Gawler Civic Centre Inaugural Exhibition - "Into the Light"

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Fast Facts
Type of event Celebration

Date occurred or began 2019/04/08
Managed or hosted by Town of Gawler
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Town of Gawler Mayor Karen Redman's address on Monday, 8th April 2019

"A warm welcome to you all for this official launch of our inaugural cultural exhibition, aptly named: “Into the Light”. Many of you have travelled long distances tonight so thank you for joining us.Thank you Uncle Mickey O’Brien for such a magnificent welcome to country

When we are asked we must do: We do this together .

It is my privilege to acknowledge this land that we meet on tonight is the traditional lands for the Kaurna people and that we respect their spiritual relationship with their country. We also acknowledge the Kaurna people as the custodians of the greater Adelaide region and that their cultural and heritage beliefs are still as important to the living Kaurna people today.


  • Hon John Dawkins MLC representing the Premier
  • Hon Tony Piccolo MP
  • Hon Frances Bedford- Member for Florey
  • Elected Members Town of Gawler
  • Elizabeth Ho OAM Chair of the History Trust of SA
  • Greg Mackie OAM CEO of the History Trust of SA
  • Uncle Lewis O’Brien AO
  • Uncle Mickey O’Brien
  • Uncle Geoffrey Newchurch
  • Uncle Freddy Agius
  • Aunty Lynette Crocker
  • Denise Schumann OAM
  • David Cockram CEO Maxima
  • Distinguished Guests Ladies and Gentlemen

In May 2015 the Town of Gawler secured Federal Government funding of 5.6 million dollars to transform the State Heritage listed Gawler Institute and Town Hall buildings into this dynamic, twenty-first century Civic Centre. This was indeed a watershed moment with a phone call from Senator Sean Edwards bringing us the good news that we had secured the money. It needs to be remembered however that our new Civic Centre and at its very core, the Gawler Heritage Collection, is the culmination of many years of planning and a great deal of hard work.

As we gather tonight in April 2019, it’s important to reflect just for a moment on the long and arduous journey that commenced in 1857 when the Institute was formed. A simple meeting of business and community minded people occurred in James Martin’s living room, just up the road a bit, here in Murray Street. Without the people who became the Institute committee, I don't believe we would be here tonight and we may not have the cultural heritage that we see around us. The value of Institutes to local communities and their contribution to the development of South Australia should not be underestimated. Tonight I’d like to focus on our cultural heritage and its importance to Gawler, our region and the State.

The history of Gawler and the stories associated with the Gawler Heritage Collection, some of which are showcased as part of ‘Into the Light’, are of state, national and international significance with regard to the arts and natural sciences. The beautiful room where we will take light refreshments tonight is what we now call the James Martin room, in recognition of the immense contribution of this great man. You may not be aware, but this room is also the site of the first public museum in South Australia.

The German scientists, who were escaping a war in Prussia, were encouraged to come to South Australia by George Angus, and some settled in Buchfelde, near Gawler in 1849. Two of these political refugees, Richard Schomburgk and Marianne Von Kroesler, were involved in that first museum; they were world-renowned in their respective fields and, with their contemporaries, proved to be important figures in South Australia at the time. I mention this snapshot of history because one, our little known German history is in fact significant but, it also contributes to the importance of cultural heritage in our region.

Moving on to 2019: A brief word about our new Civic Centre: This new centre, with its first class facilities, comprises so many spaces including a new library, youth space, performance spaces, business innovation hub and conference centre, Council chamber, social enterprise café and public meeting rooms. As well as, and some may say most importantly, a very impressive cultural heritage centre comprising: Cultural Heritage Research Centre Heritage Archives facility Heritage Gallery, the venue for our inaugural exhibition, which until recently was our Council chamber. And of course, the refurbished, culturally significant Gawler Institute Reading Room with its original anteroom that held the subscription library.

