Bombala kids shape design of all abilities playground

A vision for Bombala's new all abilities playground by students at St Joseph's. Photo: Snowy Monaro Regional Council
A vision for Bombala’s new all abilities playground by students at St Joseph’s. Photo: Snowy Monaro Regional Council

Buddy benches and reflection ponds are just a couple of the bright ideas Bombala students have come up with as part of their studies into playground design.

Students from St Joseph’s Primary School have just presented a range of thoughtful and captivating 3D playground models, paving the way for future playground construction in Bombala.

Following months of hard work, their final playground designs have been pitched to staff from Snowy Monaro Regional Council – Major Projects Manager Linda Nicholson, and Recreation and Property Technical Officer Jane Kanowski, as well as family and friends.

“All the students should be very proud of their efforts,” Linda says.

The students designed and built a playground space that incorporated elements of physical, social, mental, and spiritual well-being for people of all ages and abilities – community gardens, slides, handball courts, picnic areas, and bright, colourful equipment, were all part of their vision.

“The designs are very exciting, it was a pleasure working alongside the students – a great community partnership,” Linda says.

Dylan and Alexander Bruce make their pitch to classmates, Council, and family and friends. Photo: Snowy Monaro Regional Council.
Dylan and Alexander Bruce make their pitch to classmates, Council, and family and friends. Photo: Snowy Monaro Regional Council.

A number of valuable skills were picked up along the way, including team work, communication, public speaking, engineering, and building.

A terrific example of project-based learning.

Council staff presented students with a certificate of achievement for their outstanding efforts.

The students will continue their involvement throughout the design and construction of an all-abilities playground in Bombala during 2018.

Historic Bombala school given a future as part of the community

Bombala Infants School, ready for new energy. Photo: Ian Campbell
Bombala Infants School, ready for new energy. Photo: Ian Campbell

Plans are underway to turn the Bombala Infants School into a place of learning again, with a safety net in place guaranteeing a positive outcome for the community.

Locals were taken by surprise when an auction sign went up on the school’s fence back in June.

The site overlooking the town first opened as a place of learning in 1863. James Poulton, the school’s first teacher had 75 kids to mark off his role on day one.

As an aside, school fees amounted to ninepence per week for the two eldest children in each family and sixpence per week for each additional child.

Solid as a rock. Photo: Ian Campbell
Solid as a rock. Photo: Ian Campbell

In the mid-1990’s the school was closed and childhood education in Bombala consolidated on the Bombala High School site.

TAFE moved into the space for a period of time offering a range of vocational and special interest subjects, however changes within TAFE and the opening of the Trade Training Centre at Bombala High took momentum and opportunities away from the historic site.

With the State-owned building empty and unused its future was put out to the market, swift community action halted the sale with the Member for Monaro, Nationals Leader, and Deputy Premier John Barilaro gifting the building to Snowy Monaro Regional Council.

Not much has changed since kids last played here. Photo: Ian Campbell
Not much has changed since kids last played here. Photo: Ian Campbell

The group that formed to stop the sale is now looking at its next step and a new chapter in the buildings 144-year-old story.

Sue Haslingden from the Bombala and Delegate Region Arts and Culture Advisory Committee says with the new Council in place it’s time to get going.

“My three children went to school here, a lot of families have incredible ties with this beautiful old building, ” Sue says.

Sue is a former Bombala Shire councilor and has just been elected to the merged Snowy Monaro Regional Council, she also remembers taking part in art and photography classes at the old school under TAFE.

“Once the art classes stopped we just found rooms here there and everywhere and applied for arts funding to bring instructors in a few times a year,” Sue says.

“We approached TAFE about using this space, but it would have been at a commercial hire rate, so it just wasn’t viable for us.”

Sue Haslingden, part of the Bombala and Delegate Region Arts and Culture Advisory Committee. Photo: Ian Campbell
Sue Haslingden, part of the Bombala and Delegate Region Arts and Culture Advisory Committee. Photo: Ian Campbell

A resumption of arts and cultural activities is seen as part of the old school’s future.

“Over the years we’ve lost Ando Public School, Bibbenluke has just gone, this building is such a part of Bombala,” Sue says.

“This building was put here by the community, the building itself was funded through fundraising and back in the early days even the teacher was funded by community efforts.”

