Tag Archives: WMIAA

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

By SANDI MILLER

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.

No half measures on timeless tale

REVIEW

TWO THINGS will forever define Arthur Miller.
The first is his marriage with Marilyn Monroe, which for some overshadows the second: that Miller is considered one of the greatest dramatists of the twentieth century.
A View from the Bridge sits proudly among his string of works, such as Death of a Salesman and The Crucible, staged and studied for their brilliant, insightful and timeless texts.
So much so that Miller was awarded The Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize, one of the richest prizes in the arts, given annually to “a man or woman who has made an outstanding contribution to the beauty of the world and to mankind’s enjoyment and understanding of life”. Warrandyte Theatre Company has presented Miller’s precious gift with an uncompromising flair.
The first thing that hits you is the beautiful staging, with the Brooklyn apartment building, the docks and the lawyer’s office blending seamlessly to support the action.
The seasoned principal cast grasped their characters by the horns and made mastering the iconic Brooklyn, and Italian accents look effortless.
Playing the narrator/lawyer Alfieri, WTC regular Don Nicholson was engaging and measured in his performance, leading the audience through the fateful events with a persona that exudes 1950s New York small-time lawyer, reminiscent of something from a Bogart film noir. Also, familiar faces on the Warrandyte stage, Tony Clayton and Simone Kiefer produced some powerful performances as Eddie and Beatrice.
The beauty of this text is the light and shade, explored deftly by Tony and Simone, hitting just the right notes at just the right time, Eddie’s anger and frustration were at times visceral, and Bea’s heartbreak at the deterioration of her family was likewise palpable.
Newcomers Kiera Edelstein and James Banger played Catherine and Rodolpho, whose romance enrages Catherine’s over-protective uncle Eddie.
Kiera expertly explored the light and shade of Catherine and her complex relationship with Eddie, while James’ Rodolpho as the new immigrant provided some much-needed laugh-out-loud moments amidst moments that made the audience audibly gasp.
Paul Wanis makes his Warrandyte debut as Marco, Rodolpho’s brother, who stands up to Eddie when he takes his objections to the young ones’ relationship too far.
His confrontation with Eddie at the close of act one could be considered among the most powerful performances to grace the Warrandyte stage in many years.
The supporting cast was a mixture of new and returning faces playing minor walk-on roles with as much thoughtfulness as the lead cast.
In these roles, David Tynan, Adrian Rice, Jack Stringer, Michael Swann, Lara King and Kerry Walsh provided a depth to the production that cannot be underestimated.
Director Grant Purdy staged this classic without compromise, there are no rough edges, and the innovative set design draws the audience into the action.
The audience cabaret seating has been retained for this production as a sensible COVID measure, but I, for one, find it lovely and hope it is kept in the future.
Opening night was sold out, and, as we go to print, tickets are getting scarce for the remainder of the run, so make sure to book yourself a seat for the final week at trybooking.com/BYZKR before it closes on August 13 – you don’t want to miss this one.

Coming up

The light and shade continue in the next production with Calendar Girls, at times titillating but with a sobering undercurrent, which hits the boards from September 23 for nine performances.
Then the much-anticipated return of The Follies in November. This year’s production is still forming, so if you want to be part of it, head to the writers’ meeting on August 19 or the “induction” in early October, both at the Mechanics’ Institute Hall.

Getting behind Our Hall

NOT MANY people are aware that the Mechanics’ Institute Hall is a true community asset, it belongs to anyone, and everyone, lucky enough to live within a two-mile radius of the Hall.

And it is up to us all to give “our hall” the care it has provided to the community over the years.

While the Warrandyte Mechanics’ Institute is more than 140 years old, the current Mechanics’ Institute Hall is coming up on 95 years.

A recent grant from Warrandyte Community Bank for ongoing renovations continues a long history of community love for our little green hall.

A board of trustees was established in 1878, and the trustees were given the original schoolhouse in Forbes Street for use as a Mechanics’ Institute for the nominal sum of £1.

The next decade saw a concerted effort to construct a new building.

A meeting in July 1890 saw that good progress had been made to establish a building fund, having raised some £23 5s 9d towards a new building.

In December of that year the new building had passed inspection by the Board of Health and was ready for operation.

The Mechanics’ Institutes Hall opened on December 19, 1890 at the North West corner of Yarra Street and Web Street, on the site of what is now Rush and Hampshire Lawyers.

In 1925, they began fundraising for a new hall as the old hall was considered too small for the community’s needs.

The current hall was built on the site of the Warrandyte Hotel, which burned down in April, 1925.

A public meeting was held in the new hall to approve a set of rules and regulations and granting membership of the Institute to those residents over 21 years who lived “for not less than three months within a two-mile radius”.

The hall was immediately put to use with the first wedding taking place on December 8, 1928 between Alice (Pap) Schneider, the town’s first telephonist, and stonemason George Stringer.

The new hall also became the regular venue for the school’s Fancy Dress Ball and the Lilac Time Ball from 1930 until 1954.

