Established in 1862.
The WBSOA was founded on 1 September 1862 as part of the School of Arts and Mechanics Institutes by 3 local business people Mr Thomas Hale (JP squire of Bellambi); Mr William Somerville (farmer residing in Bulli) and mr John Colleary, (farmer also of Bulli) who purchased the land from a local farmer Mr John Stewart for £25 (twenty five pounds). Funds were raised by the local community to construct the original SoA wooden building which at that time went under the name of Bellambi and Bulli School of Arts. These same three people were instrumental in a number of local projects in the area including the Woonona post office and the Woonona Industrial Co-op on Ball Street. Following a fire around 1896, the original wooden building was replaced by the current brick building some 4 years later in 1900, with the current foyer completed in 1935. Extensions to the rear of the building were added in the “swinging” sixties along with the commencement of a pre-school which continues operate from the building. As far as our records show no government funding has ever been provided to the SoA it has always been supported by local people and business.
School of Arts Movement started in Edinburgh Scotland in 1821 and spread around the world as a way of bringing education to working class people in what was dubbed the first wave of the school of arts movement. The WBSoA was founded at the time of the second wave of schools of arts and their role at that time had expanded to form a social hub and library not just an educational facility in the community. The SoA played a major part in the education of miners for the local coal industry. In that regard it can be viewed as the forerunner of the TAFE system in Australia. Bellambi mine was one of the first mines to export coal overseas in Australia, miners for this mine and others were often trained at the WBSoA. Entertainment was also a strong factor with the WBSoA housing a library, billiard room, weekend dances and music. Meetings were often held to discuss matters of local importance and the local member rented space for a number of years.