OUR HISTORY

IT ALL BEGAN WITH THE DISCOVERY OF A GIANT FEMUR

In 1999 while mustering sheep on his property Belmont near Winton, David Elliott discovered the fossilised bone of what was, at the time, Australia’s largest dinosaur. This bone was later identified as part of a giant femur from a Cretaceous sauropod that roamed the Winton area 95 million years ago.

Following the discovery of more fossils during digs held in conjunction with the Queensland Museum, David and his wife, Judy Elliott, called a public meeting in Winton on 17 August 2002 with a view to establishing a dinosaur museum at Winton.

On 25 October 2002 Australian Age of Dinosaurs Incorporated (AAOD Inc) commenced operations as a not-for-profit organisation aimed at ensuring future dinosaur digs and the preparation and conservation of dinosaur fossils from the Winton Formation could continue. The organisation, with support from a strong members' volunteer base, began the initial stages of developing a major tourism attraction in the form of a dinosaur museum so that the discoveries could be preserved for perpetuity and be available to the public. While mustering sheep in March 2005 David Elliott discovered a new dinosaur site on Belmont and a subsequent dig in September that year uncovered the remains of one of Australia’s most complete sauropod skeletons.

A total of 17 pallets of fossil bones trapped in a fine siltstone rock were recovered and stored in the Belmont shed. The dinosaur was nicknamed Wade, in posthumous honour of Australian Palaeontologist Dr Mary Wade who died at the time the dig was being undertaken. In late 2005 the discovery of a partial sauropod humerus on Elderslie Station, near Winton, led to a series of digs held by the Museum and the recovery of two dinosaur skeletons preserved together, one being a sauropod skeleton and the other a theropod. The sauropod was nicknamed Matilda and the theropod was nicknamed Banjo, both in honour of Andrew Barton "Banjo" Paterson and his classic poem "Waltzing Matilda".

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In mid-2006 David and Judy Elliott opened an Australian Age of Dinosaurs temporary fossil preparation facility in their shed at Belmont, which was known locally as the "Prep Shed". It was here that fossil preparation was carried out by a small group of staff preparators and volunteers who were accommodated in the station’s Jackeroo and Shearers' Quarters. Work commenced on Wade and expanded to include the bones of Banjo and Matilda as each dig produced further fossils. This work continued for almost three years with the help of over 100 volunteers. It was during this time that the Free Wade Project began, supported by an "Australian Geographic" fundraiser and private donations from numerous volunteers, members and supporters.

In September 2006, Peter and Carol Britton, owners of Mt Landsborough Station near Winton, donated 1,400 hectares of mesa or "Jump-Up" country to Australian Age of Dinosaurs as a site for the future Museum. Over the following three years funding was raised from Desert Channels Queensland to enable the new site to be fenced. The Winton Shire Council built a new gravel road to the top of The Jump-Up and the Queensland Government contributed $500,000 toward a fossil preparation facility, staff cottages and water and power amenities. The Prep Shed at Belmont was closed and all fossils and equipment were relocated to The Jump-Up in early 2009. The new facilities were opened to the public in July 2009 by the Queensland Premier Anna Bligh as part of Queensland’s 150th year (Q 150) celebrations.

AAOD Inc was restructured in June 2008 to become a not-for-profit Company Limited by Guarantee with a board of up to nine directors. The new company, Australian Age of Dinosaurs Ltd (AAODL) created a Society of Members (Australian Age of Dinosaurs Society) to carry on the support-based work of AAOD Inc with levels of membership including ordinary members and life members, known as Million Year Members. The AAOD Legacy Fund was launched in 2015.

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