Community hall floored by the locals
Once a cold and empty space, the meeting room at the Bengworden Hall in East Gippsland is now a warm and cosy place hosting a wide range of community events.
Located 50 kms east of Sale, in Victoria, the district has a long and proud agricultural history. The Primary School, local halls and reserves are the heart of community life, and the only facilities available to bring people together. And they are well used by the CWA, CFA, Ladies Social Club, Home Produce Group and Landcare Groups, with various church, yoga and rock and roll groups also making use of the meeting space.
The Hall had seen better days and over the last few years, it has been undergoing a three-stage renovation. Owned by the Department of Sustainability and Environment, the hall only received sufficient funds to address structural and safety issues, so the locals set about fundraising. Their efforts, combined with lots of man-hours and other in-kind contributions, saw the building renovated, and a new kitchen and stove installed in the meeting room, but it was still cold and uncomfortable.
The Meerlieu and District Rural Community Group, founded in 1999 to develop a vibrant and cohesive community, applied for a grant to purchase new floor coverings and an air-conditioning unit.
With support from The R.E. Ross Trust, a grant of $3,500 from the Small Grants for Rural Communities program was provided and after more hard work, the meeting room was officially re-opened by Tracey West from the Department of Environment and Primary Industries and shire mayor Counsellor Dick Ellis in October 2014. Many past and present residents came along, together with representatives from the various groups that use the hall and had contributed to the refurbishment, to share a casserole dinner.
Andrea Bush, President of The Meerlieu and District Rural Community Group, put the success of this project down to the cooperative and collaborative spirit of the local community members, combined with capable planning, organisation and implementation throughout the various phases of the project.
A great model indeed!