COMPLEX ISSUE: Confusion over who owns the Redbank School of Arts Hall has forced the State Government to step in and call for a new committee to be elected.
COMPLEX ISSUE: Confusion over who owns the Redbank School of Arts Hall has forced the State Government to step in and call for a new committee to be elected. Helen Spelitis

'Complex': Hall could be seized by State Govt

A COMMUNITY hall has become the subject of controversy after the State Government stepped in and sacked the committee for repeatedly failing to lodge financial statements.

For a century the Redbank School of Arts Hall on Brisbane Rd has been used by the community to hold events such as weddings, birthday parties and more recently bingo.

The committee managing the hall for at least 10 years has been charging money to use the building but has failed to turn in financial reports as required by law.

The State Government has stepped in, forcing the managers to relinquish control over the hall and any profit raised through hiring it out.

Next week an extraordinary meeting will be held at the hall to elect an interim committee which will be tasked with auditing financial documents before an AGM can be held next year to decide on a permanent committee.

If new managers can't be decided at that meeting, ownership of the hall will be transferred to the State Government.

From about 1930 to 1989 the land and the hall in question was held in trust by three people from the community.

Ownership was transferred to an incorporated group called the Redbank School of Arts Inc in 1989.

In 2005 and 2006 the State Government's Office of Fair Trading noticed the group had not lodged financial statements, a legislative requirement.

When the Office of Fair Trading sent the group a formal notice demanding an explanation, it failed to respond.

In 2014 the hall again caught the attention of the Office of Fair Trading during a standard investigation into dormant associations.

**Do you know more about this story? Email helen.spelitis@qt.com.au

Attempts from the Office of Fair Trading to contact the Redbank School of Arts Inc committee were again unsuccessful.

It was assumed the group was no longer operational and the incorporation was cancelled.

Usually when an incorporated association loses its status, any assets it holds are transferred to the Public Trustee, an independent State Government body.

Since the Office of Fair Trading didn't know the now deregistered association owned the land and building so those assets were not transferred to the Public Trustee.

In January this year an application to establish the 'Redbank School of Arts Incorporated', a similar but different name to the original association, was approved.

That group then assumed ownership of the hall and land in May, allegedly without proper authority to do so.

Since a new association, again with a similar name 'Redbank Community and Historical Association Inc', has also been approved and this group has been vying for the right to run the hall.

That series of events has cast doubt over who is the rightful owner of the hall; an issue the State Government plans to resolve.

Residents want to see the hall stay in the hands of the community and continue to be hired out for events with the money used for much needed maintenance on the building.

A spokesperson for the Office of Fair Trading said it was, and would continue, working with the community to resolve the issues it has labelled "complex".

In the meantime, the Lions Club has been charged with managing the hall until the issue can be resolved.

The extraordinary meeting, ordered by the Office of Fair Trading, will be held on Wednesday at 7pm inside the hall.

The Office of Fair Trading said if its conditions, including the free election of new committee members that can submit the overdue financial reports, are met the original association - de-registered in 2007 - will be reinstated.

"By doing so, the entity will resume ownership of the hall," an Office of Fair Trading spokesperson said.

"If a management committee cannot be elected, or the association cannot agree to or commit to the above conditions, the OFT is empowered to refuse to reinstate the incorporation of the association and vest its assets, including the hall, to the Public Trustee."



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