Six determined people bring new life to village community centre

The steering group of Daina Walker, Penny May, Eva Henley, Jolanda Moyle, Graham Welch and Tamara Head at the Cawongla Community Centre.

Susanna Freymark

If only these walls could talk… organisers of the official reopening of the Cawongla Community Centre were thrilled with the turnout today, Saturday, June 1.

No one quite knows the age of the timber cottage next to Cawongla Preschool in the heart of the village.

Graham Welch said it used to be the teacher’s house. Then it was a community centre – and then it wasn’t.

For years the community centre sat empty, the house slowly deteriorating until a group of residents decided to do something about it.

Their passion and commitment is a testament to the successful opening.

Daina Walker, Penny May, Eva Henley, Jolanda Moyle, Graham Welch and Tamara Head all want the same thing – for the community to have a place to come together.

“We want the community to get to know each other in this space,” Jolanda said.

There was a board where residents wrote a wishlist on what they’d like to see happening at the centre from drumming and ukele to table tennis, pot luck dinners and weaving.

The ideas board at the community centre.

There is already a Pilates class running.

Daina said the most important thing was to get people hiring the centre.

It’s an intimate space with two rooms, a kitchen and an expansive paddock at the back.

Penny has been applying for grants in the past year to do up the house. She’s keen to get a grant in for a professional kitchen.

Long term ideas include a community garden.

Music and fresh produce on the veranda of the centre.

Tamara said the centre was well placed for classes, workshops and events and to be a “central point.”

The centre is where three roads meet from Kyogle, Nimbin and Lismore.

The group is keen to link with other halls and find out what works and to collaborate with them.

“We want support from Kyogle Council,” Jolanda said.

Artwork by the preschool children next door to the centre.

Members of the group said having more activities in the village would save on travelling the winding road to Kyogle.

“There are so many skilled and talented people around here,” Jolanda said.

At the opening about 11 artists exhibited their work including Heather Elwell with her handmade beaded jewellery.

Heather Elwell with her jewellery display.

Part of the opening fundraiser was a raffle for two bench chairs made out of drums. The raffle was drawn and the winner donated the chairs back to the centre.

If today is any indication, the centre has a bright future.

Soon the walls of the wooden house will have new stories to tell as the rooms fill with music and the smell of warm food.

As the rooms fill with community.

The Cawongla Community Centre. Photos: Susanna Freymark

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