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Flying higher - How to make more of the legend of Bert Hinkler

Flying higher - How to make more of the legend of Bert Hinkler

Published:08 March 2018

CQUni's John McGrath handing over his report to Mayor Jack Dempsey

Does the Bundaberg region adequately value the story of Bert Hinkler and all that he achieved as an innovator, inventor and pioneer aviator? It seems not.

Exploring innovative means of raising the profile of Bert Hinkler and increasing visitor patronage to Bundaberg's Hinkler Hall of Aviation (HHA) has produced some interesting outcomes for a CQUniversity academic.

Dr John McGrath, Associate Lecturer with the University’s School of Business and Law, was granted permission by Bundaberg Regional Council to undertake a business model study examining the tourism contribution and potential of HHA.

Mayor Jack Dempsey this week accepted a copy of the findings by Dr McGrath which were compiled in conjunction with key HHA staff. The findings revealed that while the facility was regarded well through indicators like Trip Advisor and Facebook, overall visitor numbers were poor.

“I suspect we were aware that numbers through HHA were relatively low but it is only when accurate data is applied that you realise the point from which you need to improve.

“And improve we must. Hinkler left us a wonderful legacy with his name. The way we choose to use and promote it rests entirely with us,” said Mayor Dempsey.

“Dr McGrath’s figures show that we are achieving less than 1 percent visitation to HHA from the 1.35 million visitors to the region during 2016/17.

“The figures are not much better for domestic day and night numbers with just 2.2 percent of the 720 000 day visitors to the region touring HHA during the 2016/17 year.”

CQUniversity Associate Vice-Chancellor Professor Andy Bridges said partnering with Council on projects such as the HHA study was central to the Accord that existed between Council and the University.

“CQUniversity prides itself on being Australia’s most engaged university and collaborations like these are core to our mission and goals.

“We know that Bundaberg is synonymous with aviation and that is one of the reasons we chose it as the original base of our Aviation programs.

“The Hinkler Hall of Aviation is one of the major gems of tourism potential in the region. As a university which has been part of the Bundaberg community for more than 30 years, we hope to help ensure they will be flying even higher with their success in future years,” said Professor Bridges.

Dr McGrath included the following among initiatives suggested to raise the profile of Hinkler and the HHA:

* Introduce a destination fly-in linked to Bert Hinkler. This could be in the form of a vintage aircraft visit

* Greater promotion of the fact that Hinkler’s house is only one of two houses dismantled in England and reassembled in Australia. The other is Cook’s Cottage in Melbourne.

* Promote the “to space and back” story of the Ibis glider part that survived the space shuttle disaster which is a story without equal in aviation history.

* Rename Bundaberg Airport Hinkler Airport. It should rank with airports around the world named after prominent individuals.

* Relaunch the Hinkler Memorial lectures. CQ University may be interested in playing a role through the use of its main lecture theatre.

Mayor Dempsey said the report was a document with a range of ideas that could revitalise community and visitor thinking about the story surrounding Bert Hinkler and he thanked Dr McGrath and CQUniversity for their interest and involvement.