The thought of the building being sold and the proceeds deposited into the combined TAFE coffers was a ‘red flag to the community’ Sue says.

“It was a real concern that the money from the sale wouldn’t be turned back into our community,” she explains.

The building is home to two vast learning spaces. Photo: Ian Campbell
The building is home to two vast learning spaces. Photo: Ian Campbell

With a business plan already in place through the gifting arrangements between State and Local Government,  the Arts and Culture Advisory Committee is now waiting to get the keys and put the plan into action.

“We would like to see this place as the home of a local progress association, as a place for tourist and cultural events, and as a community meeting place for a range of interests and groups,” Sue says.

Appointing a project officer to activate and manage the space is one of the first steps to drive the idea forward.

“The town needs a place for a range of groups to call home, this will be a hub for the Bombala community,” Sue says.

An exit clause has been negotiated that guarantees funds from any future sale of the building would be returned to Bombala.

“So if our business plan doesn’t work, and we find we can’t maintain it or it’s not viable, in three years time we can sell it and the money stays in the community,” Sue says.

With plans for an opening event growing, Sue says, “Watch this space!”

Anyone for cricket? Photo: Ian Campbell
Anyone for cricket? Photo: Ian Campbell

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About Regional, podcast 13 – Reusable water bottles for every high school student

Peter Hannan and Kerryn Wood from the Sapphire Coast Marine Discovery Centre, present water bottles to students of Lumen Christi Catholic Collage at Pambula.
Philanthropist Peter Hannan and Kerryn Wood from the Sapphire Coast Marine Discovery Centre, present water bottles to students of Lumen Christi Catholic College at Pambula.

This week, one man takes on the garbage building in our oceans…

Every high school student in the Bega Valley will soon have a reusable drink bottle, cutting the need for single use, light weight, disposable plastic water bottles.

Over the last couple of months’ students at Eden Marine High School, and Lumen Christi Catholic College at Pambula have received a stainless steel drink bottle to refill at school taps and bubblers.

Kids at Bega High School got there’s today (May 16), and Sapphire Coast Anglican College down the road will soon have theirs.

This marine environment initiative comes from Bega Valley philanthropist Peter Hannan.

As someone who loves the ocean, Peter says he felt compelled to act after hearing of the impact plastics are having on the world.

Got yours yet? Featuring the logo of the Sapphire Coast Marine Discovery Centre.
Got yours yet? Featuring the logo of the Sapphire Coast Marine Discovery Centre.

Following last year’s Marine Science Forum, hosted by the Sapphire Coast Marine Discovery Centre, Peter made a pledge to buy 2500 reusable bottles and distribute them to year 7 to 12 students across the Shire.

Peter comes from a family of community action, his late mother Shirley, established a trust before she died to fund a national portrait prize that is held every two years, which has since grown to incorporate a youth prize in the alternate year.

See below for audio options to learn more.

My partners in this podcast are Jen, Arthur and Jake at Light to Light Camps in Eden –  offering fully-supported hikes along Australia’s most spectacular coastline, it’s wilderness done comfortably.

Thanks for tuning in, your feedback, story ideas, and advertising inquiries are really welcome, send your email to

Listening options:

Click play to listen here and now…

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See you out and about!


Churchill Fellowship supercharges Bega builders vision for change

Jo Saccomani
Jo Saccomani

A Bega carpenter’s big picture ideas for her trade and community have won the backing of the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust.

Jo Saccomani is off to the USA and Canada later this year having been awarded a Churchill Fellowship, an initiative set up in memory of the wartime Brittish PM to foster research and innovation and enrich society.

“I have promised to change the face of what Australian society sees as women’s work,” Jo laughs.

Jo has been a builder for over 30 years, starting out through a women’s trade program.

Apart from working on building sites as a licenced chippy, supporting other women into a carpentry career has always been part of Jo’s makeup.

In recent years, injury has forced Jo to rethink how the craft she loves could continue to sustain her financially and emotionally –  out of that process a teacher was born.

Two Sheds Workshop opened in 2014, tucked away in the Bega CBD under a beautifully big Jacaranda tree in two small old timber slab huts.

