Ley hands over $50,000 for arts precinct at new bridge

By Charmayne Allison

AN AMBITIOUS plan to develop a Moama-based visual art precinct has been set in motion thanks to a $50,000 Federal government grant announced by Member for Farrer Sussan Ley yesterday.

The funds will spur the development of a master plan for the proposed Bridge Arts Project, which seeks to establish a visual art precinct aimed at inspiring deeper understanding of the local and regional Indigenous culture and history.

The plan will also include blueprints for an arts and heritage loop of walking and cycling paths throughout Echuca-Moama.

‘‘This 5-6km loop will stretch from the arts precinct to Meninya St, across the old bridge, through the Port of Echuca, across the new bridge and back,’’ project chairman Cr Chris Bilkey said.

‘‘The circuit will add just one more reason for tourists to spend an extra night or two in Echuca-Moama and will increase our status as a major regional attraction.’’

The proposed precinct will be a key feature of the loop, with a visitor centre, indigenous culture centre and gallery in the plans.

Cr Bilkey said its primary purpose was to provide a record of Australian history, informing a deeper understanding of indigenous culture and history and reflecting on the influence and experience of pre- and post-colonial Australia.

‘‘Since we first kicked off in 2011, we have been working closely with indigenous partners in planning. It’s no good us posing our view of what indigenous history or art is,’’ Cr Bilkey said. ‘‘But it won’t just be indigenous-focused art. There will also be a representation of the post-colonial presence.’’

Deputy chairman of the project Barry Donchi has been vital in seeing the project step into high gear, donating more than 25 acres of land for the arts precinct.

‘‘I don’t actually need it, I have plenty of land,’’ Mr Donchi said.

‘‘And it’s all for a worthy cause. This project is for all the right reasons: for the understanding of Indigenous culture, for education, for tourism, for employment and for art itself.’’

And, according to the committee, this is just the beginning.

‘‘We’d like to see the precinct eventually extend into an education centre and form partnerships with educational institutions and universities, as well as galleries and museums,’’ Cr Bilkey said.

But for now, they’ll focus on the master plan and business model, to be completed by the end of the year.

‘‘Then we’ll have something to sell to potential investors,’’ Cr Bilkey said.

‘‘The objective is to create something that becomes the community’s pride and joy. But it will be an ongoing project, it won’t be finished in five years.’’

The grant, funded through the Australian Government’s Building Better Regions Fund, was a one-for-one grant, with the committee raising $50,000 from various sources throughout the community.

These sources were Murray River Council, Campaspe Shire Council, VicRoads, Yorta Yorta Nation and Moama Bowling Club.