The Dilemma – What can be done with previously abandoned Heritage locations like Mintaro Mansion?

There is a widespread recognition amongst savvy property investors that Heritage listed properties can offer excellent returns – given the right circumstances. At one stage investors would simply allow a property to further deteriorate then call the demolition team when the building became unsalvageable. The current Victorian Government introduced laws to prevent this practice. These days Heritage Victoria will serve a works order on the owner. If the works are not carried out within a certain time, then a further order for works will be contracted by Heritage Victoria and the owner must cover the cost.

It is a somewhat tricky proposition purchasing a run-down and dilapidated mansion. The asking price will be substantial. Let’s take a look at Mintaro, an Italianate mansion with intact outbuildings – stables, workshops, butchery, etc, but definitely a faded beauty. The asking price in 2012 was set at $3 million. Bids at Auction reached $2.85 million. It was soon sold privately for an undisclosed sum, and then… nothing. The new owners did nothing to repair or restore the mansion and its accompanying outbuildings. It was back on the market by 2015.

This is no ordinary building. It is a living rendition of the pastoral elegance of the times. As part of John Pascoe Faulkner’s original ‘run’, the land was subdivided and sold in 1860 to a Captain Robert Gardiner, who made his fortune through shipping, whaling, gold mining and grazing. Gardiner commissioned well-known Melbourne Architect James Gall to design a new residence fit for a man of his status.

In 1881 the grand mansion Mintaro was completed. The superb interiors were designed by a German artist MR W Brettschneider. Gardiner died in 1890 and the building was sold to the Methodist Church, but more about that later.


From the Victorian Heritage Register…


Description Summary

The Mintaro homestead is a two storey rendered brick Italianate building with a two-storey loggia running across the front and a part way along two sides. The entrance porch on the north side has free-standing Doric columns and is surmounted by an impressive three storey tower with a belvedere. The two storey service wing to the west is lower and simpler in form. The elaborate and remarkably intact interiors are notable for their variety of surviving original finishes, including hand painted and printed wall and ceiling papers, painted stencilling and wood graining. Elaborate plaster mouldings and ceiling roses are present in many rooms as are marble fireplaces, light fittings, venetians, curtain rails and door and window furniture. All the plasterwork and joinery is marbled, wood-grained, gilded, stencilled or hand-painted and these are integral elements of the overall decorative schemes. All the different elements have been very creatively combined into interior schemes, with each room presenting a unified, richly decorative whole. The spectacular entrance hall features fluted Scagliola columns and Minton encaustic tiles. Opening off the entrance hall are the former drawing room, dining room, morning room and library, all with marble fireplaces and elaborate and largely intact decorative schemes. Three of the four large bedrooms upstairs retain their original wallpapers, with beautifully matched schemes with botanical and classical themes. Other notable intact areas are an original bathroom and a butler’s pantry. Outbuildings comprise a small brick detached toilet, a brick stable and coachhouse, a woolshed and another shed which was once a working horse stable. The mansion is enclosed by a designed landscape providing a dense screen and windbreak on three sides. The original decorative gardens around the house have been largely lost, but the property retains a number of outstanding or rare species, including a very rare Ulmus ‘Viminalis’, Hesperocyparis benthamii, Hesparocyparis macnabiana, Pinus roxburghii, and six Juniperus virginiana, all only known in a few other locations.


This site is part of the traditional land of the Wurundjeri people.

How is it significant?

Mintaro satisfies the following criterion for inclusion in the Victorian Heritage Register:

  • Criterion A Importance to the course, or pattern, of Victoria’s cultural history
  • Criterion B Possession of uncommon, rare or endangered aspects of Victoria’s cultural history
  • Criterion D Importance in demonstrating the principal characteristics of a class of cultural places and objects
  • Criterion E Importance in exhibiting particular aesthetic characteristics


Why is it significant?

