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We are delighted to celebrate the opening of Berninneit, the new cultural and community centre in Cowes, Phillip Island.

Named after the local Bunurong word meaning “gather together,” the Berninneit Cultural Centre stands as the newest landmark on the island, making a significant contribution to the local community and culture. It will become a vital addition for tourists and visitors of Phillip Island, already renowned for its attractions such as the Penguin Parade, stunning surf beaches, and the Grand Prix circuit. This impressive addition is set to be a vibrant hub for artistic expression, education, and community engagement.

The multi-purpose building incorporates a 260-seat theatre, a library, a gallery, a museum, offices, and community function rooms. It offers a diverse range of spaces for people to come together, learn, and share experiences. The theatre will host live shows and weekly contemporary cinema screenings, while the gallery provides a professional visual arts space highlighting contemporary and Indigenous art. The new addition to Phillip Island will foster local talent, support regional arts development, and encourage community engagement.

The opening events for Berninneit over the past week were nothing short of spectacular, marking a significant milestone for the community of Cowes and the wider Bass Coast region. Roughly 250 community members gathered for the official Program Launch on Wednesday, November 1st, with the majority lucky enough to secure their spots through a community ballot. The event commenced with a captivating Welcome to Country and Smoking Ceremony, led by Mark Brown from the Bunurong Land Council, who brought everyone on a cultural journey, connecting them to the land on which Berninneit was built.

The event was a stunning affair, captivating the audience with an array of videos and live performances covering various art forms, from music and dance to comedy. The evening commenced with a video presentation before transitioning into live performances by a line-up of highly respected local musicians including Kate Ceberano, Kutcha Edwards, Elly Poletti, and others.

The surprises kept coming, with world-renowned guitarist Slava Grigoryan, dancers from the Victorian State Ballet, and comedian Garry Starr, who had the audience in stitches with his comedic act. The event set the bar high for the ambitious and diverse artistic vision that Berninneit aims to bring to the community.

Over the Melbourne Cup weekend as Berninneit was officially opened to the public, a diverse crowd of visitors and locals explored the new facility, engaging in activities such as craft sessions for children, art exhibitions, museum visits, concerts, and a paid performance by the Inventi Ensemble. The Baluk Arts‘ immersive Aboriginal art exhibition ‘Millowl’ was a highlight, showcasing five of the countries most talented First Nations creatives. The opening week was a vibrant celebration of the arts, both local and from afar, proudly heralding the arrival of this major new cultural and community centre.

Now open to the public, Berninneit’s inaugural program offers a wide variety of live performances, cinema screenings, exhibitions, and art experiences, featuring local talents alongside national and international stars. Upcoming performances for children such as Grug, Children Are Stinky, and A Little Bit of Blue by the Little Wing Puppets will ensure a cultural experience for all.

“A Passivhaus masterpiece, where the soul of art, performance, culture, and community is immortalised upon the canvas of Phillip Island for generations to come.”

Cr Michael WhelanMayor, Bass Coast Shire Council

The Berninneit Cultural and Community Centre stands as a testament to community collaboration and the vision of Bass Coast, enhancing the region’s cultural vibrancy. If you’re looking for something to do over the holiday period, head on down to Phillip Island to experience the new Berninneit Cultural and Community Centre. We can’t wait to share more about this exciting project with you soon!

Images: Victor Vieaux & Bass Coast Shire Council

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