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Byron Shire
April 25, 2024

Lawrence Museum a hidden treasure of ABC history

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The 2NR Broadcasting Station is the home of the Lawrence Museum. Photo Tree Faerie.

The Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC) was established on 1 July 1932 and ABC North Coast began its life four years later in July 1936 as 2NR at Lawrence, about 30ks north of Grafton, before moving to Lismore in 1989.

2NR during construction in the early 30s. Photo Lawrence Museum.

2NR Lawrence will celebrate its 86th birthday this Sunday and these days the old Broadcasting Station at Lawrence is the home to a vast and comprehensive museum of Lawrence history that includes not only radio and telecommunications items, but several rooms full of memorabilia from the lives and times of the town, whose current population sits just over 1,000.

The final broadcast station in 1936. Photo Lawrence Museum.

Much of the Museum is housed in the old station itself as well as a volunteer-built second building and several displays on the acreage outside.

2NR opened in 1936

The official opening of the 2NR Broadcast Station was held at the Saraton Theatre Grafton, on 17 July 1936 with the opening speech by Dr Earle Page, MHR, Minister for Customs and Leader of the Country Party in Federal Government.

In 1989, when ABC North Coast began a new life in Lismore, the station became automatic and the staff was reduced to one technician and a general assistant.

In 1995, staff were withdrawn, equipment dispersed and the station building closed, and in 2002, the Lawrence Historical Society purchased the building and land. In 2004 the Lawrence Museum was opened.

The Society has restored the building, keeping as much as possible of its history, including the building signs, cable channels under the floor, and a small broadcast studio, with some original equipment.

Vice President of the Lawrence Museum Roz Jones, says the museum has about 22 active members and another 40 supportive, non-active members.

Keeping the doors open

Just one of over a dozen rooms full of Lawrence history. Photo Tree Faerie.

Ms Jones says that prior to COVID the museum was able to operate sustainably by hosting groups, lunches, morning teas and holding fundraising events. ‘When we were mandated to close to the public, of course, we still had to pay our operating costs. We own our building, land and collection, but we have to pay council rates, water rates, power, maintenance costs, and the big one – insurance. We have managed to keep afloat at the moment, but although now open to the public, visitor numbers are very low.’

Ms Jones says the museum has ploughed through its savings and is now having to be very innovative to make ends meet. ‘On the positive side of being closed, it enabled us to complete the construction and display in the new shed, and also restore and create new displays in the former 2NR building. We are fortunate in being successful with grants for projects, however, these cannot be used to pay operational costs.’

Volunteers Prue, Bob and Dianne. Photo Tree Faerie.

A wonderful Lawrence and North Coast history

When The Echo visited the museum, we met volunteers Bob, Dianne and Prue, who were an absolute wealth of information about not only the history of the station, but the history of the town and just plan history in general.

Dianne and her husband Bob have been volunteering at the museum for 17 years. ‘We come down here every Tuesday we have a workday. Dusting, repairs, cataloging and other work is then. We also come down, on a roster, on Saturdays and Sundays.’

Dianne says the new building out the back was built by the volunteers and they won an award for it. ‘It has upstairs and downstairs and a lift for those who need assistance getting up to the top level.

Dianne feels it is important to maintain museums. ‘It teaches younger ones coming through how things happened in the past. It keeps our history alive.’

In 2019 Archie Roach and a film crew visited the Lawrence Museum and are looking at his family history. Photo Lawrence Museum.

Indigenous history

Indigenous musician Archie Roach has family connections in Lawrence when some of his mob lived there in the 1930s. Roach and a film crew visited the museum in 2019. ‘We have Aboriginal people living in the area so we have an Aboriginal history, as well as white European history.’

‘Roz Jones says it is not easy keeping the Museum going, and the volunteers put in many hours each week, working from home as well as at the Museum. ‘Most of our volunteers are retired and we are constantly seeking new and younger volunteers. The museum offers a wide variety of projects, with something to suit most interests, and of course, it’s a good way to meet new people and make new friends.

Barry says the boats were purpose-built for floods. Photo Tree Faerie.

The volunteers are priceless!

‘Our projects and tasks range from gardening, outdoor maintenance, construction, restoration and repair of collection objects, research, archiving, creating displays, care of museum objects, operating a gift shop, secretarial, admin, publicity, and of course fundraising.

A purpose-built flood boat. Photo Tree Faerie.

‘Our motto is: “We don’t pay our volunteers, because they are PRICELESS”.’

Ms Jones says the Museum welcomes the chance to raise funds by hosting exhibitions and events. One of their big upcoming events is hosting the Grafton Historical Motorcycle Club on Saturday 27 August. ‘It’s the last day of their rally, we expect between 50–100 motorcycles.

Photo Tree Faerie.

‘The Museum will also be the venue for the Bluff Point Quilters Annual Exhibition. This group of ladies have for several years held a Quilt Exhibition at the Lawrence Public Hall, with profits donated to the Museum. The event has not occurred in the past two years, and this year, it will be held at the Museum, a very quirky and different style of quilt exhibition, which should be a lot of fun.’

Part of the adventure of visiting the Lawrence Museum, which is open Tuesdays from 9am to 1pm, and weekends from 1pm to 4pm, is one of the roads leading to the venue becomes a ride on the Bluff Point Ferry!

Find out more on their Facebook page.

Photos Tree Faerie

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  1. I believe the Reverend Spooner would refer to the ABC as The Australian Broadcorping Castration.

    Good story, Eve. Thanks 🙂


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