Memorial Hall; Celebrating the Enshrinement of Community Memory

Published on 04 July 2023

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The long-awaited official opening of the newly completed Memorial Hall marked a momentous occasion for the Bellingen community. The hall, now transformed into a cultural hub, a symbol of unity and creative expression, was officially opened in a grand ceremony attended by esteemed guests including Her Excellency the Honourable Margaret Beazley AC KC, Governor of New South Wales, accompanied by her husband Dennis Wilson, as well as Pat Conahan, Member for Cowper, and Michael Kemp, Member for Oxley.

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The atmosphere was electric as the acclaimed Bellingen Youth Orchestra took to the stage, captivating the audience with an awe-inspiring performance that earned them a resounding standing ovation from the attendees. Among the highlights of the event, was Uncle Michael Jarrett welcome of the dignitaries with a smoking ceremony and a heartfelt welcome to country sung in Gumbaynggirr language, before Mayor Cr Steve Allan and Her Excellency the Governor ceremoniously cut the ribbon, signifying the official inauguration of the Memorial Hall.

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Expressing heartfelt gratitude, Mayor Cr Steve Allan extended his appreciation to the community for their unwavering support and active involvement throughout the extensive engagement process, which included workshops, consultations, and design feedback sessions. Their dedication and patience during the construction phase were instrumental in bringing the project to fruition. The Mayor also commended the relentless efforts of the 355 Committee, whose unwavering commitment to the arts in our community played a vital role in the successful realisation of the Memorial Hall into a cultural art space. With the completion of construction, the management of the Memorial Hall will now be overseen by the Council, with the appointment of the Memorial Hall Venue Coordinator.

Her Excellency the Governor emphasised the significance of Memorial Hall in preserving community memory, stating: "Memorial Halls matter because community matters. They serve as a testament to the rich history and collective memory that define smaller towns." Her words resonated deeply, affirming the essential role such spaces play in nurturing community bonds and preserving cultural heritage.

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The funding for the Memorial Hall came to fruition through a combination of state and federal contributions, which include:

  • Stronger Country Communities Fund (State funding): $335,000
  • Regional Cultural Fund (State funding): $3,385,000
  • Creative Capital for AV Installation (State funding): $409,000
  • Creative Capital for seating (State funding): $141,000
  • Bushfire Local Emergency Recovery Fund (Federal Funding): $1.58 million
  • The remaining $2.89 million was contributed by the local government.

The Memorial Hall stands as a testament to the resilience and spirit of the Shire, exemplifying their collective commitment to arts and culture. With its doors now open, the Memorial Hall promises to become a hub of creativity, a space where the community can come together, and a beacon of inspiration for generations to come.