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“I’m not a wealth person, but by becoming an AOC Founder shows I believe in the project and I want to see it happen.”

Leigh Black
$10,000 AOC Founder

Full-time Registered Nurse and part-time Lightning Ridge resident, Leigh Black, has a close familial connection with the Australian Opal Centre thanks to daughter, and former AOC President, Rebel Black who, like her mother, is a proud AOC Founder. Leigh, who now works in the Pilbara Western Australia, details below why she supports the Australian Opal Centre as a way to give back to the community and also to the future of rural Australia.

“I started contributing to the Australian Opal Centre (AOC) very quietly in different ways in the past and I’ve had fun doing so. We’ve had some great nights making small amounts of money for a project that’s really enormous. But the AOC Founders campaign appealed to me because I am able to put in a bulk sum of money. I’m not a wealthy person, but by becoming an AOC Founder shows I believe in the project and I want to see it happen. I also want my grandchildren to be able to visit it.

I first became aware of the AOC because my daughter Rebel Black is married to a Lightning Ridge miner and was the president for many years. When Rebel first moved to Lightning Ridge I wasn’t particularly interested in opal, but after she relocated I became more fascinated with the whole story of opal. I enjoy the tales of those hard working men and women who find such a treasure in what is, to an outsider’s eye, pretty forbidding-looking country.

After visiting a number of times, I went out to Lightning Ridge as a remote area nurse for a six-week contract but ended up staying for 14 years. Although I raised my family in the Coonabarabran area, and it’s our family heartland, I have got to know and love the Lightning Ridge area and its multicultural community. Now I alternate between there, the Pilbara and lots of places in between!

I support the AOC for future generations. I see young people in remote areas who may not realise the opportunity they have. They have the potential to have free and interesting childhoods but can also add a broader story to their lives other than staying and working in the one community. Something like the AOC will be an amazing thing to build out in that beautiful landscape. I think it would give any child a vision you can grow something amazing out of very little, with imagination and collaboration.

It will also be a fantastic platform for appreciation and understanding of opal - not just how it’s formed, but the whole opal story. It is a gem that I didn’t grow up knowing about. I like to see kids really understand what can lie beneath the soil. I’m in the Pilbara now and there are some amazing metals found there, all sorts of things they’re only just starting to tap. Our land is an incredibly rich source of wealth for our country, whether you believe in mining or not. But my heart’s in opal because it’s just so beautiful. The colours of it are the colours of our country.

The AOC represents a huge opportunity for Lightning Ridge and other opal producing locations. People are fascinated by opal. I’ve been fortunate enough to travel quite a bit and I regularly wear my opal earrings to work and say ‘that’s where I come from, my place I connect to’. There’s a whole swag of Western Australians who don’t know enough about opal, but they find it so beautiful when you show them. I think that will be true for many people around the country. There’s a real beauty and uniqueness in the places that produce opal.

The potential for tourism is untapped through rural Australia and is very much needed to improve socio-economic outcomes. The AOC will bring in more cash from the visitor economy and also have a very positive impact on services in Lightning Ridge and the towns along the way. I’ve been a tour operator in the past and I know that people want to visit a destination; Lightning Ridge is incredibly well placed to be the very best of destinations. My family, when much younger, road tripped to the Stockman’s Hall of Fame in Longreach and although it was a long drive, it was worth it as it was an amazing destination. As could the AOC be in Lightning Ridge - and another reason to visit this colourful community.

I’d encourage people to become AOC Founders as, besides it being an amazing building and concept designed by leading architects, it’s a feel good thing to do. If you give money to anything that you can see a vision for, or you can see there’s going to be a good outcome, it’s worthwhile. As a nurse I’m in the business of trying to make people feel better and change lives. It adds to that ethos and is certainly a way of giving back to the community as well. The Lightning Ridge community did a lot for me and continues to nurture my family today. It’s an amazing community, the community of opal.”

If you’d like to join Leigh 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!