Today’s guest blog post is by Tom Seddon. Enjoy!
The Bendigo Trust, where I was CEO from June 2005 to last November, was my third career. It came after years of developing investment funds and then serving as director of a pair of international scientific conferences in 2001 and 2004. The Trust was my “tree change”. I particularly liked the variety of the job: tackling groundwater control problems that threatened Central Deborah (and much else besides) in the morning might be followed by a meeting with engineers from Yarra Trams on the new “W8” standard for City Circle trams. In the afternoon I could be writing a grant application or project acquittal for Discovery and then visiting the old gasworks with someone from the Institution of Engineers. Without any of the workshop, tramway, Central Deborah or Discovery the role — which I loved — would have been materially diminished for me.
I’m proud of what we accomplished during my time at the Trust: Tram Depot restoration and development; reopening the tram workshop (which is now almost too busy); Bendigo Tramways own vehicles restored and Melbourne trams given over to fun interpretations like the Jimmy Possum and the Schaller Studio trams; opening Central Deborah’s first new tour in 20 years, Nine Levels (and doing it for pocket change); putting the Joss House back in order.
However the biggest changes probably came at Discovery. We put in air conditioning; cool roof skylight and window treatments; showers for school sleepovers; LED lighting, new cabling, phone and data systems. We built and borrowed exhibits, built The Lab and Kaleidoscope and transformed the planetarium. We brought back science shows and holiday activities, took Discovery to Rosalind Park and Lake Weeroona, to the Showgrounds and to Eaglehawk’s Dahlia Festival. And made modest steps into school classrooms.
This work showed up in our visitor statistics, which doubled to 30,000 per year. By the way, that’s a higher percentage of the population within an hour’s drive of Bendigo than Scienceworks’ 450,000 annual visitors is of the population within an hour’s drive of Melbourne!
Is there more to be done? Always. The staff have no shortage of ideas for exhibits to build. I have a few myself, like the fire tornado I saw at the centre in Sheffield, England, or a double-helix observation tower that would put Discovery on the city skyline.
Discovery has an obvious place in Bendigo: it has a role to play in educating children (and adults) in central and northern Victoria: learning is a lifelong activity and we often do it best in interactive settings rather than by reading a book. It has a role in being a part of a lively city that is attractive to new residents and useful (and, as we’ve recently seen, a source of pride) for current ones; it bolsters the city’s claim to being an education city. It provides obvious partnership opportunities between the Council, La Trobe, local businesses and the Victorian government.
It’s fun as well.
The way the decision to jettison Discovery was executed hasn’t flattered either the Trust or Council. But perhaps it has been good for Discovery, which has seen the biggest outpouring of community support since a thousand people turned up on Discovery’s 10th birthday in October 2005. I’m very glad that there is now pretty certain to be a 20th birthday later this year!
I encourage every Bendigo family to take out membership at Discovery, and for everyone else there’s plenty for you to enjoy as well so please consider joining too, supporting the Centre with a small donation, or even getting involved!
Do you have memories about Discovery you’d like to share in a guest post? Email firstname.lastname@example.org