Bellingen Memorial Hall Transformation


Mem Hall Artist Impression.png

*Artist Impression of Memorial Hall Upgrade


The Bellingen Memorial Hall has been one of the foundational ‘homes’ of the community and its culture.  Plans were initiated in 1918 and the building opened on Anzac Day 1929 as a memorial to those who served in World War 1.

 Mem Hall Historic.png

Operationally, the Bellingen Memorial Hall is managed by community volunteers (under Section 355 of the NSW Local Government Act 1993) as a delegated authority of the Bellingen Shire Council.

The Hall has evolved with the needs of the community that has seen it function as a movie theatre, library, community hall and performance centre and provide facilities for dances, shows, movies, theatre, orchestras and numerous other community events.  It is this vibrant and long history which has led to the existing Hall building being heritage listed by the National Trust

In July 2020, Council received advise that the Bellingen Soldiers Memorial Hall has been listed by the National Trust of Australia (NSW) on the Trust Register.

The Register lists those buildings, sites, areas and items which, in the Trust’s opinion, fall within the following definition:

“Those places which are components of the natural or the cultural environment of Australia, that have aesthetic, historical, architectural, archaeological, scientific or social significance or other special value for the future generations, as well as for the present community”.


A review undertaken by Council in 2018 identified that whilst there was good usage of the hall with several major events and festivals, local community events were steadily declining in number.  This, coupled with rising operational and maintenance needs, implied the centre was at risk of losing its cultural significance and relevance to the community.

This revelation started a dialogue about the ongoing and future role of the Memorial Hall for the community, informing the resulting vision and strategy for a ‘transformation’ of the centre.

The vision of the initiative was to transform the centre from a ‘Memorial Hall’ to a ‘Cultural Arts Hub’, fostering collaboration, community and creativity by:

  • Upgrading the existing facility and building new spaces that welcome new and diverse performances, performers, arts and workshops to the Shire.
  • Providing a renewed facility that inspires new collaboration and artistic creativity within the community.
  • Fostering and nurturing a healthy community culture through supporting various arts and cultural initiatives.

The scope of works decided on for the project may be summarised as:

  • the refurbishment of the existing Memorial Hall and associated amenities.
  • the extension of Memorial Hall to provide an additional performance space.
  • the redevelopment of carparking behind Memorial Hall to increase on the number of carparks currently provided in this area.

Community Engagement

As council are the body ultimately responsible for the funding, and the Memorial Hall, relevant governance structures were implemented within council and the Project Management Team (PMT) developed a detailed project plan along with communications plans and other governance documents.  The PMT worked closely with the Memorial Hall Committee and have undertaken targeted engagement with key user groups to understand their requirements.

In summary the following engagement has taken place to date:

  • Requirements Gathering – series of workshops with key user groups to determine requirements – ultimately forming the design brief.
  • Liaise with Subject Matter Experts on Issues and Opportunity through Workshops.
  • Community Consultations or Open house feedback.
  • Concept Design Reviews or Design Feedback Sessions.

The Key Stakeholders and Subject Matter Experts involved in this process included:

Key Stakeholders

  • Bellingen Shire Council.
  • Section 355 Management Committee.
  • Key Community Groups - Major Users (e.g. Chamber of Commerce).
  • Bellingen Winter Music Festival.
  • Readers and Writers Festival.
  • Bellingen Fine Music/Community Arts.
  • Bellingen Youth Orchestra.
  • Rivers Dance.
  • Screenwave.
  • Camp Creative.
  • Playback Theatre.

Subject Matter Experts

  • Sound, Acoustic and Production Engineers.
  • Event Promoters and Set Designers.
  • Community Radio (2BBB).
  • Musicians and Artists.

In addition to this process, consultation was undertaken with neighbours to the Memorial Hall in relation to both the transformation project and the impacts on the adjacent carpark.

Project Phases

PHASE 1 – Project Scoping - Complete

March 2018 – July 2018

  • Investigations of the condition of the existing facility and operational review to identify opportunities to increase utilisation with key stakeholders.
  • Refurbishment of upstairs area of the hall to restore heritage the Soldiers leadlight window and convert existing spaces into office areas and a community meeting room.

