Since its inception in 1996, the Maleny Wood Expo, hosted by Barung Landcare, stands as a testament to the skills and beauty of woodworking and as a beacon for sustainable practices. Born from the vision of Ashley Sewell, a dedicated Queensland forester and environmentalist, this annual event has grown into a cherished gathering, drawing up to 10,000 enthusiasts each year to the Sunshine Coast region. And 2024 marks the 25th anniversary of this long-standing community event.
The Expo’s primary aim was to spotlight the sustainable utilisation of native timbers, inviting local and regional artisans to exhibit their creations. This focus has endured, promoting the nurturing and growing of native timber species for local harvest, as well as the creative use of salvaged or recycled timber, and invasive weeds. It is now firmly ingrained in the Australian woodworkers’ calendar.
Over the years, other themes and elements have emerged around this focus. Initially spotlighting woodworking skills and timber sustainability, the event gradually incorporated historical timber practices, heritage machinery exhibitions, First Nations knowledge and farm forestry initiatives. It diversified its offerings, incorporating eco-tours, sustainability workshops, and local produce displays, emphasising a holistic approach to environmental conservation and sustainable living. The Expo has retained a number of these elements, and today boasts over 150 exhibits selling a range of timber goods from beautifully crafted fine furniture, tools and equipment, to sustainably sourced timber. It hosts a diversity of workshops with master woodworkers, talks with a range of experts, and is Barung Landcare’s biggest education and fundraising event for the year.
Early days of the Maleny Wood Expo
The Expo has also achieved significant milestones, such as the introduction of the Sunshine Coast Wootha Prize in 2004 which rewards innovative craftspersonship and attracts talented woodworkers from across Australia. With a prize pool of $19,000 in 2024, the Sunshine Coast Wootha Prize is a prestigious national woodworking competition supported by Sunshine Coast Council and a range of local community sponsors.
The Expo’s greatest success is reflected in the community it has built, becoming an annual pilgrimage for woodworking enthusiasts and families alike. Although the event has weathered challenges, including a 3 year hiatus due to the pandemic, its strong return in 2023 was due to the dedication of the woodworking and broader community who keenly supported its return.
Many woodworkers and stallholders began their timber journey at the Maleny Wood Expo, and the ability to network and meet like-minded craftspeople, mentors and potential collaborators has helped skyrocket the careers of many who continue to return year after year.
The Expo’s growth has not just been in size but in depth, expanding its offerings to cater to all ages. The introduction of the Junior Landcare Paddock in 2017 with the support of Queensland Water and Land Carers marked a pivotal moment, empowering younger generations with woodworking skills and environmental awareness.
Children’s activities in the Junior Landcare Paddock at the Maleny Wood Expo – Images by Steve Swayne
In 2024, the Expo will retain its much-loved components, and further expand its youth programs. It will also integrate a Sustainability Hub in collaboration with the Maleny Chamber of Commerce. Other features include the return of a Tiny House exhibit, as well as an expanded environmental education program.
Community driven and family-friendly the Expo contributes towards making the Sunshine Coast such a desirable place to live and visit. In June 2022, the region achieved international recognition as a UNESCO biosphere, which demonstrates globally a commitment to live in harmony with the environment, support responsible development and prioritise preserving the natural environment. It is a celebration of the supportive co-existence of people and nature. The Maleny Wood Expo is a great example of this in practice.
Images by Steve Swayne and Richard Musumeci, 2023 Maleny Wood Expo. Tiny House image supplied by Evolution Tiny Homes
The Expo isn’t merely an event; it’s a testament to the enduring spirit of community, craftspersonship, and environmental stewardship. Its legacy transcends timber; it’s a celebration of harmony between nature and human ingenuity. As it continues to evolve, the Maleny Wood Expo stands as a beacon, guiding communities towards a more sustainable future—one crafted with care from the heart of the Sunshine Coast’s hinterland.
We look forward to celebrating 25 years of this fantastic event with you all at the 2024 Maleny Wood Expo!
The Maleny Wood Expo is proudly supported by Sunshine Coast Council and Visit Sunshine Coast.