Mintaro is significant at the State level for the following reasons:

Mintaro is an outstanding and largely intact example of the mansions constructed in Victoria in the 1880s during the colony’s Boom period. It reflects the prosperity of the colony at the time, and the money that wealthy individuals were prepared to spend to demonstrate their success. (Criterion A)


Mintaro is a rare and relatively intact surviving example of a Boom period mansion with an intact interior decorative scheme. Interiors at this time were extremely elaborate, but intact surviving examples are rare. Mintaro is one of the few houses where the original or early fabric of the decorative schemes for entire rooms survives and is still visible. Notable features include the variety of painted finishes such as stencilling, marbling and wood graining, intact wall and ceiling papers, original gas light fittings, door furniture, tiles and window dressings. The presence of intact cabinetry and decorative schemes for functional and servants’ areas such as the bathroom and butler’s panty is also rare. (Criterion B)


The Mintaro planting features several trees rarely cultivated in Victoria. The Ulmus ‘Viminalis’ which is unusually grafted at about 2m, is one of only four known examples in Victoria, the other three all being in the Benalla Botanical Gardens. The perimeter windbreak around the property includes the rarely grown Hesperocyparis benthamii, Hesparocyparis macnabiana, Pinus roxburghii, and six Juniperus virginiana, all only known in a few other locations. The large number of Juniperus is unknown in any other planting in Victoria. The variety, size and maturity of species of Quercus, Ulmus, Photinia, Morus, Crataegus, Laurus, Pinus, Cupressus and Hesperocyparis, Cedrus, Araucaria and Sequoiadendron are significant. (Criterion B)


Mintaro is an outstanding and intact example of a Boom period country mansion, and demonstrates the principal features of such houses, which were designed to demonstrate the status of their owners. They were typically were two-storeyed, in a Classical style, most often with a tower, had a picturesque form with asymmetric massing and planning, and elaborately decorated interiors. (Criterion D)

The intact decorative schemes are rare surviving and outstanding examples of the highest level of interior decoration available in Victoria in the 1880s. The designs, colour schemes and textures of the original materials and artwork provide a rare opportunity to experience the elaborate aesthetics of 1880s interiors. (Criterion E)


The Mintaro homestead complex sits within an outstanding designed landscape created from 1881 to the 1920s. The serpentine avenue of Monterey Pine along the driveway is entered through decorative gates and sweeps through an extensive parkland and dense perimeter planting. The perimeter planting is laid out to create an internal scalloped edge and includes a large variety of conifers and a few broadleaf and deciduous trees of contrasting foliage and colour. (Criterion E)


Mintaro is also significant for the following reasons, but not at the State level:

Mintaro is of local significance for its association with one of the prominent early landowners in the area, Captain Robert Gardiner, who owned Mintaro from 1860 until 1885 and with the architect James Gall. (Criterion H)



You can view the interior as it was photographed recently here…

The second purchase in 2015 has seen some progress. The new owners restored and replaced the majority of the sash windows, provided maintenance, painted internally to protect the building and its finish from further deterioration.


The old mansion has been used as a visual backdrop for TV series such as Dr Blake, The Broken Shore and Glitch.


Still unrestored, the old building was described in June 2019 as beautiful but derelict.


“A rendered brick Italianate building with a 2 storey loggia running across its front and partway along two sides. The entrance porch on the north side has free standing Doric columns and is surmounted by an impressive 3 storey tower with a belvedere. It still retains its landscaped grounds which are considered outstanding, with very rare trees still in place.”

Mintaro ‘hit the skids’ from 1903 when purchased by the Methodist Church as a Reformatory Home for Girls. It operated as such from 1903 until 1912. Very little was remodelled or changed by the Church. It was again purchased by a Dr Crivelli as a family home. Sold again to the Rea Family in 1934, it remained in their hands until 2012.

And there it sits, waiting for a new suitor. 2012 until now, very little has been done.

In England, the key Heritage organisation runs a lottery. It uses the profits to purchase and restore Heritage buildings such as Mintaro. This historic building is in dire need of attention. Let’s just hope it soon receives it. In our view, buildings like Mintaro require significant investment upon purchase. Perhaps as a pre-requirement to purchase, buyers should be required to provide a strategic restoration plan.

