The Moonta Mines Uniting Church is an important part of the history of this South Australian town, but some residents fear its future is now at stake after being put on the market.
- The property is owned by the Uniting Church, who have decided to sell it
- More than 1,000 have signed a petition to keep the church open to the public
- Residents fear the sale could affect UNESCO World Heritage bid for the mining towns of Moonta and Burra
The church was built in 1865 by members of the Baptist community who had migrated from Cornwall to mine copper.
Among them were the great-great-grandparents of Liz Coole, president of the Yorke Peninsula Branch of the South Australian Cornish Association.
“Life back then was so simple and hard, and all they had was their religion, their church, their families and their work,” Ms Coole said.
“It’s very important to Moonta to keep that.”
The property is owned by the Uniting Church, which has decided to sell it, citing a decision to close by the local congregation.
Ms Coole is worried about how the heritage status of the area will be affected by losing access to a piece of local history.
“I know there’s a lot of people upset that it has been put up for sale,” she said.
A town of historic renown
The Moonta branch of the National Trust of South Australia administers an historic school museum, railway station, post office and miner’s cottage.
Branch chairman Stephen Stock is hoping to add the church where he was married to that list.
“The National Trust has funds to look after this building, whereas with a private person, who knows what could happen?”
Community rallies for shared space
A petition to keep the church open to the public has been signed more than 1,500 times.
It was started by Mr Stock’s son Matthew, president of Moonta and District Progress Association.
“Small towns, we’re all pretty connected, especially with such public buildings,” Matthew said.
“They had a service there for ANZAC Day, which my husband and I attended, and it was very lovely with the organ going.
World heritage bid in the works
The Cornish mining sites of Moonta and Burra in the northern Mount Lofty Ranges were listed on the National Heritage register in 2017.
Copper Coast Council chief Russell Peate said a joint bid with the Regional Council of Goyder for UNESCO World Heritage would piggyback on Cornwell’s listing in 2006.
“It will take some years to achieve, Goyder Council is the lead on it and we look forward to the day when both Moonta and Burra will be world heritage listed,” Russell said.
“The council is very well aware of the church’s heritage importance, both to Moonta and the region.
“We continue to work closely with a range of organisations, including the National Trust and Progress Association in terms of how we might progress an EOI.”