Financing Civic Improvement: The Community Amenities Funding Scheme of the Joint Coal Board

Hogben, Paul

Ngā Pūtahitanga / Crossings: A Joint Conference of SAHANZ and the Australasian UHPH Group

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The book Community: Building Modern Australia (2010) is a key reference for understanding the programmes and initiatives aimed at enhancing community life within Australia across the twentieth century. It accounts for the relevant authorities and groups that were responsible for driving and supporting the creation of places for community use and enjoyment. One authority not mentioned in the book is the Joint Coal Board – a combined Federal and New South Wales State government-established body that was formed in February 1947 with powers to control the production and distribution of NSW coal. Tied to its powers was a directive to improve the health and welfare of mining communities in the Illawarra, Lithgow and Hunter regions. One branch of this was to financially support the construction of new community amenities in mining townships. This work began with a focus on the improvement of recreational grounds and facilities before moving onto housing and general community projects including baby health centres, ambulance stations, swimming pools and community halls.

This paper describes the political background to the creation of the Board, its formation and membership, and the community amenities grant scheme it managed. It then focuses on the building projects the Board became involved with in the first ten years of its operation, including the £156,000 Cessnock Municipal Town Hall. The paper concludes by considering the reception of these buildings as symbols of civic achievement.