• Hannah Phillips

Karoonda's Clever Idea to Save Historic Wanbi Hall

Karoonda East Murray Council is considering offering a unique arrangement to keep a historic community hall still standing – saying "fix it and it’s free".

The Wanbi Memorial Hall, located on the Karoonda Highway, has fallen into disrepair following years of dwindling community events and repairs to keep it up to standard.

Image Source - johnjennings995

Following discussions with Wanbi Hall Committee President Barry Manuel, Karoonda East Murray Council CEO Matthew Morgan says Council is considering throwing the old community-owned hall a potential lifeline.

“One possible course of action is providing the building at little or no cost to someone who would commit to renovating the building and ultimately take ownership of it, potentially as a private residence,” he said.

“It’s certainly unorthodox but it could be a good solution to a problem which could ultimately lead to the hall being demolished due to lack of funds to repair it.”

Mr Morgan says there would need to be firm guarantees from the new owner to ensure the work was undertaken and that Council was still exploring other options.

Mr Manuel supported Council’s plan, saying the close knit community of Wanbi wanted to see the building return to its former glory.

“We had a community meeting a year ago and people wanted to keep it standing,” he said.

“But it’s in such an ordinary state, nothing has been held there for more than twenty years.

"I think the last event was a production from the school which my girls were in and they’ll be 41 and 42 this year.”

At the end of the first World War, it was the community of Wanbi who raised funds and worked tirelessly to get the hall built, to commemorate those killed in action during the conflict.

When the hall was opened on Anzac Day 1925, there was considerable fanfare in the region, with a story in the Adelaide Advertiser quoting: “Wanbi was worthy of such a fine building, as it was in the midst of some of the finest wheat growing lands of the State.”

Although plenty of history may be wrapped in the building’s four stone walls, Mr Morgan says the hall poses a risk in its current state and time is ticking on the building’s future.

“At this point, the committee does not have the funds to restore the building, and community need to maintain the building,” he said.

“In coming weeks, a meeting will be held with the remaining committee members and interested members of the community to see if there is any interest in such a plan.”

“There is an incredible amount of local history held within the Wanbi Hall and it would be wonderful to keep it proudly standing for the next generation.”