Our Story so Far
The old Goorambat Primary School had been closed and boarded up for 9 years. The weatherboard buildings where showing their age, in poor shape inside and out and in desperate need of some real loving care, but they had good bones and are in a great location with ample space. It is a testimony to the care of the people of the small rural town of Goorambat that the buildings had not been vandalised or graffitied in the 9 years of vacancy since the school closed.
Phil Thomson and his wife, Jo, had been looking for just such a place for some time when the old schoolhouse opportunity popped up. They swooped and secured the 3 acre site and buildings located beside the Goorambat and District Football Netball Club grounds in September 2019 at a cost of $142K. The Goorambat Veterans Retreat was incorporated & registered as a Charity by the ACNC IN 2019. We later received DGR status from the ATO & the GVR Patriotic Fund was approved in 2021.
Work began with the essentials – making the place safe and progressively cleaning out the old school building; some of the rooms still had text books and school records scattered about – a little like a time capsule or the house that time forgot. The grounds were no better needing a good long drink, dangerous overgrown trees needed pruning and the odd possum or two had to be seen on its way. Focus was on renovating selected parts of the schoolhouse to provide an initial and limited, but immediately available, capability for on-site short term crisis accommodation. These were the essential supporting facilities of a common room, shared kitchen, interim ablutions and some camping/caravan space. Whilst concurrent work on creating “green and serene” grounds progressed.
Then in March 2020 the Covid 19 restrictions hit us and continued to impact on us until November 2021.Covid 19 severely limited the opportunity for volunteer labour – many people wanted to come and help but restrictions in Victoria meant many could not get to us. Those who did get here did great work, enjoyed their stay and helped the Retreat make good progress.
About 70-80% of the essential tasks on interior work has been completed. This building and its amenities are integral to the delivery of services in supporting Veterans and their families. Rehabilitation of the old school grounds has come along in leaps and bounds and even the vegetable patch scarecrow is a volunteer for life.
We have continued to provided crisis accommodation, advocacy services and time out space for some veterans and/or their family members as we have progressively delivered on projects as well as hosting some Veteran recreational van and campers.
Concurrently, led by Jo, we set up the Diggers Wife Café in the township of Goorambat and opposite the Goorambat Silo Art providing the town with its only cafe, a venue for locals and tourists and a Not for Profit Social-Enterprise operated by and for the financial benefit of the Goorambat Veterans Retreat.
Despite the Covid 19 impacts we have been very fortunate and grateful to receive support from the local community, from veteran and non-veteran volunteers and through donations small and large.
In 2022 we have successfully secured some grants for specific infrastructure improvement and received some generous donations from the public and other Veteran related groups.
We are progressively expanding our crisis accommodation capability funded by the donations from the public combined with some government grants and supported volunteer labour where possible. As of June 22 we have one standalone crisis/emergency accommodation pod fully on line. Pod 1 is air-conditioned, fully furnished and fitted with an en-suite and has already accommodated Veterans in need. We expect to have another two of our other three crisis/emergency accommodation pods on line but perhaps not yet powered up by December 2022. Our ambulant toilet/shower pod is on order and expected to arrive in late August ready to install. The GVR seminar/worship room major renovation is now funded and should be ready early in 2023 allowing us to co-host residential on-site Veteran workshops and seminars.
Our on-site facilities development effort focus at the moment is our Pods, our workshop/seminar room within the main building, external upgrade to the old school main building and upgrading our electricity and water supply to match our increasing capacity.
If you would like to help us achieve more follow this link.