The Yass Soldiers Memorial Hall will receive some much-needed funding to begin restoring the building, but council staff warn that there is still a long way to go to bring the building up to modern standards.
A grant of $10,000 will be used for conservation work to the Memorial Hall foyer including ceiling repairs, as part of the NSW Government’s $125,000 Community War Memorial Fund. It is, however, only a small portion of the estimated $5 million cost of works that are required.
General manager of Yass Valley Council Chris Berry said that the council consulted both the local RSL and a heritage adviser to determine the scope of works for the funding. He stated that the current priority is resolving some of the building’s structural issues and is part of a “staged approach” in restoring what Mr Berry described as “an important council asset”.
“We’re responsible for assets that we own and obviously we have to make strategic decisions about those assets, and that’s not just about cost – it’s about community value, community use, attachment to the building, and all of those sorts of things need to be taken into account,” said Mr Berry.
“We want to make sure that it continues to have that function into the future.”
While they were successful with this grant, there were several grants they were unsuccessful in securing over the Christmas period.
“It’s obviously disappointing for us, and we’re now looking at other alternatives for the rest of the hall. We’ll continue to pursue as much grant money as we possibly can for the roof work that needs to be done, the structural work and the fire safety that needs to be done to that building,” said Mr Berry.
“Some of that structural work is going to be quite expensive. I think we’re talking in the millions of dollars for the hall, and there’s even been some suggestion that for the repair work and the upgrades work, the total budget might come to as much as $5 million.”
The general manager revealed a recent audit of the Memorial Hall highlighted that the council “have not been maintaining it as well as we should’ve”.
Secretary of the Yass RSL sub-branch Stephen Neuhaus said that the RSL views restoring the hall as vital in supporting local veterans. He also argued the community value of the hall and its impact on the overall image of Yass makes the hall’s resurgence a worthwhile investment.
“A lot of visitors that come to Yass go down to the Memorial Hall to have a look at the memorial section of it, and they can’t even get into the foyer,” said Mr Neuhaus.
“On top of that, next year (2023) is the centenary for the Memorial Hall. The Memorial Hall was built by donations from the people of Yass as a collective, so I believe as a collective we need to pull together, not just the veterans but everybody.”
Mr Neuhaus urged the community to rally together to address the “worthwhile challenge” of getting the hall back to what it once was.
Member for Goulburn Wendy Tuckerman announced the funding alongside the announcement that Berrima’s Remembrance Grove had also secured a $10,000 grant.
“Our region has a proud military history, and I’m thrilled to see locals actively working to conserve sites that recognise this service and sacrifice,” said Ms Tuckerman.
“Both the Yass Soldiers Memorial Hall and Berrima Remembrance Grove hold special significance to our communities, so I am pleased to see this investment.”