In 2006, the Catholic Church decommissioned St Brigid’s Church in Crossley.
What subsequently occurred is a testament to the community strength and passion that resulted in the building of the Church some 95 years earlier.
The community rallied together and the Friends of St Brigid’s was formed to save the Church that was built as a legacy to future generations almost a century earlier. What ensued was a very public, hard-fought and driven campaign to return the St Brigid’s precinct to its rightful owners – the community.
From raffles to donation drives, community dinners and events, the community fought to save funds which could be used to purchase the Church and its surrounds.
When the Catholic Church put the St Brigid’s precinct on the open market for $425,000 in 2009, the Friends of St Brigid’s had $50,000 in the bank to buy the valued community asset.
The passion was undeniable and the grief at potentially losing this facility open and raw; all they wanted was to retain an important community asset, a place filled with memories, built for the community by the community almost 100 years earlier.
Local media embraced the campaign, with national media also taking up the cause. The ABC’s 7.30 report was just one of the outlets that featured the Friends campaign.
The fund-raising drive stepped up a notch and before long there was more than $120,000 in the bank, a figure decent enough to take to the bank and secure a loan.
In December of 2009 the Catholic Church accepted the offer by the Friends of St Brigid’s and the precinct was returned to its rightful owners – the community.
Since then the group has secured a membership base of more than 200 people, re-roofed the hall, installed heating, successfully applied for more than $100,000 in state, federal and philanthropic funding, developed a business plan and feasibility study, established a new community kitchen and undertaken monthly fund-raising to meet its community mortgage repayments.
As Friends secretary Teresa O’Brien said in 2009: “People were saying a year ago that it was impossible… but we were as determined as our ancestors when they arrived here after the famine in Ireland.”
The movement is nothing short of inspirational and earned the group’s plans to create an Australian-Irish Cultural and Heritage Centre the 2012 Champions of the Bush – Spirit of Entrepreneurship Community Spirit Award.
The Friends objectives are to:
- preserve and restore the buildings of St Brigid’s and their surrounds;
- create an accessible community gathering space suitable for meetings and events;
- assist in the preservation and restoration of the unique cultural history of Crossley, Killarney and Koroit;
- provide a forum for the discussion of local community needs.