23 January 2019

Bombala Infants School to become arts, innovation, community hub

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

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

The historic Bombala Infants School will be reborn as the Bombala Arts and Innovation Centre, fulfiling a longheld vision of the local community.

The 146-year-old building sits high on Wellington Street and has been crying out for a purpose since it’s closure as a primary school in the mid-1990s and in more recent years, a TAFE campus.

Locals were taken by surprise when the unused but much-loved state-owned building was slated for auction in late 2017.

Swift community action halted the sale with the Member for Monaro, 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.

Adding to that this week, Mr Barilario has announced $207,430 for a major upgrade, making the facility a home for learning once again.

“The Infants School building is a part of Bombala’s history, a beautiful building, and the perfect home for local artists,” Mr Barilaro says.

The funding will be used to refurbish the building, including an internal fit out, new heating throughout, renovated toilets, an all-accessible ramp, car parking, new carpet, pest control work and stormwater drainage upgrades.

“A huge renovation will soon be underway, but the heritage of the building will be at the forefront and preserved so the history of the Bombala Infants School building can be remembered,” Mr Barilario says.

Solid as a rock. Photo: Ian Campbell

Solid as a rock.

The site overlooking Bombala 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.

School fees amounted to ninepence per week for the two eldest children in each family and sixpence per week for each additional child.

Snowy Monaro Regional Councilor, Sue Haslingden has been leading the charge to reopen the space as a member of the Bombala and Delegate Region Arts and Culture Advisory Committee.

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

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.

Apart from arts and cultural pursuits, Cr Haslingden is excited by the broad range of other opportunities the reinvigorated building could allow for, including space for the Bombala Chamber of Commerce, a youth hub, and camping facilities for grey nomads.

“It’s like an egg hatching, once the little beak brakes through the shell, it all just starts happening,” she laughs.

Work will start this year, “this month” if Cr Haslingden has her way.

“We need people in it and using it in order to protect it, it’s been unoccupied for too many years,” she says.

“This is a dream come true and I am just hoping we can count on the community to add some in-kind support to take the funding further.”

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

The building is home to two vast learning spaces.

While the renovation works take place, an organisational and management structure will be developed by Council, most likely based around a volunteer community committee.

“This is there for the community and we’ll need a lot of support to make it happen, but the potential is huge.”

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There is a problem whenever any asset, like a building, is ‘gifted’ to the local Council. It must be maintained into the future. And that costs money. When the State Government transfers assets to local councils there is seldom any money provided for ongoing maintenance. The asset might be a Crown Road for example, that the State Government passes over to Council to own and maintain using ratepayers money. On the surface these ‘gifts’ seem generous, however there is a nasty underbelly to the reason for doing so. Gets them off the State Government books and makes ratepayers pay to maintain them.

Bronwyn Wright8:43 am 23 Jan 19

Oh WOW !! At last! This is fantastic!!!
We fought hard to keep this building in the community and refurbished as an Arts Centre. So good to hear about the additional funds to renovate etc. What a coup for the Bombala District Community!

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