Tag Archives: Warrandyte Mechanics Institute Hall

Celebrating 20 years of giving back to the community

THIS YEAR, the Community Bank Warrandyte celebrates 20 years since opening its doors and establishing itself as the major contributor to local charities, arts organisations, educational facilities, sporting clubs, emergency services, and infrastructure projects.
In the early 2000s, the mainstream banks were packing up shop, and Warrandyte was left with no banking options.
Too early for the digital banking age to be suitable for most residents, our community was left with a big hole in the retail streetscape.
It was the bravado of a few locals that we owe thanks to today.
Headed up by John Provan, 10 Warrandytians came together with a proposal to bring a community bank to Warrandyte.
To do this, Bendigo Bank required them to raise $600,000 in capital, and while it was a tough feat, thankfully for Warrandyte, they got there.
This milestone was celebrated on Friday, April 28, 2023, marking 20 years of charitable giving with a birthday party at The Grand Hotel Warrandyte’s venue space, Next Door.
Around 90 guests including shareholders, staff, directors, dignitaries, and community partners, celebrated the evening reminiscing the success and the projects the bank has had the honour to be a part of.
Meredith Thornton, former Director, and Secretary during the time the bank was forming, reflected on the bank’s inception.
“John Provan said to me, ‘What are we going to do about this?’ and we decided if it was good enough for Hurstbridge to have a Bendigo Bank, then it was good enough for Warrandyte”.
But Meredith said that it was incredibly hard work, meetings every week, a lot of governance and an enormous challenge to raise the capital in time.
Finishing her speech on a high, the room agreed it was an “incredible achievement and a true success story”.
Today, 20 years later, the Community Bank Warrandyte still graces the same site on Yarra Street for all residents to access valuable banking services.
Not only that, but the Community Bank Warrandyte, over those years, has returned up to 80 per cent of its profits back to the community, year-on-year.
These profits, returned through grants and sponsorships, offer a community service unrivalled by traditional banking models.
In fact, back in the beginning, social enterprises were not as common, and it was a rare occurrence for businesses to give away most of their profit.
The demonstrated longevity of this banking model has meant the ability to offer impactful financial contributions back to the community.
Following the reflection, the best birthday gift was given to nine lucky grant recipients – each receiving a share of $360,000.
This additional/special round of funding will be used to support our local infrastructure in schools, community centres, kindergartens, the RSL, and the Mechanics’ Institute (see the story behind that on page 7).
After 20 years of giving back, the total investment sum injected back into the communities of Warrandyte (central, North, and South), Park Orchards, Wonga Park and surrounds now totals $4.8 million.
Chair of Community Bank Warrandyte Aaron Farr, said: “It’s a privilege to work on a volunteer board that has such a significant impact on where we live.
“I can’t wait to see through to the end of the year, tipping over the $5M mark in contributions.”
The evening rounded out with guests enjoying some live music by Nick Charles and Liz Frencham, a delicious birthday cake supplied by Scrumdiddely Cakes and Cafe, and an opportunity to enjoy historical images and media clippings of the bank’s journey through its time in Warrandyte.

Farewell Dee

Finally, the evening farewelled a much-loved member of staff.
Dee Dickson, who readers may know, has been responsible for the Community Liaison role and local relationships with many clubs and groups over the last eight years.
A treasured and community-minded individual that will surely be missed.

Community asset

On reflection, 20 years and $4.8M leaves you thinking, what would our community do if the bank closed its doors?
Where would your group, large or small, turn to for Warrandyte’s next needed $5M?
Happy birthday to Community Bank Warrandyte; its staff, volunteer board members past and present, shareholders, our community partners, and of course, our customers – you are why we are celebrating 20 Years in Warrandyte.

Community Bank a white knight for Mechanics’ Hall


IN AN ARTICLE in the March 2023 Warrandyte Diary, Grant Purdy of Warrandyte Arts called for financial help to restore the aging Mechanics’ Hall in Yarra Street.
As the hall’s centenary approaches, Grant said they needed more than $50,000 to complete urgent repairs to the roof.
The Diary is pleased to report that the Warrandyte Community Bank has provided $64,551 in funding for a repair of the roof to prevent the collapse of our beloved hall.
It was noted that the hall is “of the community, for the community” because the building, and its grounds, are owned by everyone within two miles (3.2 kilometres) of the Mitchell Avenue site – a true community asset.
The funding was announced at the 20th birthday celebrations of the bank, where Community Bank Chairman Aaron Farr discussed the importance of the hall to the community and why the bank provided the generous support to Warrandyte Arts.
“The Mechanics’ Institute in Warrandyte has provided a home for the arts for 144 years – the present hall has been in use for 95 years.
The Warrandyte Mechanics’ Institute and Arts Association (WMIAA), now known simply as Warrandyte Arts (‘for good reason,’ he quipped, having stumbled over the cumbersome historical name), and its home at the Mechanics’ Institute Hall has, for many years, provided an essential and easily accessible venue for all forms of art and performance to the residents of Warrandyte and the surrounding community of Manningham.
Today the arts community associated with the hall is flourishing.
Most years, there are over 120 members of the association engaged in a range of artistic activities and groups.
The hall is almost in constant use by those groups and by other hirers who hold meetings, exercise sessions, events, shows, and social occasions in the hall.
Thousands of people, each year, use and enjoy the venue.
Warrandyte Arts and the hall are an incredibly valuable and well-recognised cultural asset to the local and wider community.
However, the building, with its original methods of construction, has begun to deteriorate to the extent that the hall’s future has been in jeopardy.”
Grant Purdy then explained the “mechanics” of the repairs, thanking Jock Macneish for his design work.
He said the new roof supports will remove the need for the metal tie rods that run the width of the auditorium holding the walls together, which are themselves at risk of failure due to age.
Without the works, Grant explained, if these rods failed the existing truss design would push the walls out “with a scissor action,” he demonstrated, lacing his fingers together like in the children’s rhyme Here’s the steeple.
There is much work to be done, he said, with the hall closing over the summer while the work is undertaken.
Grant said the funding from the bank was most welcome, with income made by the association from drama productions, room hire, and other fundraising roughly matching outgoings on regular maintenance and upkeep of the elderly building – so try as they might, a significant expense like this was beyond the means of Warrandyte Arts to fund themselves.
Warrandyte Rotary and the Warrandyte Riverside Market Committee have also pledged $5,000 each towards building works, for which Grant says the association is grateful.
He said once these works are completed, he hopes the hall will be around for another 100 years.

