Where it all began

Kalamunda Women’s Learning Centre, as it was formally known, was started by four energetic women, Jenny Beahan, Leigh Bartlett, Trish Dymond and Joan Chitty, all who attend Gwen Wesson’s lecture in 1977. They spent some time clarifying the philosophical objectives of their initiative, which according to Jenny, gave them “strength and clarity from the onset”.

The first task was to find a suitable home and finally the Shire of Kalamunda offered the old golf clubhouse in the beautiful natural setting of Jorgensen Park. This remained the Centre’s home, rented from the Shire of Kalamunda, until December 2019.

A Public Meeting was held on the 12 October 1977 attended by 20 women and “ hordes of children”. Initially early meetings were held by the light of the fire and gas lanterns and much time had to be spent on repairing the building but this all added to the camaraderie and “closeness” of the women involved.

Kalamunda Women’s Learning Centre opened its doors in first term 1978 with nine courses, a clean and furnished building and a Playhouse for the children. In 1978, the Centre received its first grant from the Australian Post Australian Post Secondary Education Committee from the programme “Ready, Set, Go” which was similar to the later NOW programmes, then a grant from the Office of ChildCare which subsidised the wages of a Playhouse Supervisor and Assistant.

After the first year of operation, a more formal structure was necessary. “Women” was dropped from the title; a Constitution was developed as well as a more structured committee with areas of responsibility. All members were required to become members of Workgroups, a system which still operates today.

Over the first two years of Kalamunda’s history, the programme expanded to 34 courses and in September 1980, an old Cottage in Kalamunda was donated, moved to Jorgensen Park, rebuilt and made habitable to accommodate the expanding number of Centre courses.

In October 2012, a strategy meeting was held with the Shire of Kalamunda resulting in a  recommendation to investigate a funding partnership with the Shire and Lottery West to build an extension off the northern side of the building. Subsequent meetings and funding requests over the following five years resulted in adequate funds support, a reference group established and designs underway.

Construction of the $6.6 million multi-purpose Kalamunda Community Centre Building at Jorgensen Park commenced early 2020. The Centre, funded by Federal and State Governments and the Kalamunda Community Learning Centre, was to replace the Jorgensen Park Pavilion, which had reached the end of its life.

During 2020, whilst the old Centre was being demolished and the new Centre built, Kalamunda Community Learning Centre operated classes from temporary facilities around the City of Kalamunda. However, due to COVID-19 lockdown and restrictions, this was short lived and after four weeks classes were cancelled for the remainder of the year.

In March 2021, the new Kalamunda Community Centre and new home for Kalamunda Community Learning Centre opened its doors with over 600 members enrolling in 84 classes.

Kalamunda Community Learning Centre boasts many achievements and highlights…
• Instrumental in setting up of Learning Centre Link and a “driver” of early inter-Learning Centre activities.
• Hosted the first National Neighbourhood House Week function in 1994
• 1998 State Winner of the National (Bank) community Link Awards in the Art and Culture category. This Award recognised the considerable longstanding efforts of volunteers and specifically a beautiful historical tapestry that was created for the Shire of Kalamunda Centenary year.
• Highly successful Open Days held annually in June.
• A well-used After School Arts Programme accommodated and supported by the Centre.
• Longstanding and significant contribution to local community events such as the Kalamunda Zig Zag Community Arts Festival.

Kalamunda Community Learning Centre is one of the largest Centres in Western Australia today and continues to operate on the strong volunteer ethos on which it started. Over the years, courses have altered to cater for community’s changing needs but the warm friendly relaxing environment remains the same and is a wonderful and true example of the Learning Centre Movement philosophy.

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