Benalla Rural City Council has awarded the $1.7 million Sir Edward “Weary” Dunlop Learning Centre project to local construction company Contract Control Services Pty Ltd. The project will create approximately 20 new jobs and will increase education and employment opportunities across the whole municipality, according to Mayor Cr Barbara Alexander.
“The community has lobbied long and hard for modern library facilities that will provide lifelong learning and cultural experiences for all our residents,” Cr Alexander said. “It is with great pride that Council signs off on this important next stage of a project that will improve access to education and training, as well as cultural and social opportunities.”
The Learning Centre will include greatly increased floor space, a tripling of existing public internet access, dedicated spaces for group programs and children and youth activities, and a new customer service area and staff workroom.
The new building will be constructed on the site of the current Civic Centre in Fawckner Drive, with the Council offices being relocated to the newly constructed Customer Service Centre in Bridge Street in February, and the Council to the former Shire Offices mid-year.
“The Learning Centre will help prepare Benalla for the challenges of the 21st century, providing opportunities for people to improve their literacy and employment skills,” Cr Alexander said. “By providing a socially inclusive and safe environment, we will be opening the door to people who traditionally face barriers to these opportunities, such as people with a disability, older people and people who are socially disengaged.”
Cr Alexander said that the Learning Centre would provide an attractive and safe place for young people to gather, as well as providing them with alternative education pathways through information and communication technology that would increase access to distance and other non-traditional education and training.
“We know that poor reading, writing, numeric and digital literacy levels contribute to poor educational and employment outcomes,” she said. “The Learning Centre will play a critical role in helping young people achieve better educational and employment results.”
Cr Alexander also praised the innovative planning that included the adaptation of existing infrastructure and environmentally friendly elements such as solar panels and rainwater harvesting tanks.
“This will be a truly modern building that will have benefits to the residents of the Rural City of Benalla for many generations to come,” she said. “The Council must particularly acknowledge the efforts of the Friends of the Benalla Library who have lobbied tirelessly on behalf of the community for this important project, and who have given extremely useful input into the final project design.”
The Sir Edward “Weary” Dunlop Learning Centre is a partnership project between Federal, State and Local Governments, with a $1.2 million grant from the Federal Government and $500,000 from the State Government.