What do you think? Should the State Government invest in preserving Heritage properties like Mintaro? We’d like to think so – til next week.

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Balance Architecture recognises the importance of the preservation of Historical Architecture. We specialise in the renovation and restoration of Heritage Buildings.

Legal Process halves Corkman Cowboys Fines on appeal.

The developers who demolished the Corkman Irish Pub in Carlton have now had their Magistrates Court fines for both the demolition (brought by the City of Melbourne and State Government in Melbourne Magistrates Court), and the dumping of asbestos in a paddock in Cairnlea (brought by the EPA in Sunshine Magistrates Court) halved.


Let’s not gloss over the gravity of these actions. First, the demolition of one of Carlton’s oldest remaining heritage listed buildings under the noses of Council inspectors demanding the process cease, then the dumping of dangerous waste in a highly populated suburban neighbourhood, are both heinous transgressions of our accepted laws.


The historic pub, in the inner-Melbourne suburb of Carlton, was knocked down in October 2016


The Corkman developers were represented by a very well known SC (Barrister) who is a leading legal advisor to many developers. The County Court Judge can only be guided by the letter of the law, not emotion. As such considering all factors, he has halved the fine.

This case demonstrates dramatically it is now time for a complete restructuring and for newer more appropriate regulations to be enacted and scheduled to protect Heritage buildings and overlays.

It is also time for Government to intervene in this case. It is high time that an appropriate precedent was set to ensure such vandalism never happens again without major punitive consequences. It would be appropriate in this case for the Government to enforce a compulsory acquisition of the property, preferably at Market Value pre demolition, deducting all fines and costs from the sale price. Alternatively, purchase the vacant land at land value as of the time of demolition, deduct all fines and costs from the sale price then build a memorial park to remind all that such travesties will not ever be tolerated again.

The next move on the part of Minister Wynne and the Planning Department will be immensely important. The Corkman Developers are significantly ‘cashed up’ and demonstrate a propensity to utilise legal subterfuge to slow down and subvert any punitive actions. If the Government can make amendments to its planning schedule and strategy to suit locations such as Booroondara, what’s to stop them putting a similar amendment through on this issue? – The ‘Corkman Amendment’.

Whatever happens, it’s imperative that these Developers are significantly financially disadvantaged by any sanctions applied by Government. It is ‘the’ test case as to the credibility of Richard Wynne as a Minister and the ability of his planning Department to control rampant uncontrolled development that is entirely at the expense of our Heritage.

Here is the article from Friday’s Age…

Fines cut in half for developers who demolished Corkman pub

The developers who illegally knocked down Carlton’s Corkman hotel have had their penalties for the demolition cut in half by the County Court from almost $2 million to $1.1 million.

The state opposition has demanded the Andrews government compulsorily acquire the site and also appeal Friday’s decision. Planning spokesman Tim Smith said the decision let “these cowboy developers get away with the heist of the century”.

Raman Shaqiri and Stefce Kutlesovski in October 2016 bowled over the historic Corkman Irish Pub without planning or building permission.

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Developer Raman Shaqiri whose Shaq Demolitions razed the historic hotel

The pair bought the pub for $4.7 million in 2015. Savills state director Clinton Baxter said the empty site was now worth between $8 million and $10 million.

Having knocked down 80 per cent of the 159-year-old pub on a Saturday in October 2016, they were ordered to cease demolition that night by Melbourne City Council. They ignored the orders and finished off demolition works on Sunday.

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Stefce Kutlesovski, one of two developers who had his fine for demolishing the Corkman Hotel cut in half.

“The community was outraged by the audacious manner in which the hotel was demolished,” Judge Trevor Wraight said in his ruling on Friday morning.

“They made a commercial calculation,” Judge Wraight said, which would allow them to build a 12-storey tower on the site once the historic pub was gone.

“They weighed up the potential penalties … with the potential profit that would result from development of the site, before going ahead,” he said.

