In 1980 Gail Perry brought her vision and dream of a place where people could come together to bridge the gap between, New Age, Spiritualism and Regular Mainstream Society, to the place of her vision. To a more central place where all people could have access to the dream.
The first Meeting Place opened its doors at 23 Howard Street Nambour for $80.00 per week and Gail’s dream became reality. Above the dry cleaners, Gail set out with a dedicated band of volunteers to realise the dream. In a place filled with cockroaches, leaky showers, no fire exits and the smell of the dry cleaners below the dream began to unfold.
It was a Grass Roots, Self Help Centre that all people, from all walks of life could utilise. The aim was to foster groups whose activities encouraged people to participate more fully in their own health, education and lifestyles. Their aim was to provide an environment that fostered co-operation between different individuals and groups in not only the local, but wider community, they also aimed to provide a venue for community groups to hold their meetings and publicise their activities so as to become more widely known in the community and to organise educational activities including courses, talks and seminars to meet this end.
All were welcome rich, poor, Christian, Buddhist, Muslim, healthy, sick, young or old, Political groups and so on all were made welcome.
With no government funding The Meeting Place was nearly always run on a very tight strict budget, but the doors stayed open and everyone had a good time.
The Meeting Place in 1980 was staffed entirely by volunteers who often donated more than their time, they donated their enthusiasm and dedication to the dream. The dream grew and in late 1980 The Meeting Place decided it was time to enlist the aid of a co-ordinator.
Their first co-ordinator, Kate Roberts, not only co-ordinated for The Meeting Place but also started and ran the children’s craft courses from the Centre.
Kate was caretaker co-ordinator until the end of 1980 and in that time she and the other staff donated their time voluntarily.
January 1981 saw Grant Woolven take over as co-ordinator. Grant and a regular team of volunteers committed themselves to the running of the Centre. In Grant’s time, as in Kate’s, the centre was run on donations of food and furniture. There were living quarters upstairs but there was no money for wages. To pay the rent on The Meeting Place, money was brought into the Centre by renting out the rooms to such groups as the Civil Liberties group, The Peace Movement, and for activities like self-help focused classes.
All monies donated to The Meeting Place went to paying the rent and running costs of the Centre
When Grant left in June 1981, Barbara Camplin (nee Hughes) came to the Centre as co-ordinator and under Barbara’s guidance The Meeting Place started many amazing initiatives like introducing Constructive Strategic Planning for the Sunshine Coast, a concept that has been adopted for land usage widely. In July the Committee changed the staffing policies to enable the co-ordinator to be given a service fee of $25.00 per week.
After Barbara left as co-ordinator, came a number of co-ordinators and among them were Dorothy McMillian, Helen Coultman, Joy Murdock, Leah Gibb, Linda Cakebread and Leonie Hempsall. The Co-ordinators may have changed, but the philosophies that Gail had set in place stayed, the vision of Self-Empowerment and Holistic Healing grew. The need for extra funding also grew so The Meeting Place started to raise money by holding Candlelight Dinners, Gypsy Dinners, Maltese Dinners and all different kinds of dinners and other fund-raising ideas to keep the doors open and help the Community awareness of their aims grow. Organised classes and courses also proved very successful.
From 1980-1987 many wonderful things happened with a large variety of changes and growth, groups like Yoga, Massage, Meditation, Relaxation therapy classes, A Course in Miracles classes, Amateur nights of sharing music and home-grown songs came in to be a The Meeting Place.
Some of the meetings and courses were free, but some involved a small fee to cover the costs and a light supper.
Some of the wide variety of things that happened at The Meeting Place included the early stages of the Maleny Folk Festival, The L.E.T.S system, Lifeline Services, The Men of Trees (this is where they helped save the threatened species of Australian tree and plant life), The Rainbow Alliance, Perma Culture. Even Nambour’s recycling concept got off the ground at The Meeting Place and was held out the back in Coronation Avenue until Nambour Council had the facilities to run their own Recycling Depot.
The people of Nambour, although doubtful about the need for a place like The Meeting Place in the beginning, soon came to view it as an important part of the town’s community needs.
With Gail still contributing most of the funds, and with the help of donations to keep The Meeting Place doors open in the early years the Centre still focused mainly on alternative health ideas, Meditation, Acupuncture, Holistic Healing therapies and Self Awareness Groups for Both men and women. The Nambour Community were hesitant about accepting The Meeting Place into their conservative lifestyle, as these new ideas challenged the structure and people’s view of the town and their view of the role of organizations such as The Meeting Place within their community.
The move to the larger premises in Coronation Avenue was bought about by government of the day allocating funds so as to enable The Meeting Place to investigate and meet the ever increasing demands that the community placed upon them to help the youth of Nambour, Ethnic Communities, Disadvantaged, Young Mothers or people whose needs were not being met by mainstream facilities in Nambour.
Gail’s dream and vision are still in place and have an even wider appeal to the Community today than it did in its early conceptual stages.