Tom Parry

GIPPSLAND Grammar has officially opened its new Art & Design Centre.

The building, located on the school’s Garnsey Campus in Sale, was unveiled to the public on Thursday, March 16 in blustery conditions.

Close to 100 students, staff and local dignitaries attended the event, including Federal Member for Gippsland Darren Chester and State Member for Gippsland South Danny O’Brien.

Yet it was Federal Senator Raff Ciccone who had the honour of opening the Centre, unveiling a plaque with his name alongside Gippsland Grammar Principal Michele Wakeham and the chair of the school’s board, Brendan Shepherd.

In a speech to attendees, the Labor Senator for Victoria said he was sure the building’s facilities would provide a richer experience for students.

“Facilities like these are important so that your teachers have all the tools they need to give you the best education possible, as well as all the students who learn here in the future,” Senator Ciccone said.

“I know sometimes as a student it’s hard to get excited about a new centre like this; but I can tell you, looking back on my own time at school, that the facilities we had made a real difference to the staff’s ability to teach and our ability to learn.”

The ceremony began at 10am with a welcome from the Head of Garnsey Campus, Rohan Jayatilake, followed by speeches from Mrs Wakeham and Senator Ciccone.

After the plaque’s unveiling, Bishop of Gippsland the Right Reverend Dr Richard Treloar gave the Official Dedication, which was proceeded by a final blessing from the school’s chaplain, Reverend Dr Tim Gaden.

Attendees were then invited inside the building for a tour of the new facilities.

Senator Raff Ciccone (right) unveils the Official Opening plaque as Brendan Shepherd and Michele Wakeham watch on. // Photo: Tom Parry

Gippsland Grammar initially announced it would build a new Art & Design Centre in October 2020; works started in December that same year with the demolition of the existing basketball courts.

The $6.5 million project was completed in March 2022, with classes having been held inside since Term 2 last year.

Beautification and landscaping of the surrounding area – as well as the reconstruction of basketball facilities and neighbouring downball courts – were completed in-time for the 2023 school year.

Facilities for woodworking, ceramics, graphic design and visual media are all contained within the new building, as well as staff rooms and an enclosed courtyard.

Year 12 student Ella O’Doherty, who is completing VET Furnishing as part of her studies, described the new building as “incredible”.

“The space is amazing; it’s so nice to have a bigger area, so we can keep our projects out – we don’t have to put them away,” Ella said.

She noted the superior noise-cancelling and the new dust-extractor system as two improvements over the old woodworking space.

“It would have been lovely to have these (facilities) from Year 7 upwards, but I’m really grateful that it opened before we were in Year 12, so we got to use it during Year 11,” Ella added.

Fellow Year 12 student Nathaniel Shelton said he was “loving” the facilities, noting that his software development class was previously held in a room half the size: “It’s a big upgrade, really.”

The Right Reverend Dr Richard Treloar, Brendan Shepherd, Gippsland Grammar school captain Emily Thai, Sen Raff Ciccone, school captain Edward Courtier and principal Michele Wakeham.
Photo: Tom Parry

Construction of the building was partly made possible through the Capital Grants Program, which allows non-government schools to apply for federal funding.

“There are new and improved facilities like these (at Gippsland Grammar) opening up right across the country thanks to the Federal Government’s Capital Grants Program,” Senator Ciccone told attendees.

“Over the next four years, the government will be investing around $785 million on facilities at schools like yours, including over $40 million here in Victoria this year.

“But at the end of the day, it is not the building that delivers a great education – it is what happens inside of it.

“All of you – teachers, staff and students – have built a strong and positive community, and I know you’ll put these facilities to good use.”

$2 million was provided by the federal government as part of the program, with the remainder of funds secured via donations from local foundations and benefactors.

The federal funding was secured under the previous Coalition government by Mr Chester – a fact acknowledged by Senator Ciccone on the day, touting the bipartisan nature of the initiative.

Mr Chester told the Gippsland Times it was fantastic to see such an exceptional facility delivered.

In her speech, Mrs Wakeham said the school was fortunate to partner with a number of local businesses in the construction of the Centre.

“Of particular note is the work of Brooker Builders, a local family-owned business with company principals Ross and Michelle Brooker, and also Site Foreman Wayne Bromley, who navigated the challenges of construction during COVID to keep the project on track,” Mrs Wakeham said.

She added the school was “incredibly grateful” to all donors for their generous contributions.