Our hall needs our help

NOT MANY people know that the Mechanics’ Institute Hall is a true community asset; it belongs to anyone and everyone lucky enough to live within a two-miles (3.2 kilometres) radius of the Hall.
And so it is up to us all to give “our hall” the care it has provided to the community over the years.
The Mechanics’ Institute in Warrandyte has provided a home for the arts for 144 years.
The present hall has been in use for 95 years — but the basic structure of the wooden building is now showing its age.
At a public meeting in 1986, the Warrandyte Mechanics’ Institute and Arts Association (WMIAA), also known as Warrandyte Arts, was given responsibility for the care of the hall, which they have done, and continue to do, admirably.
WMIAA member, David Tynan, spoke to the Diary in 2020 and said that traditionally, the Association had found funds largely from its theatre productions and from hiring the hall for community events.

“However, large expenses, such as improving the toilets, preventing the regular flood damage, and major rotting of wooden structures in our buildings, are beyond our modest budget.
“We have been very lucky to have forged an excellent relationship with the Warrandyte Community Bank, which has meant that we have been able to secure grant funding to refurbish the toilets and foyer area, and recently we have completed a major overhaul of our drainage so that future floods do not impact the buildings as severely as they have in the past,” he said.

Additional improvements are made each year, such as the installation of a toilet in the pottery studio, improved theatre lighting and digital sound and light equipment, a rear deck, and termite prevention work.
To date, the Bank has contributed $120,000 towards the maintenance and refurbishment of the Hall.
Grant Purdy, Secretary of the WMIAA, told the Diary the Mechanics’ Institute Hall has provided an essential and easily accessible venue for all forms of art and performance to the residents of Warrandyte and the surrounding community of Manningham.
The focus for the Association is on social well-being and not exclusive or artistic excellence: everyone is invited to join the activities, and all are welcome.
Today, the arts community associated with the hall is flourishing.
Most years, there are over 120 members of the association engaged in a range of artistic activities and groups, including Theatre, Craft, Music, Visual Arts, Pottery, Tai Chi, and the increasingly popular Repair Café.
The Hall is in almost constant use by those groups and by other hirers who hold meetings, exercise sessions, events, shows and social occasions.
Thousands of people each year use and enjoy the venue.
Warrandyte Arts and the Hall are incredibly valuable and well-recognised cultural assets to the local and wider community.
However, the building and its original construction methods are now beginning to deteriorate to the extent that its future is in jeopardy.
Moreover, modern-day safety requirements mean that some expensive refurbishment has become urgent — if this vital asset is to continue to be available to the Warrandyte and Manningham communities.
The first step is underway with renovations to the Bio Box to overcome many current safety hazards and minimise one of the major fire ignition sources for the wooden hall.
The Bio Box is the room where the technical crew operates lights and sound in the hall and houses all the technical equipment.
The crew need to be able to see the stage clearly and have enough room to lay out and operate sound desks, computer terminals, and keyboards.
The existing Bio Box is accessed via narrow wooden stairs at the back of the hall and takes up the central portion of a balcony.
The box is made of wood, and is currently not fire protected in any way.
Numerous holes in the floor, walls and ceiling of the room are not sealed to prevent the escape of smoke or fumes.
There is only one way in or out.
This work can take place because of a generous grant from Warrandyte Community Bank and donations from Rotary Club of Warrandyte Donvale, Warrandyte  Lions Club, Warrandyte Riverside Market, Warrandyte Community Association, and Ruby Tuesday jewellers, together with a sizeable contribution from WMIAA.

“But now we face an even bigger and more critical project — to stop the scissor action of the roof system pushing out the walls of the hall,” Grant said.

This is currently prevented by tie bars, which are reaching the end of their lives — and this will cost money — lots of it.

The Association has proposed two projects to alleviate the problem.
The first is to install four cranked beams to support timber trusses and replace the existing tie bars, which are struggling to prevent the wooden truss system in the roof from failing and pushing out the hall’s walls.
This is estimated to cost $32,750, including a contingency allowance.
Following that, to install a new lighting bar system with audio and data capability — hung from the new support beams, estimated to cost $19,000.
This leads, including project management time and auditing, to a total of $51,750 for the two interconnected projects.
Grant said WMIAA has already raised $20,000 through ticket sales from its 2020 theatre productions and other fundraising.

“And a $5,000 donation from Rotary has been added to the tally,” Grant said.
“With substantial financial and volunteer time contributions from WMIAA, the current shortfall in funding is around $25,000,” he said.

Given the hall’s popularity, the only quiet time for construction is in January/February, so delays in obtaining funding will imperil major works taking place over the summer of 2023/2024.

“The availability of a builder then is also a major source of uncertainty — achieving funding early will allow us to retain the builder.

So, time is of the essence.
WMIAA has set up a donations page on its website:
Any business donating $5,000 or more can have its logo featured on the fundraising thermometer in a coming edition of the Diary.
Give a little or give a lot — it will all go to help to ensure “our hall” continues to be a place we can all continue to enjoy long into the future.