Media Release

June 18, 2008

Singer Renée Geyer Announces Blyth Regional Cinema as Australia's Community Idol 2008

Blyth Regional Cinema, a community project which built its own cinema from scratch as a response to youth boredom and binge drinking in the tiny town of Blyth (population 300) in South Australia's Clare Valley area, was named Australia's Community Idol for 2008 at the Communities in Control Conference in Melbourne on June 17.

Singer Renée Geyer and Westpac's Head of Community Markets, Vanessa Nolan-Woods, made the announcement in front of 1500 conference-goers who had voted for Blyth Regional Cinema against competitors from Canberra and Sydney in what has become a highlight of the community sector's biggest event for the year.

The cinema, the only cinema in a 100 km radius of the town, has become a major destination for groups throughout the whole Clare Valley and Wakefield Plains area and breathed new life to Blyth's other attractions - galleries, hotels and restaurants. The cinema is entirely staffed by teen and adult volunteers from the local community and has dedicated programs for local senior and disability groups.

Blyth Regional Cinema is also dedicated to keeping the history of the area alive, broadcasting slideshows of old photos and newsreels of life in the region before each screening.

Each of the three community groups - which were selected from 500 nominations - had 10 minutes on stage to convince the audience, that they were worthy of the award before taking a question and answer session from the floor. The event was emceed by The Chaser's Julian Morrow, who kept the crowd entertained and the contestants on their toes.

Blyth Regional Cinema's chairman Ian Roberts was awarded the Idol trophy, a cheque from Westpac for $3000 and a suite of Our Community publications.

"It's really our volunteer teams that deserve this award," he said. "We set out to give the kids something to do besides go to the pub and they've really proven they can rise to the challenge when they're given a chance."

"And, of course, we never would have gotten off the ground at all if the whole town hadn't pulled together to paint the walls, hang the curtains, renovate the toilets and do all the other little things that turn a run down Masonic hall a thriving cinema."

"The slogan for our town is 'Small Community - Big Spirit', and I'd like to think this award is a reflection of that attitude of the Blyth Cinema volunteers

Rhonda Galbally, CEO of Our Community which co-convenes the event, was thrilled with this year's entries: "The passions of these groups - and the other 700,000 community groups around the country - is what makes them worthy of being declared idols. This is a grass roots project that has turned about an entire town and is a great example of how we can all have an impact in our community."

Now in its fourth year, the Westpac-supported competition has become a landmark on the Australian community calendar. The competition judges groups on participation, board performance, fundraising strength, community partnerships and advocacy. The other two finalists were:

RSPCA ACT, the Canberra arm of the RSPCA which is addressing issues such as domestic violence with their pet welfare program, and inner-Sydney's Consumer Activity Network (Mental Health) Inc which offers peer support programs for people with a mental illness re-integrating into the community after hospital care.

Further Information / Comment:

Rhonda Galbally: (03) 9320 6809 | |

Gareth Wills, Hootville Communications: (03) 9510 4894 / 0419 394 826