Boonah Creative Arts Centre

Boonah Creative Arts Centre at West Pymble, run by Centacare, was established to provide sessional arts tuition for both young and older people with disabilities.

Summary of Learnings

Boonah commenced in 1995 as a pilot project through a one off grant from the NSW Department of Community Services.

Boonah Creative Arts centre has been a program of Centacare Broken Bay for the past 14 years at the Philip Mall shopping village in West Pymble.

While the arts centre provides art tuition, the mission is to create opportunities to develop confidence and self esteem and self expression. The artwork training offered is varied and so it can cater to the individual, welcoming the giftedness and value of each person.

The centre runs with five staff and three volunteers with a minimum requirement of two staff for each class.

Heidi Mecklem, the co-ordinator, has worked in the centre for 13 years and shows a great dedication to her role. She has a background in fine arts and working with people with disabilities.

The classes rely on volunteer staff, usually locals, who not only help with the art work but also with the setting up of classes.

The Boonah Creative Arts Centre is open Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and every second Thursday. The classes are for two hours. Classes are run in the morning and again in the afternoon.

Art students book for a term, 10 – 12 weeks, at a time. The centre runs four terms a year from January to early December. Due to the high support needs of the students, classes have seven to eight students. Students pay a minimal fee.

As Boonah is not a government funded program there is a reliance on donations and support from volunteers, customers of the art exhibitions and financial donations from the local businesses.

The Ku-ring-gai Council gives a reduced rental rate for the premises. Centacare covers the costs of staff and premises and a local art framing business frames the artwork at a reduced rate.

Exhibitions are held twice a year to sell the artwork. The sale price covers a commission to the centre and costs of framing with the remaining amount going to the artist. The acknowledgment of their work and talent is appreciated by the artists.

The students express their artistic talents in their own way. Some students excel and have beautiful completed works; some may not achieve a finished product but have shown personal growth due to the program.

There are participants who have been regulars for years, while some may only stay for a term or two; it is a matter of whether the program “fits”.

The Boonah Creative Arts Centre is a very good example of Centacare Broken Bay engaging and participating in the community.

To enter the art centre you feel the richness and vibrancy of the talent being expressed. To see the artists working, especially the students with high needs, with the staff being witness to the giftedness and value of each person.

Summary of Learnings

  • The program is reliant on financial donations from the local community – they have needed to network with the local business community and with local council for support.
  • Annual sale provides an opportunity to acknowledge and celebrate the talent of the artists and to engage the community.


  • Students of the program are guided and not steered, they are given encouragement to express their talent in their own way.
  • The focus is on the personal outcomes for the student, helping each student to develop self confidence, self esteem and self expression.

Catholic Diocese of
Broken Bay

Building 2, 423 Pennant Hills Road
Pennant Hills NSW 2120

PO Box 340
Pennant Hills NSW 1715

Phone 02 9847 0000
Fax 02 9847 0001

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