Prime Minister Anthony Albanese officially opens long-awaited Yarrila Place

City of Coffs Harbour Mayor Cr Paul Amos, General Manager Natalia Cowley and Prime Minister Anthony Albanese were all smiles at the official opening of Yarrila Place.

YARRILA Place officially opened on Saturday 16 September, unveiling the city’s new library, museum, art gallery, presentation spaces, studios and auditoriums, café and council offices at 27 Gordon Street, Coffs Harbour.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese flew to Coffs Harbour to cut the ribbon with City of Coffs Harbour Mayor Cr Paul Amos and Uncle Richard Widders.

I Play AustraliaAdvertise with News of The Area today.
It’s worth it for your business.
Message us.
Phone us – (02) 4981 8882.
Email us –

A huge turnout of people went through the doors over the weekend; wandering, browsing and taking official tours to familiarise themselves with what’s available within the three-story public building, topped off on the fourth floor by City of Coffs Harbour (CoCH) offices and chamber.

CoCH General Manager Natalia Cowley spoke first at the ribbon cutting ceremony.

“Today we herald a new cultural dawn for the city of Coffs Harbour, which marks a transformative leap forward for our city.”

Ms Cowley referred to the building as an asset to pass on to future generations.

“Just like its name, Yarrila, which stands for illumination or enlightenment, we are leading the way in providing a digital playground for kids, a place where our community can come and learn and enjoy, a place for our youth, a place where you will never be lonely, a place where those of you, whether you’re young or you’re old, you can find something that would inspire you, that would enrich you, and you can find friends and family here,” she said.

“For those of you that also have asked a question about ‘how much did it cost’, let me make it very clear.

“It’s $82 million – not $100, not $150, not $200 million.

“It’s on budget, it’s never been off budget.”

Beyond the building itself, Natalia said Yarrila Place is a testament to the shared values of education, creativity and heritage preservation and reflects the investment of consultative time with the Coffs Coast’s Indigenous community.

“I’m reminded of the words of the great Albert Einstein, who once said, ‘Imagination is more important than knowledge, for knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution’… this is the place where evolution happens.

“We today are going to swing the doors open for the hub that will promote progress and evolution for generations to come,” said Natalia in closing.

Coffs Harbour Mayor Cr Paul Amos admitted that the project, which took five years and $82 million to deliver, had “polarised our community”.

“It has taken significant resources to bring to fruition and it has challenged the designers and builders at every stage.
“Yet none of this particularly matters as we stand here today.

“These challenges have been met and have given way to a much more important one.

“A building alone cannot fuel the growth and development of a community.

“It can’t propel a vibrant arts culture, expand knowledge and build skills.

“However, no matter what you think of the colour, size, structure or materials, this is a building with undeniable potential,” he said.

Mr Amos said it is the people of Coffs Harbour who will drive the efforts to turn this from a building into something greater.

“A learning place, a workplace and something we can point to with pride.”

He said it is not the building itself, but what will come from this building that the community should be most focused upon in the months ahead.

“It will be up to the people here today in large part to determine how we live, work and play in this space, in a way that fulfils the full potential of what has been built and does justice to the investment our community has made to bring this to fruition.”

The Mayor then challenged the community to look for and share one piece of potential they see in this building.

“Tell your family about it, tell your friends about it, and help to give this building a positive foundation to start living up to its full potential.

“We, as councillors representing our community, will do what we can to ensure that the community receives the value it deserves from this significant endeavour, but the reality is, this building will only ever be as good as the effort, the cohesiveness, the opportunities and the support that can be generated from within its walls and extended across our community.”

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, in his address to those gathered, said Yarrila Place will “shine a light on the cultural Gumbaynggirr people as well as Coffs Harbour’s growing status as a vibrant regional city.

“(This is) a facility that provides a library, art galleries, places for communities to have meetings as well as housing the local council,” he said.

“This is a facility that will be here for generations.”

The Prime Minister also commented on the atmosphere inside the new community space and what it offers anyone who visits.

“The welcoming nature of the building; it’s open, it’s inviting, and it is warm.

“It will be a place of learning, it will be a place of lifting up culture and local artists, and it also will be a meeting place, importantly, going forward.

“It is a great privilege to have been here as Prime Minister.”

Yarilla Place lead architect Matthew Blair, from award-winning architects BVN, raised in Coffs Harbour.

“Having the opportunity to lead the design team for a building of this type, a large, complicated building, is perhaps the high point of my career as an architect,” he said.

“Together, the design team has created a building of unashamed enthusiasm.

“It is bright, joyful, colourful and full of delight, dramatic in form and shape.”

The shape is a subtle reminder of the mountains of the Great Dividing Range, and the curve of the façade is a hint of the harbour.

“Everyone loves the colour,” he said, laughing as a nod to the negative comments from individuals about the building’s green colour.

“In the past five years we’ve engaged in many groups in this community and various parts of Coffs city to take on board the comments, the desires, the aspirations of what this building can be and what it needs to do to serve the community.”

Matthew paid particular thanks to CoCH Project Lead, Ken Welham.

“His energy has kept the project on track.”

He also thanked the former mayor, Denise Knight for her vision in the early days of this project.

Representing the project’s builders, Lipman Pty Ltd CEO Rob MacKee opened his comments to the community with the words, “Wow, what a building…career-defining for us as builders.”

He said complex and bespoke buildings such as Yarrila Place are enormously challenging endeavours.

“As I reflect on the ingredients of delivering an iconic building like this one, I think there’s probably three key elements that really underpin the project’s success.

“You need cleverness, ingenuity and creativity.

“You need grit and determination and persistence to deliver it.

“And you need collaboration and cooperation.”

Rob said the building is a clear and obvious testament to the success of this whole team in “bringing all of these ingredients together so wonderfully well under enormous pressure”.

He noted the conditions that the construction industry has endured over the last four years have been unprecedented.

Rob thanked all building subcontractors and supply partners.

“Just looking at the detail and the complexity of this facade, the brickwork, steelwork, the metalwork, the internal finishes, and the complexity of the services in this building, it’s a real testament to their skill and their care.”

Yarrila Place is open every day with Yarrila Arts and Museum (YAM) open Tuesday to Friday 10am – 4pm and Saturday and Sunday 10am – 2pm; closed on Mondays and all NSW Public Holidays.

See for tours, exhibitions and all other information on what’s on offer at Yarrila Place.


Leave a Reply