There was an annual New Year’s Eve dance with locals gathering in the hall until midnight, then dancing along behind a Scottish pipe band to the bridge to ring in the new year — some years the young lads would let off a stick of gelignite to welcome in the new year with a bang.

Following WWII there were also regular Debutant Balls.

Moving pictures came to Warrandyte and were shown at the Mechanics’ Hall on Friday nights, providing a regular source of entertainment for the townsfolk.

One local remembers it cost ninepence to enter, however she only earned threepence delivering milk, so she saved her money for a month to go to the pictures, with threepence left over for an ice cream.

Then came Friday, January 13, 1939, and the disastrous Black Friday bushfires.

The fires destroyed some 160 homes — with all three churches, the post office, both cricket pavilions and the South Warrandyte Hall all falling to the flames.

The Mechanics’ became a Relief Centre for the community, which operated for some months, providing assistance to those in need.

On February 4, 1939 a dance was held at the Hall to raise money for the Lord Mayor’s Bushfire Fund.

Organised by Miss Renton and Miss Wagner (Popsy Bone) the dance raised £11 15s 6d for the cause.

Then WWII struck and the hall was the scene of some very emotional farewells to the departing troops, many whom never returned.

For the next six years, the Hall was host to many patriotic events to raise money for the war effort.

During this time, Warrandyte was given a fire fighting truck, and a fire station was constructed at the rear of the hall to house it.

The Fire Brigade leased the land from the hall for a rental of one shilling per year and a building was constructed with stone quarried from Whipstick Gully.

The shed was built in 1944 by George Stringer at a cost of £67.

During the 1962 fires the Hall was again used as a Bushfire Relief Centre.

In 1956, the Warrandyte Arts Association (WAA) was formed, and became an important tenant for the Hall.

Consisting of Craft, Drama, Musical, Paining and Pottery Groups, the main focus of the Association’s activities were classes for children.

The Arts Association was born as a result of a public meeting in November 1955 and the various groups emerged over the following months.

Not only could local people participate in the various groups, but professional musicians, for example, were brought out to perform in the Hall.

During the 50s and 60s the Mechanics’ Institute committee of management faced a constant battle to maintain the hall.

With a lack of film screenings, and lack of attendance at dances, the committee considered selling the land to developers and build a new hall at the Recreation Reserve.

Several meetings were held over the years to consider options, and at one well attended meeting in 1973 the members voted to stop negotiations on the sale of the hall.

While an important turning point for the hall, it did nothing to improve the financial position of the Institute.

WAA members maintained the building through fundraising, sale of debentures, loans from committee members, hours of voluntary labour and, above all, the drive to maintain the Hall.

At a public meeting in 1986, WAA was given the go-ahead to take over the full responsibility of the Hall and a new, incorporated association — the Warrandyte Mechanics’ Institute and Arts Association — was born.

Grandiose plans for extension as a fully-fledged theatre with foyer, exhibition space, storage et cetera were not fulfilled.

However, the association has devoted hours of work and thousands of dollars raised from theatrical productions, especially the annual Festival Follies, exhibitions and sales to undertake major refurbishment and purchase of equipment.

Major renovations began in 1991 and included, re-stumping, re-plastering and lining, insulation, internal and external painting and electrical work, installation of ducted heating, purchase of a new piano and lighting equipment.

This involved a huge investment of money and countless working bees and fund-raising concerts by members.

The renovations continued into the 21st century with the purchase of a new sound board, new tables, new chairs, new stage curtain, refurbishment of the committee room with cupboards, benches and flooring, installation of air conditioning, re-roofing and external painting and the creation of a garden with ramp access depicting the activities of the association through mosaics and dedicated to the memory of an outstanding volunteer.

More additions and improvements include the sealing of the rear car park, a professional building check for asbestos and some resulting modifications, purchase of additional theatre lighting, digital equipment and a motorised screen, as well as replacement of the rear stage doors and improved access in general.

President of the WMIAA, David Tynan, told the Diary that the Association has 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 theatrical lighting and digital sound and light equipment, a rear deck and termite prevention work.

To date, the Bank has contributed almost $120,000 towards maintenance and refurbishment of the Hall.

This includes a recent contribution  of $32,000 toward current essential renovations.

“As custodians of the hall, we are conscious of our responsibility to maintain this historic building for future generations of Warrandyte residents, and we deeply appreciate the support of the Warrandyte Community Bank in completing this work,” David said.

He said that grants that come from the Bank “feel like support from our community”.

“The strength of the bank comes from our community’s investment in it, and the breadth and size of the Bendigo Bank Community grant schemes are what helps the local community groups to continue to thrive,” he said.

Direct assistance to the WMAII is also always appreciated, in the form of donations, labour, membership, or attending one of the many events the WMIAA holds each year.

Sources:
Bruce Bence, Celebrating the one hundredth anniversary of the first Warrandyte Mechanics Institute Hall.

Mechanics’ Institute of Victoria