At present, the Centre is part of the Northern Regional Library & Information Service and is based in Moree, servicing the shires of Brewarrina, Gwydir, Moree Plains and Walgett. Included within these shires are a substantial number of Aboriginal settlements. They include; Boggabilla, Boomi, Brewarrina, Collarenebri, Mungindi, Toomelah, Walgett and Moree itself.
The plan now is to develop it into a larger stand-alone entity.
I do not know whether or not the Centre is unique in Australia. I do know from my web searches that it is unusual because of its focus (among other things) in helping Aboriginal people trace their families.
The Centre lies at the heart of Kamilaroi territory, but extends beyond this.
My only criticism of the Centre's Mrs Noelene Briggs-Smith and her supporters is that their vision is arguably too narrow, too local. Here I am thinking not so much of services, but of the support base.
My feeling is that the Centre should be selling itself more broadly, seeking to attract support not just from the Moree area and State Government, but also from interested people elsewhere in New England and beyond.
The funds will be used for a total refurbishment of the Moree War Memorial Hall including purpose-built archival rooms, a new common entrance foyer, new offices and galleries, carpets, painting, furniture and fittings.
The existing amenities will be upgraded to include disabled facilities and an access ramp.
Moree Plains Shire Council has also kicked in with $306,900 to the project for first stage capital improvements and ongoing management costs.
The hall, a product of the Moree and District War Memorial Centre Educational Centre Act of 1962, will eventually also house the Moree and District Historical Society collection and a military history collection.
The building previously housed Moree’s public library with Dhiiyaan as part of its facilities. Dhiiyaan was developed over many years by Noeleen Briggs, Moree Elder and former Indigenous Librarian Auntie, who bartered for people’s family documents, obtained grants to buy books on Indigenous history and culture and arranged for object loans from the Australian Museum.
When the library moved into a purpose built space several years ago, the local Aboriginal community feared the Dhiiyaan Centre would be dismantled with the books dispersed to regional libraries and the objects returned to the Australian Museum.
The grant will help preserve 100,000 genealogical records of local families including databases, significant objects, photographs and burial records.
The stress of losing the centre took a personal toll on Auntie Noeleen who has since retired but not before intensive lobbying that eventually saw Arts NSW provide the State Library with $200,000 towards collection evaluation and preservation and assistance with transition to an independent organisation with the support of Moree Shire Council.
Chris Binge started this month as Manager of the centre and expects the staff to grow to five in the next few months.
They will oversee 100,000 genealogical records of local families including databases, significant objects, photographs and burial records. The team will also begin negotiating with the Australian Museum for the return of the historical objects.
Museums & Galleries of NSW is supporting the Dhiiyaan Centre with its Travelling Places program this year, which seeks to embed skills for the development of a digital Keeping Place within the community.
That's all good news. Hopefully, the centre will grow it's broader role to benefit all those with Kamilaroi connections or interested in the Kamilaroi and in so doing also aid the promotion of Moree.
Another story on the work of Noeleen Briggs - Moree Aboriginal researcher finishes 20-year project. Notice two name spellings, of Noeleen though. Are there two?.