“Indeed, despite the litigation, delay, and any loss of reputation, ultimately, the development will go ahead.”

He found the men had displayed no remorse for the loss of heritage on Carlton.

The pair were appealing fines levelled against them by the magistrates in Sunshine and Melbourne courts; they said the amounts they had been fined were too severe.

Judge Wraight agreed that the fines against the men by the Sunshine Magistrates Court, over charges brought by the Environment Protection Authority on asbestos dumping, had been “excessive”. So too were fines levelled against the men over charges brought against them by the Victorian Building Authority and Melbourne City Council on the illegal demolition.

He reduced the financial penalties from just under $2 million to $1.1 million.

The Environment Protection Authority, the Victorian Building Authority and Melbourne City Council – which had separately brought prosecutions against the two developers and their company – all said they were extremely disappointed by the decision.

Opposition planning spokesman Tim Smith called on the Andrews government to “appeal this decision which sends entirely the wrong message to the industry”.

Screen Shot 2019-09-09 at 2.29.39 pm.jpg

The rubble of the Corkman Irish Pub the day after it was illegally demolished.

He said Planning Minister Richard Wynne must also respond to calls from the Opposition and Melbourne University urban geographer Dr Kate Shaw to compulsorily acquire the Corkman site.

Mr Smith said this would mean “these cowboys do not profit from their unlawful behaviour”.

Mr Wynne has previously said compulsory acquisition would require the government to buy the site “at the market rate for its highest and best use” – which would see “taxpayer’s money to pay top dollar directly to these developers, which is hardly a just outcome”.

Both Dr Shaw and Mr Smith question whether this is in fact true.

Two weeks after the Corkman was demolished, Mr Wynne launched legal proceedings to force Shaqiri and Kutlesovski to “replicate the site immediately prior to demolition” if they wanted to redevelop.

“Any application for a permit for buildings and works on the site will require the restoration and reconstruction of the [pub] in its entirety in the form it was in prior to demolition,” he said.

But in May this year, Mr Wynne backed down and allowed the site to be developed with a tower on it up to 12 levels high, in return for the remaining wreckage there being cleared and turned temporarily into a park.

On Friday, Mr Wynne labelled Shaqiri and Kutlesovski “cowboy developers” and said the demolition had been “unforgivable and the community has a right to be outraged by it”.

He said the government would review the court decision and look “at what options are available to government”.

He said the government would not compulsorily acquire the site because it “would mean using taxpayer’s money to pay top dollar directly to the developers, which is hardly a just outcome”.

In 2017 in direct response to the Corkman demolition, Mr Wynne brought in tough new laws ramping up penalties for anyone who demolishes a heritage property.

Shaqiri, 37, was not in court on Friday; he did not attend last month’s court hearing because he was in Spain getting married. Kutlesovski, 43, declined to comment after the court case finished.


From the ABC…

During sentencing, Judge Wraight acknowledged the public anger the demolition had caused, but said it was up to Parliament to increase the penalties available.

“The community was outraged at the audacious manner in which the hotel was demolished by the owners without any consultation with the community,” Judge Wraight told the court.


Raman Shaqiri (pictured) and Stefce Kutlesovski organised to have the pub hastily demolished on a weekend.

“It may be that the community — and possibly the sentencing magistrates in this instance — regard the available maximum penalties in relation to this conduct as inadequate.

“However, unless and until Parliament increases the penalties available, courts are bound by the prescribed penalty and must sentence in accordance with the proper sentencing principle.”
Developers made ‘commercial calculation’

Judge Wraight said he found there was little evidence of genuine remorse on behalf of Mr Shaqiri and Mr Kutlesovski.

“It was their decision alone to demolish the hotel,” Judge Wraight said.

“They made a commercial calculation and weighed up the potential penalties that they would face as a result of the deliberate breach of the law, with the potential profit that would result from development of the site, before going ahead.

“They clearly made that decision with forethought and planning as they needed to organise large machinery and employees to hastily bring down the hotel over the weekend.”

