About 80-minutes’ drive north-west from Canberra, 4600 to 6000 cars each day pass the historic old mill in Harden Murrumburrah. The historic building is sited on Murrumburrah’s main thoroughfare on the Burley Griffin Way, and for many years locals and passersby have wondered whether there’s a future use for the complex.
Sydneysiders Greg Medway and his partner Robin Cooper purchased the mill and share a vision for an education centre and artistic hub, the type that are thriving throughout regional Victoria, where old industrial mills are alive with tourists.
As an educator, Greg struck success teaching emotional intelligence to business owners in Shanghai, China where he worked with managers, executives and even senior staff from the Australian Consulate-General in Shanghai.
“Chinese value education, we don’t in Australia,” Greg says. “The Chinese have had a life of rote learning, learning by memory and repetition. We are showing them the creative part of their brain and how that can influence and make their business more successful.”
It’s an approach he hopes to bring to the Murrumburrah mill, believing that it can add significantly to the region’s tourism.
Further west David Lowy (the son of Westfield founder Frank Lowy), has established the Temora Aviation Museum based on warbird aircraft, where enormous crowds from across Australia attend annual air shows.
“There is nothing between Canberra and Temora where the warbirds are. There’s 250 kilometres of nothing, so it would be something outstanding, totally different. Its whole design and concept is unique, so we wait patiently for investors,” Greg says.
Miles Murphy built the flour mill in 1863. He sold it to Thomas Allsop in 1868 who upgraded and increased its capacity, turning out award-winning flour. Beneath one of the corrugated buildings is a 1922 wooden silo which will be restored.
Greg and Robin live in a home in the mill complex. They say the overall site is compact and efficient and some of the old machinery could be resurrected as an exhibition.
The ‘Bronze Bill the Bastard’ project to recreate an Australian Light Horse legend has been reproduced in one of the grain sheds.
“A lot of people come for Bill the Bastard. That’s a small indication of what this centre could be,” Greg says. “The space will later become a centre for sculpture and alternative art that is not around this area. That is something that Robin is going to push.”
Greg and Robin are proposing 42 different possible activities including:
- A five-storey glass and timber silo converted for hydroponics
- Research and experiments in the four-storey brick mill
- A free-fall vacuum
- Restaurant and Chinese tea house, or
- A glass-topped aquaculture facility, where people walk over the top to see fish breeding below.
The old mill project has development application approval as a centre for agriculture innovation, subject to conditions. Approval fees of $350,000 including $98,000 to Goldfield Water, will have to be paid. Greg has applied for four or five grants, enlisting specialists to complete applications.
One submission consumed 270 hours.
“It is like a horse race. If you get one commitment that is enough to get everyone else interested, but we have not got to that point. They were not large grants, one was down to $100,000. That would be enough to say we had government backing, that would make a huge difference in the market place. But we never got there,” Greg says.
“We have a sophisticated business plan,” he says. “The viability report shows it would employ 74 people, there are going to be 42 different activities in this. We had a Danish robotics research company willing to come but, of course, we have been waiting so long to get a grant.
“As well as entertainment, the old mill will be a registered training organisation, with courses centred on agriculture. It will be hands-on, where the kids can come and tinker and do things,” Greg says.