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“Whatever legacy you choose to leave, becoming an AOC Founder would be the best.”

Elaine and Stephen Raines
$10,000 AOC Founders 

When Elaine and Stephen Raines encountered the Australian Opal Centre and discovered what was afoot for this internationally significant project, they knew it was special and something they wanted to be a part of. Since that time, the couple, who have been involved in the Australian opal industry since 1988, have been ardent supporters, Elaine as a committee member and now as AOC Founders.

“We’ve been supporters of the Australian Opal Centre (AOC) for many years. We lived in Lightning Ridge for twenty years – prospecting, mining, cutting and selling opals. We love it. We moved there in 1988 with our three children, our youngest was just 6 months old. We stayed right through the 90s ,which was an absolute boom time with record prices for opal and strong mining teams with really good production that underpinned a buoyant industry.  We left Lightning Ridge in 2002 but travel to and from our favourite place frequently.

We had always heard good things about the AOC project.  We weren’t involved in it in the early days, as we had been out of the opal industry for a long time due to Elaine’s illness. We came back one year for the Opal Symposium and two of the speakers on the event timetable were Jenni Brammall, Manager of the AOC, and committee member Justine Buckley. 

Jenni’s presentation had us mesmerised. We were on the edge of our seats and looking at each other and thinking ‘this is it – what vision!’. Every opportunity we have had since hearing the presentation, we have tried to make a positive contribution. We helped implement the crowdfunding campaign and the committee know that we are willing to help at any time. There are just so many aspects of the AOC project that we love, from the Opal Vault and the Sustainable Building, to the fact it’s a game changing opportunity to future proof Lightning Ridge and the entire region.

We jumped at the opportunity to become Founders, as it was really important to us to validate the things we say regarding this project. We have been huge supporters of it, and spoken to people at every opportunity to promote the project, to encourage them to dig deep. We really felt if we didn’t put “my money where my mouth is” we would have had to shut up about it. We were very proud the day we pulled that form out, took that step and backed what we said.

Lightning Ridge is a wonderful cohesive community and we’re proud to have raised our children there; it was one of the best places for kids to grow up. Young people raised in Lightning Ridge seem to punch above their weight, no matter who they are. When you look around the town now, you can see the young people stepping up to the plate and providing the expert knowledge needed for this great tourist/mining town. 

With the AOC built, Ridge Kids can go to university, study business, marketing, museum management, palaeontology – any field of study will be utilised with this amazing facility in Lightning Ridge. And traineeships – there should be traineeships galore! Live and raise a family and make a positive contribution in their own home town..It’s the type of transition planning and future proofing the entire region needs.

For the opal industry to be sustainable and to guarantee production, it’s important to underpin the lifestyle of the residents. Every miner that’s out there digging dirt to find opal is, by default, working for a person who’s a trader in the industry. We’d hope those in the industry that rely on steady production would be visionary and not want the miners to have a lower standard of living that goes hand in hand with a lack of opportunity. The AOC will bring new opportunities for everyone in the opal industry and subsequently, more money into Lightning Ridge.

This is important because, not that long ago, the opal industry suffered from a downturn. We had a drop in opal prices and a retraction in the number of miners. Fortunately, a lot of miners could work in coal mining to bring wages back to the town. It’s great we’re on the up again; in fact, the boom/bust cycle is normal, it’s organic, it’s supposed to be like that, but the AOC will definitely smooth out some of the peaks and troughs and minimise hardship.  

On a national level, the AOC is important because of all the spinoffs that will come from the business and community that will evolve from it. You’ve actually got something to say to the sustainable Australia model. Most of our population is on the Eastern Seaboard and, although there are pockets of prosperity in the west, we want prosperity spread around and we think this project is going to do that. It might just show that, like in America, it’s possible to have vibrant smaller towns in our nation, not just major cities.

It’s a little known fact that Elaine is a fan of Earthships, which is a building style that is sustainable. We think every building should be built to protect us from hot weather. We have made errors in populating western regions that experience extreme weather conditions by having a poor thermal mass in the buildings. That’s probably why there aren’t more people living out here. We need to do more of the type of development and construction that is wrapped in the cool of the earth, like the new AOC building. Then we’d have a lovely place to live.

Whatever legacy you choose to leave, becoming an AOC Founder would be one of the best. When people grow and nurture things around them, part of the thinking behind that is legacy. Whether it’s your garden, a beautiful home, whatever you’re building. We really struggle to find a greater legacy to leave, than making a contribution to this project. It’s a game changer for regional areas in every state of Australia.

If you put $10,000, $30,000, $50,000 or more into this project you will multiply your money for sure. There is money to be made if you’re ready for it. Opal businesses should be major donors as it’s a fantastic thing to underpin the future of our industry. No one knows what’s going to happen in the gemstone industry but we can be certain that black opal from Lightning Ridge is, and always will be, rare and valuable.  

The Australian Opal Centre is a game changer and it gives us all a bit of surety. You’re not giving money away, you’re investing in your own future, your own livelihood, and your own workforce.”

If you’d like to join Elaine and Stephen as an AOC Founder, please click here for a Founders Brochure and Application Form. For more information contact Olivia Ward by calling 0400 225 751 or emailing founders@australianopalcentre.com. We look forward to hearing from you!