September 2018

  • Funding application to the Regional Cultural Fund - Create NSW for transformation of the Memorial Hall into an arts and cultural hub based on the original concept design developed by architect Steve Gorrell.

PHASE 2 – Concept Design - Complete

January 2019 – July 2019

  • Further development of original concept design in consultation with the Community through public open days.
  • Council approval of concept design and progression towards detailed design.

PHASE 3 – Design Development - Complete

August - November 2019

  • Tender process to appoint architect Sibling Architecture to develop Detailed Design for DA application and construction documentation.
  • Report received on heritage items of significance within the hall.

December 2019 - March 2020

  • New concept designs developed by Sibling Architecture that included carparking aspect of the project.

    March - December 2020

  • Consultation on new concept designs and design reviews based on user group feedback.
  • Detailed design progressed based on the concept design approved by Council as preparation for a Development Application (DA) inclusive of more key user group consultation.

January - February 2021

  • Bellingen Memorial Hall closed to the public in preparation for works and to allow the volunteer Hall Management Committee to conduct an inventory and remove items to storage.

    April 2021

  • Development Application approved and consent issued subject to investigations of heritage considerations of colour schemes.

PHASE 4 – Construction Documentation - Complete

April - May 2021

  • Independent review of project scope and total project cost.  Options for design adjustments in consideration of total project cost following the review reported to council for consideration.
  • Conduct an independent review of the processes to date to identify and remedy key challenges experienced, and further inform grant applications, project management and associated governance processes now and in the future
  • Completion of documentation to allow project to proceed to PHASE 5 – Procurement.

PHASE 5 – Procurement Activities - Complete

June - August 2021

  • Undertake an Expression of Interest to establish a panel of Select Tenderers for the project.
  • Issue of tender documentation to Select Tenderers.
  • Assessment of Tender submissions ahead of report to Council.

PHASE 6 – Construction Phase- Complete

August 2021 – September 2021

  • Mobilisation and site establishment by the contractor to commence stage construction works.

September 2021 – May 2022

  • Placed the suspended concrete slab for the BOH Amenities, Multipurpose Studio, and Public Deck.
  • Commenced erecting the structural steel for the BOH Amenities, Multipurpose Studio and Public Deck
  • Commenced wall and ceiling lining to the FOH Amenities.
  • Commenced wall and ceiling framing to Entry 1 and Airlock 1.
  • Commenced laying the flooring to the Tiered Seating.
  • Rough in of Plumbing and Electrical Services to the FOH Amenities is completed.
  • Timber Post Strengthening has been completed for all 12 existing Timber Posts supporting the Existing Hall including concrete bored piers, footing tie beam, and structural steel columns.
  • External wall linings removed to install the Post Strengthen have been re-clad.
  • Footings and steel posts installed for the Stage Extension for the Piano Store and Thrust Stage Store.
  • Timber Wall framing for the Crossover Corridor at the rear of the Stage completed.

April 2023

  • Practical completion and commissioning of the new facility.
  • Issue of occupancy certificate and re-open the facility to the community.


June 2023

  • Official Opening of Memorial Hall by Her Excellency the Honourable Margaret Beazley


July 2023

  • Open Day tours for the community to see transformation of Bellingen Memorial Hall. 


PHASE 7 - Memorial Hall Probity Audit Report – Complete

This report summary is an overview of the Memorial Hall renovation project, focusing on critical aspects: governance, decision-making, and financials covering a period from inception to the appointment of the builder. 

Memorial-Hall-Probity-Audit-Report-Presentation-Public-Version-2023-v2.pdf(PDF, 857KB)

The Council is in the process of conducting a final independent review of the project, covering its entire journey from inception to completion, with the aim of enhancing project management and decision-making processes. The Councils ultimate goal is to apply valuable insights to future projects in the Shire.




Bellingen Memorial Hall, Hyde Street, Bellingen 2454  View Map

Google Map