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Special interest matter - Door of Hope building Launceston

Tuesday 28 March 2023

[11.26 a.m.]

Ms ARMITAGE (Launceston) - Thank you, Mr President, and I also welcome our guests from Samoa.

Mr President, one of the most iconic buildings in Launceston is the Door of Hope Church, which includes the well-known Launceston Conference Centre and numerous other businesses and services. It is located in west Launceston and visible from the highway as you drive into Launceston.

Ms Rattray - Through you, Mr President, there is Palmer's Dance Studio as well, I think.

Ms ARMITAGE - There are some very good facilities there, and the Palmer's Dance Studio might be there as well, honorable member.

I recently discovered that 2023 marks the 100th Anniversary of the commencement of production at the Patons and Baldwins Spinning Mill in 1923. This was the original use for this building.

Patons and Baldwins was a newly formed company based in the UK at the time. In an effort to diversify its operations, it chose a location in Launceston to set up a new mill. Some $200 000 was spent to establish the mill, equating to several million dollars in today's terms.

At its peak, 2300 people were on the payroll, with many stories of women at the time being able to find employment that suited their roles as mothers and carers to support their families at home and by earning some money.

One of the fatures of the Patons and Baldwins workforce was the employment of family members down the generations. It was not unusual for three or four generations of the same family to find work at the mill. The company also sponsored skilled textile workers from Scotland, providing financial support for the trip to Tasmania, plus housing. Consequently, these migrant workers would find a home in Launceston and greatly contribute to the life of the city.

Along with textile skills, the mill also provided training and employment across a variety of trades including plumbing, engineering, carpentry, mechanical, painting and electrical work.

Economically, the impact of the mill on the region was significant. Demand for wool increased wool prices and supported the expansion of the rural sector. Local retailers received a welcome boost when mill workers received their annual bonus payment.

The mill also had its own medical centre and cafeteria, and sponsored various sporting and social activities and launched a medical benefits fund on the commencement of its operations in 1923. The fund served its members for many years before merging with the present day's St Luke's Medical Benefit Fund.

During World War II, the mill operated 24 hours a day, with production serving the war effort. The mill wool shop was well supported by local knitters and Patons and Baldwins pattern books helped showcase the mills products.

Patons and Baldwins later emerged to become Coats Patons, and operated the mill for some 70 years. However, a trend towards synthetic materials, plus the removal of tariff protection, led to the closure of the mill in 1997.

In 2002, the Door of Hope Christian Church purchased around two-thirds of the site. Over the last 20 years, steady progress has been made to redevelop the site. It now includes:

· A 1000-seat auditorium;

· early learning and outside school hours care centres;

· cafeteria;

· the Launceston Conference Centre;

· 600 unit self storage centre; and

· Mad Wheels Workshop, where donated cars are repaired and given to people in need.

It is a place which buzzes with people and activities every single day.

Over 15 years ago, with state and federal Government assistance, the former engineering workshop was redeveloped into a 20‑unit supported living complex known as Levi House. A multi‑million-dollar investment has been made to address the various issues of the heritage listed building, including a new electrical supply, extensive rewiring, replacement of ageing pipework and removal of items containing asbestos - especially the 20 000 square metre roof. Over 500 tonnes of asbestos were safely removed from the site over the past three years.

This year marks the centenary of the factory and the 20th anniversary of Door of Hope Christian Church first service on the site. To mark these significant milestones, activities are being planned for Saturday 25 November and Sunday 26 November 2023. These will include guided tours, a celebration church service on the Sunday and the launch of a project that will eventually see the mill and church heritage documented with historic photos and signage.

Congratulations to everyone involve in breathing life back into this historic building. I encourage all members here, if they are available, to come along in November and learn more about the site. Special thanks to conference centre manager, Joel Ratcliffe and chief operations officer Troy Roberts who worked hard to manage the site centre and Phenton Gardam for his overwhelmingly helpful notes about the history of the site.


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