Tonight the Ringwood Historical Society held its Annual General Meeting to elect the officebearers for the next twelve months.
I had the pleasure of being asked to officiate the AGM and to discuss the future of Ringwood and the need for new community space. Many community groups, such as the Ringwood Historical Society, Eastern Volunteers, North Ringwood Community House and the Maroondah Toy Library, are limited for space which limits their activities and events.
In regard to the Ringwood Historical Society, there is insufficient space to store the group’s extensive archives and a lack of a permanent heritage centre inhibits the ability to discuss and promote Ringwood’s extensive and unique history.
The Ringwood Historical Society has a solid membership base and has a diverse range of speakers addressing its monthly meetings. The society has a stable committee that is dedicated to preserving our heritage for the future. It is clear that Maroonadh’s attitude in discouraging new community buildings needs to change.
As a member of Maroondah’s Tourism and Heritage Board we often hear how Maroondah itself lacks any key tourism destination. While Maroondah may not have the hills of the Dandenongs or the wineries of the Yarra Ranges, it would appear that there is potential in promoting the cultural heritage of Ringwood and the surrounding districts.
Cultural tourists, which are part of an emerging tourism market, tend to undertake trips as part of an overall experience. As a result they are more likely to experience the dining, recreational and hospitality opportunities that are available. This means, that if Maroondah had a suitable cultural tourism landmark, it may benefit from attracting visitors who then in turn support the local economy.
While Maroondah and Ringwood may have landmarks such as the Miners Cottage, there has not been a broader linkage to the community or to Ringwood’s heritage. A cultural heritage centre, would provide the Ringwood Historical Society and Council with an opportunity to showcase Ringwood’s history and provide differing exhibits to entice community interest.
The redevelopment of Eastland and the transformation of Ringwood provides an opportunity to secure new space for community groups. While this redevelopment is much needed and certainly welcome, we need to remember that Ringwood has a more extensive history than just a large retail centre.
The former City of Ringwood made a number of critical mistakes in the development of Ringwood. The demolition of the old Ringwood Town Hall, which occurred in 1970, was a dire mistake and removed a prominent icon from the heart of Ringwood. One only has to look at how successfully the City of Whitehorse has transformed the former Box Hill Town Hall to see the opportunities that could have been available to our community.
Another mistake was the layout the town centre commissioned during the mid 1990s. The layout of the centre is conducive to creating a community atmosphere and failed to provide sufficient civic space for community groups. There is an opportunity through the redevelopment of Ringwood to correct this and it is critical that past mistakes are not repeated.
A cultural heritage centre would promote Ringwood history and a sense of community. It would also provide a permanent home for the Ringwood Historical Society and ensure that we are preserving our heritage for the future.
Being a regular attendee to the historical society’s meetings has enriched my understanding of Ringwood’s history and in turn has led to a greater understanding of Ringwood’s cultural context. Promoting the history of Ringwood would enrich the social and cultural fabric of our community and must be pursued by council.
I would like to congratulate the incoming committee and the dedication of the society’s members. I look forward to working with the Ringwood Historical Society to convince council on the merits of a cultural heritage centre and the need to promote the diverse heritage of Ringwood.
For more details on the Ringwood Historical Society please visit www.rhs.org.au.