As a central part of the Civic Centre redevelopment, the Town of Gawler recognised the importance of Gawler’s unique cultural heritage assets to both the community and the State and allocated space and resources for the long-term preservation and exhibition of the Gawler Heritage Collection. The impressive collection of Andrew MacCormac portraits in the James Martin room is just a taste of what we have. As a dedicated exhibition area, the Heritage Gallery allows us to celebrate the Gawler Heritage Collection and our unique history as well as host touring exhibitions. This new space will showcase intelligent and perceptive depictions of Gawler’s past, telling stories that inspire, educate and bridge the cultural divide. We have created a place of learning, scholarship and understanding. It is an exciting time for us... As we are now the centre of cultural heritage in our region. The key to this new brand is the Gawler Heritage Collection. There is now strong evidence that cultural heritage is a significant economic driver for communities who are willing to invest. Our Council is now a leader and innovator in this space.

The members of the Gawler Institute committee knew the significance of cultural heritage and safeguarded it for over 100 years. Yesterday I spoke about how the collection and the Institute building came to be under Council ownership and care. It was a difficult time and process. I am pleased to say tonight that the Gawler Heritage Collection is undergoing a renaissance and so are we.

What sparked this new beginning resulting in our new Civic Centre? Like all major projects there are a lot of contributors but three events I think are worth mentioning: Firstly, Manager of Library at the time, Helen Hennessy who is with us tonight, sought out a consultant to advise on the collection and it’s future. There had been previous consultants’ reports, most notably, the Crush report that I suspect overwhelmed the Administration and Council at the time. In 2013 Helen engaged Denise Schumann OAM. Denise proceeded to explore, review, and start to understand this extensive collection. hat Denise produced were two documents: The Gawler Cultural Heritage Collection Management Plan and, The Gawler Cultural Heritage Collection Action Plan; both of which Council went on to endorse.

Denise then engaged with the senior leadership of the Administration and importantly, the elected member body. A workshop and tour of the collection and buildings opened our eyes to the issues at hand and started a journey that has led us here to our beautiful Civic Centre tonight.

Secondly, Council agreed to formulate a grant application to seek monetary support. This involved reaching out to both local and interstate Councils who had achieved similar visionary projects. Much research, planning and contributions went into the final documentation.

Thirdly, a critical part of this journey grew from a recommendation in the action plan that Council form a committee to advise on the collection and our cultural heritage and to ensure that the Action Plan was implemented. Fortunately Council agreed with this recommendation and this committee was formed in August 2015. Tonight I wish to formally recognise the Gawler Cultural Heritage Committee. The committee, many of whom, in fact I think everyone is here tonight, have been so influential in the success of both the civic centre project, the renaissance of the collection and importantly, this exhibition. With your wisdom, tenacity, advice to Council and your preparedness to lobby and at times, corral people to invest in our heritage I’m not sure we would have achieved what we have. Thank you so much for your contribution: Adrian Shackley, Brian Thom, Paul Barnet ( direct descendant of Mr William Barnet first editor of the Bunyip printing press), Helen Hennessy, Paul Koch, Chair Judy Ferguson and now the new committee members, Cr Di Fraser and Cr Cody Davies.

Thank you to the administration, Henry Inat CEO who has been unwavering in his support, and staff who have come on board to drive this new centre and work with both the committee and Elected Members: David Barrett, Sam Irrgang, Jacinta Wiess, and Petra Brown

Finally, this event and this journey would not be complete without acknowledgement to the person who inspired us, challenged us, drove us, continually reminded us of why this needed to happen, and why history, it’s preservation but most importantly its celebration, needed to be centre stage - Denise Schumann OAM

I received a call last night from someone who wanted people to know just how many hours Denise has put into this project and this exhibition. It is important to stress that Denise was in charge of design for all the Cultural Heritage areas.John Schumann OAM wants everyone to know how amazing Denise is and even though he could not be here, he knows tonight will be a wonderful success. Thank you John

It’s an exciting time for Gawler and for cultural heritage in our region.

As you wisely said Paul Barnet: "Our History is our future".

Thank you, Kind regards,

Karen Redman

Mayor- Town of Gawler

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