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Revamp worthy of a saint


There’s a sense of excitement among volunteers at the Mary MacKillop Penola Centre as they prepare to show visitors 12 new display panels at the exhibition space they care for in Penola.

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The Centre, which celebrated its 25th anniversary in September, was designed in 1998 by Michael Fielder Architects Pty Ltd and incorporates a serene public space that links the 1867 Woods MacKillop Schoolhouse and the 1926 St Joseph’s Church with the Interpretive Centre.

Two major exhibitions are particular drawcards: ‘Mary MacKillop: Penola – Where it all Began’ is dedicated to Mary’s life and the century-long process that culminated in her canonisation. ‘Julian Tenison Woods: Penola – Ten Years in the Bush and Beyond’ presents Julian’s life story and highlights his contribution to colonial science.

More than 7000 people visited the volunteer-run Centre in 2023.

“We are off the beaten track,” said volunteer and researcher Anne-Marie Matuschka.

“But the majority of visitors say this is the most beautiful centre they’ve ever been to.”

The new panels include ‘The People of the Bush’ which showcases history and photographs from places such as Glencoe Station, Binnum Binnum Station, and Krongart Station from 1857–1867, and a panel displaying treasures, paintings and messages from Scotland.

The display was produced by a team of three historians and completed with construction and graphic designs by Adelaide design artist Peter Templeton. Peter has long been a specialist consultant to local and regional museums, historic houses, parks, and historical societies.

“We’ve had the same designer ever since the Centre began,” Anne-Marie said. “Peter designed all the galleries in the Penola Centre (including the MM Gallery, JTW Gallery, Schoolhouse displays and Cameron Homestead displays). During his career, he also worked as a set designer on the film sets for Gallipoli and Breaker Morant. He’s retired now but we have been fortunate to have his expertise and guidance over the last 25 years.”

Mary MacKillop Penola Centre coordinator Marie Valenzuela said they couldn’t have done it without Peter: “He is amazing and really understands the story of Mary and Julian and knows how to make it come alive in our displays.”

The Centre is open daily 10am – 4pm (closed Good Friday and Christmas Day). For more information visit

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