11 October, 2023
On a wonderful bright spring day with the sky a deep blue and a cool breeze drifting over the Castlereagh River, residents, friends, family, councillors and even a few travellers celebrated the reopening of the Joy Trudgett, Allan Wise, and Coo-ee March galleries held at the Coo-ee Heritage Centre (CHC).
The reinvigoration of the building and its surrounds has proven to be an outstanding addition to the community and region of Gilgandra. The morning was cause for good spirits as a sizeable crowd gathered within the renovated walls of the CHC to listen to speakers from all aspects of the community come forward and share their connection to the history of the area, and the institution which helps that history endure.
David Neeves, the general manager of Gilgandra council, was MC for the event and introduced all of the speakers. The first to stand was mayor Doug Batten, who welcomed everyone and spoke about the terrific opportunity the day provided to celebrate all the hard work that had gone into modernising and redeveloping the CHC. Mayor Batten informed the audience that the total cost of the project was approximately $3 million dollars.
Council describes the Allan Wise Gallery as a space that focusses on “Gilgandra’s history and the local story of mateship and spirit that remains the backbone of our region”. While the Joy Trudgett Gallery hosts the local Aboriginal experience ‘The Meeting Place’ project. In a brief on the gallery’s significance, a council spokesperson said that “Gil-gandra is known as a ‘meeting place’ between three Aboriginal nations - Wiradjuri, Kamilaroi and Wailwan. Developed in collaboration with local Aboriginal stakeholder groups, The Meeting Place celebrates the stories, past and present, of our community. Designed with digital engagement, audio stories, a wheel through display, 3D artwork, story wall and an education and meeting place, the gallery will immerse, inspire and educate.”
Along with the completed construction of the two new galleries, there are additional interactive displays added to the Coo-ee Gallery, with a special ‘Coo-ee Calling Experience’ installed.
There is also the ‘Ladies Behind the Lines’ experience which tells the story of the Coo-ee March from the eyes of the women as they experienced a new way of life at the beginning of the First World War. Aunty Kathy Bird then welcomed everyone to Country, before Geoff Wise paid tribute to his father’s contribution to the region, particularly his work with gathering and preserving historical information and artifacts of Gilgandra’s history and involvement in the world wars.
Mr Wise was followed by Phillip Howard of the Gilgandra Historical Society, then Tamatau Faleono, who spoke as a representative of the Trudgett family.
After the speakers finished Mr Neeves thanked everyone for coming and invited them to enjoy the refreshments available. While taking in tea, cake and slices the crowd filtered through the three wonderfully presented galleries taking in the wealth of information available on all kinds of information important to the Gilgandra community.
Young filmaker and content creator Penelope Towney also screened ‘Towney Time’ at the conclusion of the speeches. The event was an excellent occasion as part of the ‘Goin to Gil’ weekend.