The original Two Sheds Workshop
The original Two Sheds Workshop

Offering woodwork classes to women and children, hundreds of students have since left wood shavings and off cuts on the floor of Jo’s classroom.

“I’ve ignited a little spark in Bega of people wanting to learn this stuff,” Jo says.

As a woman working in a field normally the domain of men, Jo is aware of the example she sets and enjoys quietly disrupting those ingrained gender roles at play in our community.

With real consciousness, cultural change underlines the woodwork skills taught at Two Sheds.

“Boys and girls work alongside each other, there is no differentiation about what they can and can’t do,” Jo says.

The mums, aunties and grandmothers that also attend the regular calendar of events at Two Sheds add their own presence and weight in the community. They’re Jo’s foot soldiers, taking her example to more and more people.

Jo sees a day when Bega will be a microcosm of woman building and working with wood and no one will notice.

“We will shift the culture, it will just be a normal thing, which is really how you create social change,” Jo believes.

And it’s already happening.

“They (children) don’t come in and say geez it’s awesome you’re a woman Jo’ it’s nothing to them,” she laughs.

Women at work in the new Two Sheds Workshop
Women at work in the new Two Sheds Workshop

Part of her overseas travel will see Jo tap into schools and teachers using woodwork as a central part of their curriculum, further developing her own skills as an educator, and extending what she currently offers the schools and children of Bega.

“You learn woodwork skills here but they’re basically the skills of – this is how you do anything,” Jo says.

“Being able to provide that environment to women and children is really great.”

Jo is now keen to take students to a new level of skill and offer more advanced building and construction tuition.

In January this year, Two Sheds moved to a bigger workshop space on Bega Street, opposite the willow tree.

Being awarded the Fellowship for travel overseas has added momentum and depth to the new plan for 2017.

“Part of what I want to learn about over there is using ‘tiny houses’ as a teaching platform,” Jo says.

Hammerstone School of Carpentry for Women just outside of Ithaca in New York state is Jo’s first stop.

Maria Klemperer-Johnson is the owner and driving force behind Hammerstone and the lady Jo is keen to connect with.

Jo sees potential in what Maria and Hammerstone are doing in their community for her own at the opposite end of the globe.

“Each year they build a tiny house,” Jo explains.

“As part of that, they’ll run a timber framing workshop.

“And then they’ll have a cladding workshop and so on until the tiny house is finished,” Jo says.

A tiny house has the look, presence and strength of a ‘regular’ size house, but is transportable, but not in a caravan kind of way.

One of Hammerstone's tiny houses
One of Hammerstone’s tiny houses

Jo’s vision is to use the smaller scale inbuilt in tiny houses to teach full sized construction and building skills – unlocking big ideas and big potential in people.

“If I can go over there with the Fellowship and talk to Maria and see how they do that, it will really help me do something similar back here,” Jo says.

Part of Jo’s drive is empowering people to take control of their future.

“I’ve had a bit to do with the SEWACS (South East Women and Children’s Services) youth program,” Jo says.

“There is such an amazing need to create homes for kids, youth that are living on the street.”

“They end up having to stay at the pub, but those kids could learn how to build a place,” Jo says.

Part of the theory is that the bite-size nature of a tiny house makes it more approachable for people.

“It’s not as daunting, people think – yeah I reckon I could do that,” she says.

Cost is the other x-factor in Jo’s tiny house movement, with plans being developed to construct a tiny house using leftover, unwanted, readily available, cheap as chips timber pallets from the transport and logistics industry.

Jo’s goal is to design a tiny house that costs just $500 to build after the purchase of a trailer as the base.

The plan is being road tested with Jo’s 16-year-old son, the pair teaming up to build what will be Liam’s home away from home when he heads off to uni or work after high school.

Plane tickets are being booked for September – October, and Jo is planning to blog along the way before presenting her report to the Churchill Trust.

“What they want is for you to share your passion and what you have learned as much as you can, and that’s my life really,” Jo says.

Click play to hear Jo’s vision and spark for yourself…


Jo’s travels will also be featured at the second Tradeswomen Conference in Brisbane in 2018.

The Two Shed’s motto of ‘build yourself’ is now clearer than even and has been supercharged by the Churchill Fellowship.

Applications for the next round of 100 Fellowships opened this week, Jo says “Go for it!”