LOCALS have been asked to vote with their feet in the push to keep Camperdown’s historic courthouse in community hands.
Now in its fourth year of operation as an information and arts centre, the courthouse lease is due for renewal with the Corangamite Shire in August this year.
However, as per shire protocol, the lease renewal process is likely to consider tenders from commercial operators as well as community groups and, failing an appropriate tender, could possibly see the courthouse offered for sale.
In response a ‘transition group’ has been formed to formulate a lease proposal and is now calling on the wider community for support.
Group member Becky McCann said people could help by becoming Courthouse Information and Arts Hub members for the nominal cost of $2 each.
Locals were also encouraged to sign a petition now circulating, calling for the courthouse facility to remain in community hands.
“Becoming a member is hugely important because, one, we want to show the shire the proposal has extensive, widespread support and, two, because it is those members who will eventually vote on the formation of a committee of management,” Ms McCann said.
“Any member will be able to put their hand up to nominate for the committee of management and it will be up to the members to decide who they want to vote in.
“The more members we have, the broader the representation will be of all the different aspects of the Camperdown community and the broader the skill sets will be.”
The petition, which will be presented to the Corangamite Shire, has already attracted 300 signatures, which Ms McCann said was nearing 10 per cent of Camperdown’s population.
“We’re thrilled with the response, but we still need more signatures to really prove the depth of community support for this project,” she said.
“It’s worth noting that several businesses have contacted us off their own bats to ask that the petition be located in their shops as well – that’s really encouraging and positive.”
Ms McCann said the Courthouse Information and Arts Centre had “achieved a great deal” in its five years of operations – with more than 25,000 visitors over five years recorded, numerous art exhibitions, well attended musical performances and as a general meeting place.
“We have been blown away with the centre’s achievements and with the great service its 50 volunteers have given,” she said.
“We know the centre is a really valuable asset to our town and are keen to grow on the good work that has already been achieved.
“We want to keep it as an inclusive and welcoming space for visitors to seek information and as a space to present and enjoy both the visual and performing arts.”
Ms McCann said the push for a new lease agreement and the planned formation of a new committee of management presented an opportunity for new people to get involved.
“It’s an opportunity for people to show they care about the courthouse and everything that goes on there, and an opportunity for people with new ideas for the future to have those ideas heard,” she said.
“It’s a great chance to look at the potential of the courthouse and what can be done with fresh eyes – it’s very exciting.”
People can pay memberships at the courthouse between 10am and 3pm daily. The petition is widely located in businesses throughout the town, including the Camperdown Authorised Newsagency, Snout in the Trough and Here home, style and design as well as the courthouse.