Vandals ruin New Year for popular Moree art school and retreat
Words: Bill Poulos
IT’S a special place in Moree that has done so much good for the community in recent years, run by a passionate woman that just wants to bring people together through art and their untapped potential.
The centre, an artists’ studio that doubles as a meeting place for people to discover their talents and hidden gifts – as well as themselves – is tucked in behind Moree Plains Shire Gallery on the corner of Frome and Heber Streets.
It has an open door policy – anyone is welcome, regardless of age, race, creed, religion or colour.
Education officer Janelle Boyd is doing good things for Moree, and each week more than 300 students from all walks of life stroll through the gates of Moree Plains Shire Gallery to attend her classes.
In some ways, it’s a drop-in centre that is making a huge difference; a melting pot of people that are not only there to paint and draw and create artworks – but to mingle and bond and share their stories.
For many, it’s a journey of self-healing and self-discovery.
But twice over the New Year long weekend, Ms Boyd arrived at the centre to find it completely trashed.
It’s a heartbreaking scenario that is becoming all too common in Moree.
The centre was broken into and trashed mid-afternoon on Friday (December 30) before vandals returned on New Year’s Day to exact further damage.
At the second break-in an axe was allegedly used to smash through the centre’s main entrance.
Once inside, vandals inflicted considerable damage on the building and its contents.
Furniture, artworks, easels, paint pots and equipment were smashed and strewn everywhere in a mindless act of vandalism that caused not only materialistic damage, but emotional and spiritual damage as well – and that’s what hurts most, Ms Boyd said.
“This is a terrible start to 2017, and these acts of vandalism have hurt and upset so many people,” Ms Boyd said.
“But our faith in Moree has been restored by so many offers to help clean up the mess left by these vandals.”
Apart from hosting members of the general public who drop by regularly, the centre also conducts art classes for students from East Moree Public School, Barwon Learning Centre, Gwydir Industries employees and the Challenge Foundation.
“There are quite a few different organisations involved, and the best thing about it all is that it costs nothing – it’s free,” Ms Boyd said.
“We run on donations and grants and we have many volunteers that help. We do heaps of stuff, and whoever walks through the gate can do many different things.
“We don’t care who they are – everyone is welcome,” she said.
Anyone with information that may assist police in relation to this crime or feel they have seen any suspicious or unusual activity are urged to contact Police either by phoning Barwon Local Area Command on 02 6757 0799 or Crime Stoppers 1800 333 000.
Meanwhile, Barwon Local Area Command acting superintendent Andrew Hurst is appealing to the public in relation to a number of property thefts in Moree during December.
“While the theft of property from local residences is an ongoing issue, the amount of property stolen over the past few weeks is certainly out of the ordinary,” Mr Hurst said in a recent media release.
“There is strong evidence to link the theft of stolen goods and drug activity. The disruption of the cycle of stolen property and drugs is of high priority to police.
“Although only a minority of the community may use illicit drugs, the related effect includes family and social difficulties, mental health issues and drug-related crime such as break-and-enters,” he said.
Mr Hurst said that the punishment for receiving stolen property is often greater than that of the original stealing offence.
“The maximum penalty for receiving stolen property is imprisonment of 10 years,” he said.
A current list of stolen property includes:
- Makita power tools;
- Assorted hand tools;
- Assorted painting and decorating equipment;
- Tins of house paint;
- Fishing rods and tackle;
- LED light bars;
- Chainsaws, lawn mowers and edge-trimmers; and
- Small, portable electronic equipment
Anyone with information about the whereabouts, exchange or sale of stolen property is urged to contact Police either by phoning Barwon Local Area Command on 02 6757 0799 or Crime Stoppers 1800 333 000.
NSW Police also has a community portal for reporting intentional damage and accepts reports where a person intentionally or recklessly destroys or damages property belonging to another. It’s quick and easy and can be found at www.portal.police.nsw.gov.au or www.police.nsw.gov.au/community_portal/help/intentional_damage_or_graffiti