to the Council that a hall, to cost about 1,000 pounds, should be built. That was the beginning of a long story culminating in the eventual construction of the Cairns Civic Theatre.
In 1963 the Lands Administration in Brisbane formally accepted the name change to neighbouring Norman Park and the previously annexed land at the southern end was transferred to the Shire of Mulgrave to construct a civic centre.
In 1971 the Civic Centre project began and by 1973 a time capsule was incorporated into the Centenary Peace Column on the Sheridan Street side of the theatre to celebrate the completion of the Cairns Civic Centre, as it was known at the time. The capsule contains a history of people who served in World War II, the 51st RQR, the Mayor of the time and other notable people of Cairns.
On May 31 1974, Prime Minister of the day, Gough Whitlam, officially opened the theatre. With a population under 40,000, the people of Cairns took great pride in the fact that it was the first purpose-built theatre in regional Queensland.
January 30, 2016 saw the final performance at the ‘Civic’ with The Phantom of The Opera by the Cairns Choral Society. The theatre was then demolished to make way for the new performing arts centre. Through consultation with the RSL, the Peace Column was removed and the time capsule incorporated into the foyer of the new Cairns Performing Arts Centre which is due to be opened in 2073.
Construction was completed in 2018 and the official opening took place on December 15 that same year, with a community gala performance entitled, Symphony for Tomorrow.
The Cairns Performing Arts Centre was a joint initiative of Cairns Regional Council, the Queensland Government through Arts Queensland and the Australian Government.
Munro Martin Parklands
Over the past 100 years, Munro Martin Parklands has long been a cultural centre of Cairns. The park has had several name changes, been used as a command centre and held many sporting and social events.
1882, six years after Cairns was founded, the park began as a recreation reserve utilised by sporting groups for cricket, tennis, running and later cycling. In 1889 the reserve was extended with the closing of Florence Street and the addition of the land opposite, where CPAC now stands. In 1890 it was named Norman Park to coincide with a visit by the Queensland Governor of the time, Sir Henry Wylie Norman.
1890-1920 saw continued use as a sporting ground and for many community events, including the first ANZAC commemoration service in 1916 and the first rugby league game in 1918. By the 1920’s most of the sporting events, excluding cycling, moved to Parramatta Park.
During World War II, the park was transformed into a defence force command centre with over 40 buildings erected, including accommodation huts, a radio mast and an air raid precautions shelter. The park accommodated a number of small military units and C Company 15th Garrison Battalion which protected infrastructure.
1954 saw significant beautification to the northern end due to a bequest from Margie Hart Martin, the niece of Janet Taylor Munro and Margaret Martin. 1956 the park officially became Munro Martin Park. On September 21, a central obelisk was erected. The memorial was dedicated to the two half-sisters and their philanthropic legacy.
In 1973 the defence control room, the last remaining wartime building, was leased to the Scouting Association with the fibreglass ‘scout hat’ placed on top of the building in 1982.
During 2015 Cairns Regional Council commenced work to transform the park including introducing an outdoor performance space and the vine-covered arbours that we see today. Munro Martin Parklands officially re-opened on Friday 19 August 2016, with a performance of Opera Queensland’s Barber of Seville.
The above video is a Festival 2018 event, commissioned and presented by Cairns Regional Council and Festival 2018 performed at Munro Martin Parklands.
"The stories of our history are traced through the generations with fact and fiction along with song and dance all woven into an epic musical theatre experience for the whole family. A spectacular production made up of more than 300 people from our many talented community groups."
This is a work of fiction. It is not intended as a complete and accurate record of the history of Cairns, nor of the events occurring in the region over the last sixty thousand years.