Matilda captured hearts around the world when she first stepped into the spotlight in 1982.
Matilda captured hearts around the world when she first stepped into the spotlight in 1982. NATIONAL ARCHIVES OF AUSTRALIA

Matilda happy in new home

MATILDA, the Commonwealth Games kangaroo, still has it after 30 years. Tomorrow marks three decades since the Opening Ceremony of the 1982 Commonwealth Games held in Brisbane when the 13-metre winking beauty was introduced to the nation, and the world.

Now after 30 years she is still standing tall and proud and calling just south of Gympie home.

After capturing the hearts of millions at the Games, Matilda spent many years greeting customers at the entrance to Wet'n'Wild Water World at Oxenford on the Gold Coast.

Matilda Fuel Supplies bought Matilda in August 2009 and, after a big job carefully transporting the icon in pieces by truck, officially opened her to the public in 2011 at Matilda Fuel's Kybong service centre on the Bruce Hwy, south of Gympie.

Before its unveiling, the giant kangaroo underwent a refurbishment of automation technology, fibreglass repair and steelwork replacement costing over $100,000, part of which was to restore her legendary wink.

"She was never designed to wink continuously," Matilda Fuel retail operations manager Shirilee McEwen said.

"So she was refurbished to wink with the longevity that we need her to wink."

More than 97,000 customers visit the service centre every month, including 490 scheduled and charter coaches. Mrs McEwen said a lot of visitors sit next to Matilda, enjoying the background of birds, grass and trees and revisit their nostalgic memories of the Games.

Matilda turns 30 Olivia and Isabelle Kahler, Oscar and Rani, Daley, Alex, Hayley, Lennard and Jermaine Atterwell.
Matilda turns 30 Olivia and Isabelle Kahler, Oscar and Rani, Daley, Alex, Hayley, Lennard and Jermaine Atterwell. Renee Pilcher

Max and Inge Hayward from Mandurah, Western Australia were two of the 62,000 stadium spectators whose hearts were captured by Matilda 30 years ago. While holidaying in Queensland, they stopped to visit her yesterday.

"We thought we'd better go and see if she still remembers us," Mrs Hayward joked.

The couple said seeing Matilda brought back incredible memories, especially of the final runner in the Queen's Baton Relay, 400m gold medallist Raelene Boyle, handing the baton to The Duke of Edinburgh, who officially opened the Games.

"The whole thing looks magnificent out there with the birds on," Mr Hayward said of Matilda.

"It's better than I'd imagined. I think it's a nice home for it," he said.

Games put Brisbane on map

MATILDA, the famous and much-loved 1982 Commonwealth Games mascot, is just one part of the Games that made its mark on the world.

The 1982 Games formed the platform that has allowed Brisbane to put its stamp on the world and develop into an outward-looking international city.

It's believed the new world-class sporting facilities and the experiences enjoyed by competitors, spectators and sponsors at the Games put Brisbane, and in a broader sense Queensland, as world-class tourist destinations.

1982 GAMES AT A GLANCE

  • The Games were held from September 30 to October 9.
  • The event was dubbed "The Friendly Games".
  • 1580 athletes from 45 nations competed.
  • Competition was in 141 events across 12 sports.
  • The main venue was the QEII stadium (now ANZ Stadium), other events were held at the purpose-built Sleeman Sports Complex in Chandler and around greater Brisbane.
  • Australia was the top nation winning 39 gold medals, one more than England.
  • The Games attracted large-scale protests by the Aboriginal rights movement in Australia to highlight land rights issues.
Gympie Times


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