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Developers on hunt for Stawell interpretive and education centre money


Project leaders hope to secure funding for a $15-million Stawell interpretive and education centre in the next few months as a countdown starts to the opening of a unique underground laboratory.

Not-for-profit collaborative university fundraising group Grampians Education Foundation has engaged Key Infrastructure Australia, KIA, to scope out development of a Dark Matter Discovery Centre.

The centre, proposed for Sloane Street, is designed to stimulate interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics – STEM – and provide students and visitors with insight into future experiments occurring in Stawell Underground Physics Laboratory.

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Exploring the mysteries of ‘dark matter’ and pursuing biophysical, geoscience and medical research are primary roles of the laboratory under development at Stawell Gold Mine.

The laboratory will be the only one of its kind in the southern hemisphere and is considered by many in the scientific community as one of the most profound scientific projects to have occurred in Australia.

KIA is working with the foundation, which has representatives from universities across Australia, to source the funding while also providing overall development assessment, consultancy, planning and design requirements. 

The concept has been in development stage for two years. KIA has already secured the vacant land proposed for the centre with a long-term aim to also re-engage educational assets in the area and connect strongly with the heart of Stawell.

Professor Jeremy Mould of Swinburne and Melbourne universities and foundation chair and KIA chairman and highly qualified engineer Barry Gale are overseeing the project, which also has scope for an accommodation precinct.

Detailed plans for the proposed centre went on display at Stawell Town Hall at the weekend. 

Mr Gale said the expectation was that the Dark Matter Discovery Centre would have the potential to attract hundreds of thousands of visitors to Stawell and the broader Wimmera annually.

“The idea is to establish something that has enormous appeal, not only from an important scientific and educational perspective, but is also fun and engaging for all ages,” he said.

“The underground laboratory represents something very special and it is important we maximise its potential and make the most of educational opportunities.

“The centre would also present a unique reason for the average person as well as students, scientists and so on from across Australia and beyond to visit Stawell. It’s exciting.”

The project, with Melbourne, Western Australia, Swinburne, Adelaide, Sydney and Australian National university endorsement, has an aim of ultimately attracting 100,000 visitors a year.

Mr Gale said the project had attracted a positive and supportive response from Northern Grampians Shire Council.

“They have been really helpful and recognised the obvious benefits of such a development,” he said.

Northern Grampians mayor Murray Emerson said he welcomed the proposal.

“There are plenty of value-adding elements to a variety of projects going on in the shire and this represents a big one,” he said.

“And if this was to come off it would be fantastic.”

The entire July 8, 2020 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!