Since the beginning of the year, Moree’s Dhiiyaan Aboriginal Centre has undergone an amazing transformation which is set to continue thanks to more than $200,000 in additional funding.
The centre will receive a total of $208,321 to upgrade the building’s outdated air conditioning, transform the back dock area into a usable space for the public, upgrade the old kitchen into a new commercial kitchen to cater for large functions, and convert the cleaning storeroom into a kitchenette for tea and coffee for use by the public.
“Our back dock area is a wasted space as we’ve got storage upstairs, so we want to turn it into a usable space for the community, whether it be for meetings, art classes, research, or a chill-out space,” centre manager Kylie Benge said.
“We want to get rid of the big air conditioning unit which doesn’t work and put split systems throughout to improve energy efficiency.
“The kitchen will be turned into a commercial kitchen with a bigger fridge and a bigger stove to cater for exhibitions, events, and community gatherings, and we’ll add a kitchenette so the public can come and make tea and coffee.”
Moree Plains Shire Council’s director of corporate services Mitchell Johnson said the extra money will allow the centre to completely finish the renovations, which have been on the agenda since about 2014.
“It’s all about trying to make good use of the space we have,” he said.
The funding is part of the state government’s Arts and Culture Infrastructure Grant, and expands on the initial $495,545 worth of stage one upgrades which involved a complete renovation of the centre including a refurbished foyer and gallery, new offices, a multimedia room, a purpose-built archival room, a compliant ramp and brand new disabled access toilets, as well as new carpets, painting, furniture and fittings.
“We’re so lucky to have received not one, but two grants,” Ms Benge said.
“It’s been built to museum standard, so it enables us to apply for other grants as well – it’s an art centre, museum, cultural place – a one-stop shop.”
To preserve boxes and boxes of archives, photographs and genealogy dating back to 1788, the archival room has been specially built according to the State Library of NSW standards.
With mostly paper records, the room has to be temperature and humidity controlled to preserve the precious history.
“It’s a keeping place; we try to preserve Gamilaroi history,” Mr Johnson said.
The multimedia room is a great new addition to the centre, and thanks to a partnership with the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia, will enable classes of school children and small groups to watch old Gamilaroi archives that would otherwise only be available in the capital cities.
Member for Northern Tablelands Adam Marshall recently visited the centre to announce the latest funding and inspect the completed stage one works.
He said the grant will help the centre better serve the Moree community.
“With over 110,000 genealogies of families, records of Aboriginal ex-servicemen, artefacts, art and over 15,000 photographs – the centre is a vital repository for indigenous history across the Kamilaroi nation and the whole of NSW,” he said.
“People of all backgrounds from across the state make the pilgrimage to the Dhiiyaan Centre. Whether it’s to research family history, learn more about the brave Aboriginal servicemen fighting for our country, better understand the Kamilaroi language or view impressive displays of indigenous art, this centre is a vital part of recognising generations of culture.”
The first stage of works began in January and were recently completed ahead of the official opening of the refurbished space, set for Friday, November 17.
Stage two works will get underway as soon as possible with the air conditioning the first priority leading into summer.