Advertising feature: History of the Cartoon Gallery

Original Bunker Gallery.


IT’S unusual for an art gallery to have a lethal past, but the original Bunker, hidden under City Hill, started it’s life as a World War Two Air Force communication centre.

In 1942 Australia’s coastal shipping was being sunk by Japanese submarines and it became necessary to provide air support to these freighters.

Coffs Harbour’s airstrip became home to Base Operations Base Unit No 12, which flew anti-submarine patrols between Newcastle and the Queensland border.

After the war, the Bunker was used as a communication facility by the Civil Aviation Authority until 1980 when it was abandoned.

Coffs City Rotary Club had started a national cartooning competition in 1985 and needed a gallery to show its collection.

The Rotary Club approached Coffs Harbour Council with the idea of turning the disused bunker into a cartoon gallery and with grants from Council and the Federal Government, plus a lot of community support, the Bunker Cartoon Gallery opened in 1996.

The gallery grew steadily in popularity and slowly accumulated the largest collection of cartoons in Australia.

It celebrated the 30th Anniversary of the Rotary National Cartoon Awards in 2018.

In the same year, the community committee managing the gallery put a proposal to Council to build a new gallery above the existing bunker and create a permanent exhibition showing the history of Australia from 1900, as seen through the eyes of cartoonists.

This would turn a small local gallery into a major cultural and tourist attraction for our city. Council provided some seed funding, the State Government provided $2.6 mill for construction and the community provided additional money.

The end result is the spectacular National Cartoon Gallery, that was officially opened by our Deputy Premier last Tuesday.

The gallery still retains some of it’s wartime history and it’s an unusual experience to learn about Coffs Harbour in 1942 while standing inside one of the few remaining underground bunkers on the coast.

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