No. 1494 - Poatina - Catholic Church (1958)

Poatina Village is a former village built by the Hydro Electric Commission. It was established to house workers constructing a new hydro-electric scheme at northern end of the Great Lake on the Central Plateau through to the Western Tiers and down to a power station at the base of the mountains.

Tasmania’s vast hydro-electric scheme dates back to 1914 when the Tasmanian Government bought a small electricity company in financial difficulty and created the Hydro-Electric Department. The first power station at Waddamana in the Great Lake Power Scheme was opened in 1916. Over a period of 80 years, 30 power stations and 54 major dams were built. Construction camps and villages were built to support major projects and during this period 10 villages were established, most of which had a full social infrastructure including a school, public hall and a church. After the Second World War, large numbers of migrants were recruited to construct dams and power stations. This brought English, Polish, German, Italian, Scandinavian and other migrants together with Tasmanians, creating lively and diverse communities.

Construction of the settlement at Poatina began in 1958 when permanent houses were built while a large number of portable houses were brought in from the Bronte Park settlement which was dismantled at this time. A number of civic facilities were constructed at Poatina including a school (1959); a Civic Centre (1959); shops, a library and two churches.

Both of Poatina’s churches (one owned by the Tasmanian Council of Churches and the other, a Catholic church), were temporary buildings located on King Street. Both churches were brought from Bronte Park. While the building owned by the Tasmanian Council of Churches was moved onto the site by the ‘Commission’, the cost of dismantling and re-erecting the Catholic church had to be met by the Catholic community. The Bronte Park Catholic church had been dedicated to St Paul. It is not known if the Poatina church was rededicated to St Paul.

The Poatina Catholic church was removed in the late 1960s. It is not known where the building was taken. I have yet to find a clear photograph of the church and I have used a photograph of St Michael’s at Bronte Park to illustrate this article. Both of Poatina’s churches can be seen in an aerial photograph of the village taken in 1961 which is reproduced below.

Hydro Tasmania sold the Poatina village in 1995 to Fusion Australia, an Australian Christian not-for-profit youth and community organisation.

St Michael's Catholic Church at Bronte Park. The church was moved to Poatina in 1958. Photograph: Planting a Faith in Tasmania.

An aerial view of Poatina c.1961.  Both the Catholic and Protestant non-denominational churches can be seen on the far right of the photograph, behind the Poatina Community Hall and Library. (see the map of Poatina below) Photograph posted on Cressy & Longford - Past and Present Facebook page. Source not provided.

Poatina Civic complex. The roof of the Catholic church can be seen behind the complex in the centre of the photograph. Photograph posted on Cressy & Longford - Past and Present Facebook page. Source not provided.

A map of Poatina village (Hydro construction villages. Volume three) The location of the village's two churches was on King Street.

A photograph of Poatina's Community Hall and Library on the corner of King Street and Gordon Street. The Catholic church, which is out of frame, was to right of the right of these buildings. Photograph: Libraries Tasmania. Item Number NS2267-1-1592


Southerwood, W. T Planting a Faith in Tasmania : the country parishes. [W. T. Southerwood], [Hobart], 1977.

Rackham, Sarah and Woodberry, Joan and Tasmania. Hydro-Electric Commission. Public Relations Department. Hydro construction villages. Volume three. Poatina, Gowrie Park, Strathgordon / written and compiled by Sarah Rackham ; edited by Joan Woodberry Public Relations Dept., Hydro-Electric Commission Hobart 1983


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