Community reaping benefits of fundraising crop

Corrina RidgwayThe West Australian

The slap of tennis balls and excited shouts from children may be an echo from another decade, but Beaumont Hall is a standing tribute to a past community crop that keeps giving.

The hall, situated 90km north-east of Esperance, has played host to politicians, Christmas parties and passing camel trekkers.

In 1992, the hall was opened for the community by then president, now life member, Mark Biven.

Mr Biven said the opening was the talk of the town. A photo he has of the opening night includes more than 50 children.

"This is the crowning piece," he said. "It's the most kids the hall's ever seen at once. That's really what it's all about."

The hall was partially funded by a one-off community crop, sown in 1990.

"The crop really served the purpose of contributing to the preliminary costing and construction of the hall," life member Peter Harkness said.

"It was 200ha of feed barley on Sparkle Hill, owned by Keoghs at the time."

The crop raised around $20,000 for the hall and was a major contributor to securing further funds from Lotterywest.

"Seeing that the community had already put forward the amount from the crop, it really aided in clinching the major grant from Lotterywest WA of $100,000," Mr Harkness said.

The community crop was chosen as a fundraiser of choice for various reasons. "It's a good way to raise a bulk amount, we had the land available, everyone was willing to pitch in and the equipment could be supplied by farmers," Mr Biven said.

"Because it was new ground blocks, there was not a lot of money around. People donated time and gear instead."

The crop was sown over several days and it gave the community a reason to pull together for their own benefit - and for future generations. All the equipment and seed was donated.

"It was a really good response, families were motivated to create something for the community," Mr Harkness said, adding that just a single crop was undertaken.

"Once we had the hall, membership covered costs, as well as dances and other events. The hall operationally funded itself," Mr Harkness said.

"Our lamington drives actually made more money than anything," Mr Biven said, referring to an annual event where several country households churn out hundreds of lamingtons.

For more than a decade, tennis lessons were held three times a week every summer at the hall.

An hour from the local primary school, the bus would deliver a torrent of children to the hall for lessons.

"Back then it was young farmers with young families starting out. The distance from town meant we needed a base to form the social fabric of the area," Mr Harkness said.

Although use of the hall has slowed, Mr Harkness and Mr Biven believe it is still an important piece of infrastructure for the community to this day.

Last year, the hall hosted the 25th anniversary of the Beaumont district and every year it hosts the Cascades versus Beaumont Tennis Cup, a tongue-in-cheek opportunity for 'easternmost community' meets 'westernmost community' socialising.

"It's still in use, just not like it was. It's here for the future," Mr Biven said.

Both men believe that if major funding was needed for further infrastructure, locals would pull together for another community crop.

"If something came up, we would be able to do it - people just need a purpose. The community crop served its purpose," Mr Biven said.

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