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Past presidents of the Australian Opal Centre board, Rebel Black, David Lane, Vicki Bokros, Jenni Brammall and Liz Smith. Photo TWH

After delays due to pandemic-inflated construction prices, the landmark Australian Opal Centre (AOC) will rise from Yuwaalaraay country at Lightning Ridge during 2023.

What started with the vision of a group of locals back in 1997 to showcase opal and opalised fossils, is about to leap ahead with the construction of Stage 1.

Twenty-six years on, the dream is becoming a reality.

Chair of the Australian Opal Centre, Ray Griffin, said that tenders for the project were called in October 2021, but then put on hold when the impacts of the COVID pandemic made the project unaffordable.

“During 2002 we were focussed on finding funding solutions, and thankfully the NSW government has provided the fund to allow this project to go proceed,” Mr Griffin said.

“I’m please to say the NSW government has provided sufficient funds for project costs, allowing the important project to proceed.

“We are looking forward to bringing the Australian Opal Centre to life in 2023 and seeing it open in 2024, delivering economic benefits at Lightning Ridge and throughout the Walgett Shire,” Mr Griffin said.

AOC Chief Executive Officer, Jenni Brammall, said that the Lightning Ridge community had worked towards the centre for over 20 years, with a grassroots investment of more than $9 million in cash, labour and value.

“The vision was about diversifying economic activity and giving our national gemstone a world-class showcase, which can now happen as we have invaluable funding from three levels of government.

“This is a major project that was never going to happen overnight, and after the disappointment of delaying the project due to COVID setbacks there is now renewed commitment and resolve within the community – it’s been an incredible journey,” she said.

“Putting construction on hold at the end of 2021 was like putting it into an induced coma to survive the impacts of the pandemic.

“We’re so glad for our community and funding partners that we’re now about to deliver this brilliant, long-anticipated project for regional NSW and Australia,” Ms Brammall said.

The tender process for the Australian Opal Centre has recommenced and a builder is expected to be appointed in April.

Stage 1 of the new Australian Opal Centre is expected to be open in 2024.

It is funded by the Australian government, the NSW government’s Regional Growth - Environment and Tourism Fund, Walgett Shire Council and the centre’s founders and supporters.

Anyone wanting to join the register for local and regional subcontractors, suppliers and workers on the project can download a registration form from the home page at


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