The Allambee Club in Yass has traditionally been extremely private. So much so that you could easily miss its non-descript clubhouse on the town’s main street.
However, during the past weekend, the rural women’s club opened its doors at 76 Comur Street to the public for the first time in its 98-year history.
Inside, an inaugural art fair organised by the club’s members gave outsiders a glimpse into a secret society and, more importantly, raised funds for a local, not-for-profit organisation.
Karinya House provides safety, shelter and support to around 200 women each year from Canberra and the surrounding region, including Yass, while they’re pregnant or parenting a baby.
It will receive at least 20 per cent from the sale of every painting in the Allambee Club Art Fair, plus all the proceeds from five donated artworks and a raffle.
So far, 60 of the 97 paintings from NSW, Queensland and Victoria have sold, however you can view all of the paintings, including the remaining 30 still available to purchase, on the Southern Tablelands Arts website.
Karinya House finance and business manager Jo Saccasan said the money couldn’t come at a better time.
Fundraising during their May-Day Appeal has been lower than usual due to financial pressures during the COVID-19 pandemic, she said.
Subsequently this has put more stress on Karinya House as the need for social and affordable housing has increased during this time.
“We are really lucky and get good support from the ACT Government, which provides 70 per cent of our annual funding,” said Ms Saccasan.
“However, the remaining 30 per cent has to come from the community and that funds our staff who are client-facing – caseworkers, social workers, and health professionals such as a midwife and overnight and weekend staff because we provide a 24/7 service.”
That 30 per cent represents around $600,000, according to Ms Saccasan.
‘A home away from home’
The Allambee Club and Karinya House both share a simple purpose: to provide a refuge for women.
Allambee Club Yass president Jo-Ann Strong lives 30 minutes away from the town, in Jugiong, and joined 15 years ago to meet local women and have a place to rest when visiting town with her children.
The clubhouse was built in 1923 to give women somewhere to gather. The idea was coined when the women were left alone while their husbands fought in World War I.
Allambee is the Aboriginal word meaning “to sit or to remain a while” and its clubhouse has a nursery, bathroom with a shower, and can provide accommodation.
“It’s great to have a home away from home,” said Ms Strong.
The club also hosts a range of activities, including guest speakers, bridge competitions, a monthly lunch, cooking classes and a book club.
For Ms Strong, directing the Allambee Club Art Fair funds to Karinya House was a no-brainer.
“Karinya House has a lot of linkages with the Allambee Club,” she said. “Its executive director, Marie-Louise Corkhill, is the sister of one of our members, and one of Karinya House’s health professionals, Cath Williams, is also a member.
“While I don’t know any of Karinya House’s clients, I know many are from Yass.”
Allambee Club members called on their network of artists to support the art fair, and the response was overwhelming – they even struggled to find space on the clubhouse walls for all the artworks.
The best part is, Allambee Club Art Fair will be back next year.