Great Debates - Our Heritage November 2020
Updated: May 29
By 1900, a large number of selectors had established farms across the Kinglake district plateau from east to west. In 1897, the first public hall was built to provide an adequate space for community meetings and entertainments, an improvement on Owen Finegan's barn and the small school classrooms which had been the only possible venues until then.
Located on the highest point of the ridge, near what is now Frank Thomson Reserve, the hall was actually a Mechanics Institute built with the assistance of government funding to provide a free library and the opportunity for 'educational' programs for local residents.
The hall was soon used for various meetings and for social evenings, dances and concerts but, in a more serious approach to the 'educational' requirement, a Literary and Debating Club was formed in March 1905. At the formation meeting, Mr James Kerr was elected president with vice-presidents Messrs Anthony Beale and James Lawrey. Mr William McAuliffe, Head Teacher at the Kinglake West State School, was elected secretary, and the treasurer was Mr Hugh Kerr. The three other members of the organising committee were Messrs W. Sutherland, Alex Campbell and John Beale Jnr.