The chief executive of the Victorian Building Authority, Sue Eddy, said the authority was extremely disappointed in the outcome and the decision did not lessen the developers’ guilt.

“[The developers] did not have a building permit, had not applied for a building permit, and took it upon themselves to carry out dangerous demolition work without any regard to the state and local laws,” she said.

“With the building industry currently under intense scrutiny, it is vitally important to send a clear signal to all builders and developers that the VBA — and the community — will not tolerate illegal building work of any kind.”

“The VBA is concerned that today’s outcome promotes non-compliance as an optional cost of doing business for those who flout the rules.”


The pub was known as the Carlton Inn Hotel in 1957

The Environment Protection Authority (EPA) fined the developers $7,500 in 2016, after it discovered some of the rubble had been found at a construction site at Cairnlea, in Melbourne’s north-west.

The developers were told they could not remove the debris because it contained asbestos and were ordered to cover it.

The chief executive of the EPA, Cathy Wilkinson, said she was disappointed with the reduced penalty.

“We believed this was a clear-cut case that showed blatant disregard for the environment and the community and deserved a substantial penalty,” she said in a statement.

“As the Judge found, this was a case where experienced developers knew better and showed little remorse for their actions and the community are right to feel aggrieved.”


Planning Minister Richard Wynne has said the Andrews Government would be reviewing the court decision and would consider changes to the law.

“Let’s make no mistake here, what these cowboy developers did is unforgivable and the community is outraged by it. If the current legislation does not meet community expectations we will strengthen it.”

Amen to that. Don’t leave it too long!

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Balance Architecture recognises the importance of the preservation of Historical Architecture. We specialise in the renovation and restoration of Heritage Buildings.

Heritage Listed Home Demolished in Hawthorn

Unfortunately, this is getting to be a recurring theme. The current legislation permits builders and developers holding an existing building permit to demolish properties with interim Heritage orders. The legislation being utilised is a State Government amendment to its planning scheme specific to Booroondara – Amendment C299.

Booroondara provides the setting for the perfect storm. Large blocks, older homes and developers with deep pockets. The situation is simple, Booroondara Council’s Planning Department has previously issued Demolition permits on older homes – all over 100 years old – in particular this one at 368 Auburn Rd which was 130 years old. The home demolished is directly opposite Currajong House, which was saved by Government intervention by Minister Wynne in May this year. Currajong House is 135 years old. Booroondara applied a Heritage Overlay application to stall demolition but in reality unless it can rescind its demolition permits (which without great expense it can’t), then the only avenue to protect such homes now covered by interim Heritage protection was for the Minister and his department to intervene.

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Currajong House

From the outside, there would appear to be some shortfalls in action by the Booroondara Council. Surely being aware of the demolition permits issued against Heritage properties with interim protection, there needs to be a co-operative response with both Council and the State Government Planning Department, the Minister and the full Council Chamber or Booroondara working together to protect these beautiful and historic homes.

Tim Smith the Member for Kew is the Shadow Minister for Planning. Booroondara is in fact located within very safe Liberal Party seats, and the Council is very much cast in the same mould. Time to stop politicking and get down to preserving the rich heritage of the area. These homes are irreplaceable and form a very rich and visible link to our past. It is a tragedy to see them being demolished to build nondescript blocks of apartments.

As we have stated here over and over, it is high time that the State Government, Local Government, the Victorian Heritage Council, the National Trust and other legitimately qualified parties get together and create a Heritage plan based on today’s values, not those of the 1970s, ‘80s or ‘90s. So much is now gone. Let’s protect what remains for posterity and the fabric of our city and State.

Here is a report from the Age dated September 1st 2019…

‘Irrevocably wrecked’: Fury as another old house razed

A “bizarre’’ loophole created by the state government in a local council’s planning scheme is being blamed for the demolition of a Victorian-era house in Hawthorn.

The 130-year-old brick house was razed last week to make way for 14 apartments, despite being the subject of an interim heritage order.

