No. 1500 - Bronte Park - St Michael the Archangel Catholic Church (1952-1959)

Bronte Park is a former village on the Central Plateau built by the Hydro Electric Commission. It was established to house workers constructing the Tungatinah and Nive River schemes. By the early 1950s it accommodated 700 workers and the village had a store, police station, post office, school, cinema as well as two churches. When construction work ended in the late 1950s most of the workers left. The remains of the village were sold to a private operator in 1991.

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.

Of the two churches built at Bronte Park, one was St Paul’s, a non-denomination Protestant Church which was owned by the Tasmanian Council of Churches. The other was a Catholic church dedicated to St Michael the Archangel.

When Catholic priest Fr. J. Flannery arrived at Bronte Park in 1951 he wrote to the Hydroelectric Commission seeking assistance to build a Catholic church. In 1952 permission was given for a church to be built on a site provided by the Commission.

The church was officially opened in late August 1952. The Launceston Examiner reported:

“The new Roman Catholic Church at Bronte Park was opened by the Archbishop (the Most Rev. E.V. Tweedy) and is to be dedicated as St. Michael’s. A wooden structure, the church was built by volunteers representing 15 nationalities. Father Flannery presented the church with a plaque. Visitors were present from many centres and about 60 people were unable to find room in the crowded church”.

In 1954 a report published in the Hobart Mercury Century Magazine described the church as being unique in the Commonwealth:

“…Known as the Church of St. Michael the Archangel, it was built in 30 days by new and old Australians working together. The great percentage of men who live in the temporary township of Bronte Park and work in the camp around are from countries distant and often behind the Iron Curtain, men who are for the most part strangers in a strange land, in need of hope and faith. …”.

The building, which was a demountable structure, was moved to Poatina Hydro village in 1959. I have yet to find a clear photograph of the church. The church’s location is indicated in the map of Bronte Park reproduced below.

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

Map of Bronte Park - The two churches are located in the centre of the settlement as indicated on the map.  Source: Hydro Tasmania

Few photographs of Bronte Park are in the public domain.  This photograph shows the Works Office which was in the vicinity of the village's two churches.  Source: ABC - Bronte Park Village


Rackham, Sarah and Woodberry, Joan and Tasmania. Hydro-Electric Commission. Public Relations Department. Hydro construction villages. Volume Two. Butlers Gorge, Bronte Park, Trevallyn, Wayatinah / written and compiled by Sarah Rackham ; edited by Joan Woodberry Public Relations Dept., Hydro-Electric Commission, Tasmania [Hobart] 1982

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

Examiner, Saturday 4 October 1952, page 54

The Mercury centenary magazine, July 5, 1954 [the Mercury] [Hobart] 1954


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