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The Tree of Knowledge Festival has been held in Barcaldine since 2007. It celebrates the The Tree of Knowledge, an unassuming Corymbia Papuana ghost gum growing in what became the main street of Barcaldine in 1886. The railway goods shed was built on the south side of the railway line behind the Tree, and it was here that the teamsters and carriers unloaded the harvest of the west, the wool. They also held their union meetings under the Tree. In 1891, Barcaldine became the central headquarters for the organising committee for the Great Shearers’ Strike.

This ghost gum came to symbolise the importance of this era in Australia’s political development. When the first railway station burnt down in the 1930s, the new station was built on the site of the goods shed, with the Tree outside the building. The Tree was dubbed The Hallelujah Tree when the Salvation Army played under it during and after the Great Strike. It became known as The Tree of Knowledge after a local gave it the name in the 1950s.

The poisoning of the Tree in 2006 was the catalyst for the inaugural 2007 Tree of Knowledge Festival. In 2009, the preserved remains of the Tree were (re)placed in the Tree of Knowledge Memorial, erected on the site of the original living tree. The symbolism of the Tree of Knowledge has endured, its links with the town’s history celebrated through the physical presence of the Memorial.

In 2016, the TOK Festival organising committee took the Festival to a new level, introducing new events and activities into the traditional program, shifting the focus of the Festival to its namesake, and rebranding it as a tourist festival.

The 2017 TOK Festival Program is building on the success of this strategic direction. The new Tree of Knowledge Precinct on the old Railway Reserve land behind the train station platform will further draw together the significant places and events that made Barcaldine what it is today, and to ensure that legacy and heritage stands the test of time.

The TOK Festival Vision

Celebrate Barcaldine, the history, the people, the place and the Tree – a community celebration of Barcaldine’s place in Australian political development, living in Barcaldine, showcasing Barcaldine and what it has to offer locals and visitors.

Provide an opportunity for social interaction, bringing community together, involving volunteers, community groups, fundraising and stallholders, staging sporting, artistic and other activities, and revisiting town.