Mt Nimmel Hall- The First 70 years

The life of Mt Nimmel Hall has been characterised by periods of love and attention interspersed with periods of neglect. The following represents a brief account of the life of the Hall from its 1936/1937 construction.

The Genesis

The story starts in the mid 1930’s, when Austinville residents felt a growing need for a community hall.  The Knack family generously donated the land for the project, a  hall committee was formed and construction commenced in 1936.

The Hall can truly be viewed as owned by Austinville residents as it was built 100% by a volunteer labour force led by Sam Grimshaw. Construction took place weekend after weekend using equipment with no greater sophistication than hammers and handsaws.  April 1937 saw the completion of the building work and the opening of the Hall.

The Early Days

The early days saw people coming from near and far for Mt Nimmel Hall dances. The music was provided voluntarily and frequently comprised a pianist on the Hall piano, a violinist, a gum leaf player and button accordion players. Kerosene lamps lit the Hall in the days before electricity connection and one local resident, Terry Schneid, remembers helping to boil the billy to make tea for supper. At this time, the areas to the immediate right and left of the entrance were built in and doubled as cloak rooms and quieter areas where children could be lulled to sleep while their parents danced.

The Middle Ages.

The end of the 1950’s witnessed a  period of relative decline and an offer for removing the Hall was received and considered by the organising committee. Mr Campbell Duncan spoke passionately at a community meeting, arguing that he had spent some of the happiest times of his life in the Hall and felt confident others would say the same. The mood of the meeting was that Austinville had an expanding younger generation and that it was not the time to be sacrificing the community Hall. The spirit of the meeting galvanised action. The following Saturday a “working Bee” saw the hall scrubbed down and some much needed repairs conducted. A dance followed that same night to celebrate the Hall’s salvation. Party revellers marvelled that the piano was still in such good working order.

In the 1970’s the beer annexe on the northern side of the Hall was built. This work was overseen by Trevor Harris and labour was provided by “work for the dole” labourers.

The Modern Era

The 1980’s saw the Hall again lapse into neglect. Modern transportation had lured the younger generation into the bright lights of Surfers Paradise. The dances stopped and the crow’s ash floor became coked in a blanket of dust. A gang of bikies moved their “fire drum” inside and almost burnt the place down. Check out the grey spot in the middle of the floor. But the hall survived, only to settle into further disrepair. In the late 1980’s the hire of the hall was taken over by Jerry and Karen Unser

In 1993 John Millsom, a vintage car enthusiast, was looking for somewhere to dispose of old engine oil, he thought the timber looked in need of a lick and he duly slapped on a couple of buckets of soothing oil. When asked by one of the valley “longer-term” residents to explain his desecrating activities, discussion of the need for some Hall attention ensued. This concluded with Jerry’s plan to form a committee of interested residents to administer the Hall’s hire and maintenance and signified the Hall’s latest awakening.

By 1997, the hall was full with residents pitting their wits in the first of what has become an annual trivia/quiz night. This event has been followed by the establishment of other activities such as an Anzac Day cricket match at Staghorn Park which pits residents living to the north of the Hall against the southerners.  Events such as themed dinners (Italian,  Irish and Pagan nights), small hall music tours featuring both “local” and overseas artists and the occasional dance evening. The Hall has also become increasingly popular for weddings and for the last 15 years has held a yoga class every Tuesday led by Lois Delaney.

The Hall entered the 2000 Millenium in fine shape under a committee chaired by Sharyn Millsom. In addition to organising successful social nights, this committee set about conducting restorative work. The Hall’s physical infrastructure was extended. Chairs, tables cutlery and dinnerware was purchased and a voluntary group under the direction of Don Wishart constructed the south facing verandah and storage room that lies adjacent to the stage.

In 2002 the Hall became an Incorporated Body and is now overseen by the committee rather than the original system of selected trustees.

In 2003 a grant was received from the Queensland Government’s Gambling and Community Benefit Fund. This grant financed the relocation of a dust bowl car park located at the front of the Hall to a new sealed area on the Hall’s north side. The grant also provided for landscaping work and resulted in the establishment of garden beds, shrub planting and the laying of a lawn area to the front and south of the Hall. Consistent with days of old, the bulk of the labour in connection with these works was provided voluntarily.

2005 saw the Hall again receive a grant from Jupiter’s Casino to replace the roof which was rusted out in many areas. Further grants from the Gold Coast City Council and the Queensland Government’s Gambling and Community Benefit Fund have funded the construction of an under-stage shed in 2019, the 2020 build of stairs to the verandah’s mid-point, establishment of new gardens in 2021 and the 2022 purchase of a pizza oven.   

Epilogue to the first 70 years.

Two generations ago the Hall served locals seeking a focal point for the rural community. Today its functions attract a more cosmopolitan crowd who revel in the rural simplicity and camaraderie that their forbears enjoyed. The Hall has led a precarious existence, but once more it’s timbers breathe a sigh of relief as they sit comfortably on their newly replaced stumps. Each generation has left its mark on the Hall, so that the Hall of 2022 has a different look from the Hall of 1937, but as current custodians of the Hall’s interest, the 2022 committee is committed to preserving and building on the legacy that is Mt Nimmel Hall and ensuring that the hall remains a positive focus of community life in the Austinville valley.,