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Bunbury Museum + Heritage Centre History

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woman looking through scope

The Bunbury Museum and Heritage Centre is located on Wardandi Noongar Boodja within a state heritage listed building with a long established history as a community space for education and storytelling. While its Victorian Rustic Gothic style architecture reminds many visitors of a church, this building was actually constructed in 1886 as the Bunbury State School. Built on part of land that was originally the Convict Depot, this school was the only government education facility in Bunbury until 1919.

The first headmaster was Thomas William Paisley, who was born in Bermuda and came to Western Australia in 1863 aboard the Merchantman, a convict transport. Thomas Paisley was known for wearing his signature top hat made of beaver fur, which still lives in the Museum’s collections today. He was only twenty years old when he started the job, and went on to become a town councillor and prominent community leader.

In 1962 the school was closed, and the Bunbury Technical College began to offer full-time tertiary education from the building after using the classrooms for evening classes since 1942.

The building was acquired by Bunbury Town Council in 1972, where it was renamed the ‘Paisley Centre’ after the first headmaster.

Over the years a dance school and the Bunbury Tourism Office operated from the building before it was leased to the Bunbury Musical Comedy Inc to become a theatre. Bunbury locals will also remember a café known as the Singing Chef which opened in the building in 2003.

From 2011 the building began to be beautifully restored by the City of Bunbury with the assistance of Lotterywest and a successful community fundraising campaign, after being chosen as the best site for a new museum. A new roof, floor, cabling, and damp treatments were carried out which, combined with the removal of concrete and inappropriate fixtures and fittings, gave the building a new lease on life.

The Bunbury Museum and Heritage Centre opened to the public in 2016 as the premier contemporary museum in the South West region.

Significant local business and community support was received during the initial development of the Bunbury Museum and Heritage Centre to establish our contemporary exhibition facilities before the Museum first opened. This support was organised by longstanding local heritage supporter, Stephen Craddock.

    • Stephen and Maria Craddock, Bon Marche Mensland
    • The Chefs Long Table Lunch
    • Bunbury Built Heritage Group
    • Bunbury Timber Jetty Environment and Conservation Society (Inc.)
    • Stephen Foster
    • Summit Realty
    • Paul Vukelic, Vukelic Holdings
    • Commercial Realty,
    • Bunbury City Glass
    • Thompson Surveying Consultants
    • Kevin and Annette Coote
    • Roger and Margot Veen
    • John Drinkwater
    • Murray Harris, Tyrepower Bunbury
    • Ray and Joy Frisina
    • Norm and Betty McCleary
    • Tom McDonell
    • Helena Sahm and Jim Stephen
    • Mark Mazza, South West Express