A modern masterpiece for an ancient landscape

Waltzing Matilda Centre captures the spirit of a song



Deep in the red earth country of western Queensland lies the small town of Winton and the first museum in the world dedicated to a song, Banjo Paterson’s 1895 bush ballad Waltzing Matilda. But after the Waltzing Matilda Centre was destroyed in a 2015 fire, the town lost the museum’s historic contents and a treasured tourist drawcard.

With only ashes and a blank canvas, RLB helped the community and the project team to stretch each dollar as far possible – a task made more challenging by the constraints of a remote site. But when the new centre opened in 2018, the community was awe-struck by a building that echoes the rock formations and rivers of an ancient land, creates jobs and opportunities, and retells Patterson’s story for a new generation.

At a glance

  • Client
    Local Government Infrastructure Services (LGIS)
  • Services
    Cost Management & Quantity Surveying
  • sector
    Public & Civic
  • Location
    Winton, Australia

Bringing imagination back to life

RLB’s role commenced just a week after the museum was engulfed in flames. Called in by Local Government Infrastructure Services (LGIS) to negotiate a settlement with the insurer, RLB undertook painstaking work to estimate the cost of rebuilding. We negotiated an amicable payout with the insurer, but a shortfall in funds made a rebuild unlikely until RLB helped Council secure $8 million in federal funding. With a modest but achievable $13 million construction budget, the task of bringing imagination to life could begin.

Public buildings like the Waltzing Matilda Centre are often the glue that bind communities. RLB is proud of our role on this beautiful building that shows how a visionary client, a collaborative project team and a laser focus on costs can deliver far more than bricks-and-mortar.
Cameron Smith, Director, RLB

RLB’s skilled early cost planning and forward-thinking fiscal planning gave Winton Shire Council the confidence to invest in ambitious architecture that, while small in scale, makes a big difference to an outback community.

A jolly swagman’s story told to new generations

Cox Architecture’s award-winning team developed a spectacular design that envisaged gorge-like interiors, cooling water features and fluid lines that mirror the water rippling across the “billabong under the coolibah tree”.

But when the three tenders we received were over budget, RLB began the challenging task of value management. We carefully costed each material and design choice and looked for alternatives. The design of skylights and water-features was refined; structural walls were made from pre-cast concrete, rather than block walls, to save money and time on labour-intensive masonry.

  • $
  • 2,046
    gross floor area
  • 26,400
    visitors in 2021

Technology saves time and carbon, and tells old stories anew

Winton’s isolated location – 1,100-kilometres and a 14-hour drive from Brisbane –demanded that we think differently about delivery. By using technology to execute some progress claims and conduct some site visits virtually, RLB could reduce our travel time and carbon impacts. And with the museum’s precious artefacts lost, RLB costed an array of multi-media technology options to help the museum retell the bushman’s story.

A phoenix rises from the ashes

Today, the Waltzing Matilda Centre’s building’s weathered and worn form sit comfortably in its environment. Its materiality of bush-hammered and polished concrete, black-stained timber and rusted steel is a metaphor for the rugged beauty of the landscape. The building, affectionately dubbed “the ants’ nest” by locals, lures tourists from around the world and inspires new fans of Banjo Patterson’s old bush ballad.