Small community halls in Australian country towns have distant precedents in
guildhalls, town halls and civic centres of Europe and city halls of the United
States of America. In Australia, they also enjoy strong historic associations with
nineteenth-century schools of arts and mechanics institutes. Small halls have
been used by key institutions such as schools, churches and worker educational
movements. They have been hired out for weddings and parties, acted as temporary
cinemas, enabled fundraising activities and hosted passing entertainers
from nineteenth-century minstrel shows to twenty-first-century touring bands.
As public venues maintained by volunteers and regulated by local councils, such
halls are central to negotiations between the complex hopes, assumptions and
constraints of placemaking in out-of-the-way places. Stories told about them
help us understand how generations of different users - long-time residents, in-migrants and passing visitors - adapt to the ideals of belonging and becoming
that an individual community claims as its own.