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Mice Net : August 2008
LEFT: The stylish foyer area. BELOW: Fireworks by howardsfireworks.com.au OPPOSITE: A night to remember at the gala opening. A high energy 10-minute laser show featuring a performance artist who used laser projection from around the room and under his feet to remarkable effect was a big winner. The use of a Channel Nine “celebrity” as MC proved less than an inspired choice, but comedian Fiona O’Loughlin, the haunting indigenous music of Geoffrey Yunupingu and the effervescence of headline act Vanessa Amorosi provided proof positive that Darwin could put on a party with the best of them. The DCC is being operated by AEG Ogden, who currently have responsibility for the Brisbane Convention Centre, the Cairns Convention Centre and an increasing portfolio of centres in the Middle East, Asia and India. The centre comprises a 1500-seat auditorium which is divisible into two sound proofed areas. The design allows the auditorium to open out directly into the four exhibition halls, to a total of 4000sq metres. There are a further 12 function rooms, all with good access for audio-visual and catering services. The AV and catering is provided in-house. The DCC has secured a major conference in the 2009 Australasian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association (APPEA) conference, which will bring some 1300 delegates to town. The centre’s first major commercial event was a wedding reception for 1500, celebrating the wedlock of two of Darwin’s most prominent Greek families. The winter “dry” season is arguably the optimal time to visit Darwin and the DCC has plenty of space surrounding for pre-function drinks and smaller dinners overlooking the waterfront. Of course, it takes more than a convention centre to make a convention town and Darwin certainly has plenty to sell as a meetings destination. There’s a good supply of hotel accommodation, with more to come. The place has been booming economically in recent years and this has put some upward pressure on room rates. Meeting planners may well be advised to look at the “wet” season if they’re wanting rock bottom prices for their events. The locals all swear it’s the best time of year and that the build-up to the cooling afternoon electric storm is well worth experiencing. The Mindil Markets are a Darwin institution and operate during the dry months of May to October. Some 250 stalls are usually in place on the lawns adjacent to Mindil Beach, where thousands gather for a usually magnificent sunset. Then it’s time to high foot it to the stalls where Darwin’s enormously multi-cultural community offers a seemingly endless array of fine fare – Thai-oysters, Philippine chicken, Sri Lankan curries, salt & pepper squid, French-style crepes, sushi and much more. Conference groups can have tables set up and delegates issued with “Mindil Money” which they can spend on food, drinks or the arts and crafts on offer. There’s live music and it’s one place where locals and visitors can easily share space. Darwin’s newest attraction is Crocosaurus Cove, an extraordinary place in the dead centre of town where Australia’s largest live reptile collection can be observed. There are a number of large tanks where huge live saltwater crocodiles are on display. The operators plan to make areas available for group bookings. I toured the complex before it was complete, but from what I saw, it’s going to be quite exceptional and a must for any visitor to Darwin. If anything demonstrates the Top End’s “can-do” attitude, this is it. mice.net 7