Innisfail Chamber of Commerce

Cassowary Coast Regional Council – MEDIA RELEASE

23rd January 2018

Volunteer Unveils Our Colourful Criminal Past in ‘Era Of Crime’ Exhibition

Cardwell resident, Matthew Jackson’s passion for local history has led to the creation of a unique exhibition in Cardwell called the ‘Era of Crime’ that reveals the activities of the organised crime gangs of the 1920s and 1930s.

Jackson, who volunteers at the Visitor Information and Heritage Centre at Cardwell, developed the display in conjunction with Thea Ormonde, the Cardwell Visitor Information Museum Coordinator.

“In 2015 we created our first exhibition about the Italian gangster history and the response from people was fantastic and they wanted to know more. So during a quiet period last October Thea came up with the idea that we should expand it and I thought, “why not?” Jackson said.

“I started researching the history of the Italian gangs and trawled website and news archives.

Clive Small’s book Evil Life revealed that the birth of the Calabrian mafia was in North Queensland,” he added.

Jackson said that, “many of the victims affected by these criminal gangs are quite old now but since this exhibition was launched many people have come forward to share their stories about their grandparents and how they had to be armed with a rifle to protect themselves.”

“In the 1930s Australia’s white policy didn’t acknowledge Italians as Caucasian so they were exempt from voting or obtaining citizenship. The English settlers resented the Italian immigrants because they made a success of themselves and therefore treated them very badly. This caused the Italians to become rebellious.

“During the late 1930s the local people started fighting back and one of our visitors shared a story that his grandfather shot one of the gangsters in self-defence. It’s all quite chilling.”

The exhibition is currently on display at the Cardwell Visitor Information and Heritage Centre until 26 January before being loaned to the Townsville Libraries from 5 February to 23 March 2018.

The display can be viewed at the Cassowary Coast Libraries on the following dates:  Cardwell – 2 April to 25 April; Tully – 30 April  to 30 May;  Wongaling Beach – 4 June to 27 June; and Innisfail – 2 July  to 31 July 2018.

For all media enquiries, interview requests and high res images please contact Lulu Roseman, Cassowary Coast Regional Council on 07 4030 2294, 0417 721 754 or


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