The City of Boroondara, the National Trust and locals now say they fear the destruction of other heritage buildings under an amendment introduced by the state in 2018.

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A bulldozer moves in on 368 Auburn Road, Hawthorn, on Friday

Amendment C299 allows property owners with an existing building permit to demolish buildings, despite interim heritage orders.

The City of Boroondara says it is the only council to have the amendment.

The controversial amendment is now at the centre of a stoush over who is responsible for reducing a building of heritage value to a pile of rubble.

Opponents say the state’s amendment – and its subsequent failure to intervene in the demolition – enabled the destruction of the double-fronted brick house at 368 Auburn Road.

But the state government argued that councils were responsible for heritage and it was the City of Boroondara that issued the home’s owner with a demolition permit in July 2018.

The state claims that following local outcry, the council then put a heritage overlay on the property in April this year, knowing that it would be trumped by the demolition permit.

“If the council was serious about protecting this house, it would not have issued a demolition permit to knock it down last year,” Planning Minister Richard Wynne said.

The National Trust called on the state government to close what it termed a “bizarre’’ loophole in the Boroondara planning scheme that it said allowed protected places to be demolished.

National Trust CEO Simon Ambrose said homes granted interim heritage protection, which meant they were being considered for permanent protection, could be bulldozed if a demolition permit had been obtained before temporary protection was granted.

“Unless this loophole is closed, more houses will be lost,”’ he said.

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No. 368 shortly before its demolition.

The City of Boroondara said that due to the amendment, its hands were tied to prevent the demolition.

The council said in a statement that it also meant other houses in the precinct were at risk.

It said it was disappointed with the minister’s “lack of action to preserve heritage in the City of Boroondara”.

“The impact of this exemption cannot be understated as evidenced by [Friday’s] destruction of an identified heritage home,” it said.

In May, Mr Wynne intervened to stop demolition of 135-year-old Currajong House, across the road from 368 Auburn Road.

The state government said the council didn’t inform it about number 368’s impending demolition until bulldozers were moving on the house on Friday.

“The council has had ample opportunity to request state intervention, but instead has sat on its hands until bulldozers are out the front,” Mr Wynne said.

The council said the demolition order had been issued by a private building surveyor and it had campaigned for months to have the amendment removed.

Before the exemption, when an interim heritage overlay was introduced a planning permit would be required for demolition works.

Resident Christopher Blanden said he sent an email in February to the Planning Department, Mr Wynne and local MP John Kennedy, warning that the owner of the 1890s Victorian house had obtained a permit to demolish the building.

The letter called on the state government to revoke its amendment so that the owner couldn’t demolish the house without applying for a council planning permit.

Mr Blanden’s wife, Rose, said she feared “many, many beautiful houses across the whole of Boroondara can be demolished’’ under the amendment.

Mrs Blanden said it was vandalism that the “beautiful’’ house with established trees would be replaced by units she believed would be more suited to the Gold Coast.

Tim Smith, the member for Kew and the shadow minister for planning, said he was appalled as he witnessed the demolition.

“We can’t keep letting houses like that get destroyed, otherwise Melbourne will be irrevocably wrecked forever,” he said.

Mr Smith believes similar demolitions are inevitable “unless the planning amendment C299 is revoked” due to land values in Boroondara “and this government’s bizarre priorities when it comes to heritage”.

“They want to list the Eastern Freeway [for heritage protection], but they wouldn’t give a toss about a 130-year-old property in Hawthorn,” he said.


For opponents to such Heritage Overlays and Listings, they point out that they ‘own the property’ and ‘it’s their right to do what they please’. Under current legislation without a valid Heritage Listing or at least a valid interim Heritage protection order that trumps any demolition permit, they’re correct and there is not a thing anyone can do about it.

The contentious amendment C299 must be revisited to ensure Heritage protection is guaranteed whether in Booroondara or any other municipality. It is a deficiency in both planning policy, State legislation and Local Government building regulations.

