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20 February, 2021

Saving grace for church.

The Mareeba Uniting Church on the corner Rankin and Walsh Streets in Mareeba held its final service on Sunday January 31, now there are moves to try and save the church.

By Phil Brandel

The Mareeba Uniting Church which was designed by renown architecture Eddie Oribin

The Mareeba Uniting Church on the corner Rankin and Walsh Streets in Mareeba held its final service on Sunday January 31. Now there are moves to try and save the church which has been earmarked for sale by the Queensland Uniting Church Property Trust along with a hall and home that are also on the block.

The Church was built in 1960 by renowned Cairns architect Eddie Oribin whose own home, studio and several of his other works have now been heritage listed including the Mareeba Shire Hall (now PCYC), St Paul’s Anglican Memorial Church in Proserpine, St Andrew’s Presbyterian Memorial Church in Innisfail and the Oribin studio and residence in Cairns.

Mr Oribin's significant contribution to Queensland architecture was recognised by the Queensland Chapter of the Royal Australian Institute of Architects in 2000, when the new "Building of the Year" award for the Far North Region was named in his honour.

Queensland President of the Australian Institute of Architects Dr Michael Lavery said a submission had been made in the past few days to have the building listed on the Queensland Heritage Register to protect it from future development.

“Oribin was an incredibly innovate architect, his innovation stretched across structure and details in terms of dealing with the local climate,” he said.

“His buildings were beautifully detailed and always well built, Eddie Oribin brought some of the best work out to the regional areas.”

Mr Lavery said there were several reasons why the church was so unique.

“It’s an outstanding example of his (Oribin’s) work, within it is a series of characteristics that were specifically exclusive to his work,” he said.

“It’s also important in demonstrating the characteristics of post-World War 2 church architecture, in that time frame church architecture was changing.

“It has fantastic craftsmanship, he used quite complex geometry in this building and his use of natural light makes this of extreme high value.”

Mr Lavery said architecturally and socially the building is an important part of the history of Australia.

"The building is made from incredible handmade bricks and timber from the local area it is beautifully crafted."

While some residents have expressed concerns about the future of the church Mareeba Shire Council (MSC) Mayor Angela Toppin released a statement that said. “Council has no plans or intention to resume the land for the roundabout and any future works would be conducted within the current road reserve. “

Mareeba Shire Mayor Angela Toppin said she would support any move to have the building protected.

"It is a beautiful building," she said.

"It's certainly very iconic and we would welcome the right buyer, who would hopefully see it as an iconic property and preserve it."

She said there were no plans for the council to buy the property.

"It's unfair to expect the ratepayer to purchase this site," Cr Toppin said.

"We are a small council, but we are very keen to see that the right buyer purchases this iconic piece of architecture."

Australian Institute of Architects regional co-chair Shaneen Fantin said smaller centres like Mareeba, Atherton and Malanda could learn lessons from Cairns, where several historic buildings had been demolished.

"Those places should aim to hold on to these pieces of architecture, because they are very valuable from a sociocultural perspective and valuable from a community perspective," she said.

"If you take away your heritage, you take away your identity."

The Uniting Church said in a statement that the decision to close the church and sell the land and adjoining buildings was prompted by a number of factors, including the expansion of a nearby roundabout, noise and changes in gatherings due to COVID-19.


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