Plans are in place to make the Australian Opal Centre in Lightning Ridge, NSW, as spectacular as the stone it represents.

Story By Mandy McKeesick

It doesn’t look like much – just a big hole in the ground – but this excavation on the original opal fields at Lightning Ridge, NSW, represents the ambitious plans of the Australian Opal Centre. The centre has been in existence for nearly a decade, promoting opal from a small showroom tucked away on the outskirts of the main street. Now plans are in motion to transform it into something as spectacular as the stone it represents. The vision is for “a unique national centre renowned worldwide for its architecture, its opal and fossil collection and its celebration of outback Australian mining culture” and it is here, in this most eccentric of Australian towns, the dream is being given wings.
Two of the main drivers behind the Australian Opal Centre are president Rebel Black and manager Jenni Brammall. Rebel believes there is no better place than The Ridge to make the project a reality. “No-one’s ever told me ‘no’ here, and lots of people have big dreams they make real,” she says as she stops her car at the local swimming pool. “Look at this diving facility – it’s Olympic standard, the best outside Sydney, and the USA Junior Diving Team was here recently to train. It’s the perfect example of the people of Lightning Ridge making something happen.” Jenni matches Rebel’s exuberance. A palaeontologist by training, she has found herself in nature’s wonderland at Lightning Ridge. “Here we have the world’s rarest gemstone coinciding with fossils – and they’re made of opal,” she says. “It’s crazy.”

This Story is from Issue #96

Outback Magazine: Aug/Sep 2014