A GROUP of committed Fryerstown locals have celebrated the opening of a new community hub built out of the derelict shell of the former Fryerstown State School.
The old school was in a state of disrepair in 2010 when it was taken over by a management committee who wanted to ensure the school was kept for the community and out of developers’ hands.
With the help of a $200,000 government grant, donations by local businesses and plenty of volunteered labour, the school has now been restored to be used as a gallery space, workshop centre and community centre.
Managing committee chairman and project manager Tim Todhunter said the school was built in 1915 to house 450 students in the booming gold-mining town.
It was closed in 1967 with only three students.
It was then used from 1973 to 2003 as a school camp facility.
“By 2010, there were white ants, the windows were broken, the insulation was exposed and there were holes in the floor,” Mr Todhunter said.
“The old kitchen was derelict. The place was a complete mess.”
A local committee stepped in and spent three years carrying out a complete restoration job.
“Now we have a new kitchen, a lovely gallery for exhibitions and concerts, and the old school room has been used in last six months for wellness programs, workshops, exhibitions and daily courses.”
Member for Northern Victoria Region Damian Drum officially opened the new complex on Friday, before a smoking ceremony was held by Ron Murray, a member of the Aboriginal community.
“He performed the ceremony to cleanse the grounds and look to the future,” Mr Todhunter said.
“It marked a new beginning.”
He said the committee had hopes the centre would become the focal point of the town.
“It’s a community hub where we expect to develop a lot of community activities that will grow and bring the community together.”
But despite the celebrations, the project still continues.
Mr Todhunter said another working bee will be held on April 21 to work on the landscaping around the building.
“But we are now open for business,” he said.