A special Australian country thing: the small hall in Australian country life
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.