Armidale, Kew, Hawthorn, Malvern, Black Rock, Beaumaris, Moonee Ponds, Toorak, Caulfield – the list continues to grow. It’s getting to a critical situation. Demolitions are occurring weekly.

[In the next week we will post Heritage Listing application forms on our website. It does require a good understanding of what is possible, but there are recent cases that demonstrate Community action can be successful, example the Albert Park campaign for No. 1 Victoria Ave.]


1 Victoria Avenue

Time for change. Time for both sides of politics to co-operate and look at the long term future and viability of Heritage Overlays, Listings and values within this State.

Heritage protection is for all now, but where it should really resonate is with future generations – they will surely thank us for our actions now if we can prevail upon the powers that be to act decisively.

“Heritage – protecting the past to enhance the future.”

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Balance Architecture recognises the importance of the preservation of Historical Architecture. We specialise in the renovation and restoration of Heritage Buildings.

Heritage Listing for Federation Square then we visit Maldon in Central Victoria.

Completed in 2002, Federation Square is the latest addition to the State’s Heritage Register.


“Federation Square is significant as a notable example of a public square. It is highly intact and its size and design illustrate the principal characteristics of a public square.” – Victorian Heritage Council statement on its decision to list the precinct.


So ends the ‘Apple Store’ debate and some sections of the Victorian Government’s efforts to demolish part of the square. Whilst you ponder the result – congratulations to the Heritage supporters, the National Trust and the City of Melbourne on the outcome – let us now take a wide diversion. We are heading to Central Victoria, to Maldon.

First visited by white colonialists in 1836 as part of Major Thomas Mitchell’s famous Victorian expedition, it was settled soon after by pastoralists who established two sheep runs at the foot of Mt Tarrangower. On one of these sheep runs, Cairn Curran, gold was discovered in 1853. This changed the area forever. The Goldfield was named ‘Tarrangower Fields’ after Mt Tarrangower now simply referred to as Tarrangower.


Maldon Courthouse

Maldon the town was officially gazetted by the Victorian Government in 1856. The town’s population fluctuated with the number of miners. In a census taken in 1861 there were 3341 permanent residents and over 5000-6000 miners in the area. Over the years this reduced by half by 1891 with only 1600 permanent inhabitants. Large quantities of quartz reef gold was retrieved in and around Maldon well into the 20th century.

Today, with a stable population of 1000 people, it is an interesting place to visit. In all there are probably 1500 people resident in Maldon and its surrounding district. Maldon was named as Australia’s first notable town in 1966 by the National Trust of Victoria.

“The township displays overall historical and architectural importance, particularly in its gold town buildings. The significance lies in the variety of building styles, and the area of mining is of interest with one mine still open to the public. Maldon boasts that it is largely unchanged since the 1850s and has attracted considerable interest from Tourists for its 19th century atmosphere.”

Maldon has its own newspaper, the Tarrangower Times, first published in 1858 and is the oldest continually published newspaper in Victoria.

Maldon_Cemetery-uprightIt was gold that displaced the original indigenous people of the area, the Wemba Wemba people from their station near Mt Tarrangower in 1849. The immigrant miners were multicultural and included thousands of Chinese miners. Over 200 Chinese graves are still visible in the Maldon Cemetery and there is a special ‘Chinese oven’ where incense was burned in their honour.



Principal Architect for Balance Architecture, Andrew Fedorowicz, has a Maldon residence, Palm House. Andrew is very familiar with the buildings and architecture of the area. Please do not hesitate to contact him to seek assistance in renovation, restoration and heritage listing of your home or property. Andrew is passionate about Heritage architecture and has been engaged on many such projects both in Melbourne and throughout the Victorian Central Highlands – Ballarat, Daylesford, Kyneton, Castlemaine and Bendigo as well as many other smaller centres. Have no hesitation in calling Andrew on 0418 341 443 or leave your details here for a prompt reply [LINK].

There are many historic buildings still functioning and intact in Maldon. The Shire offices were built from the converted bluestone market building (1859) and opened in 1866.

The courthouse was constructed in 1861 and the post office in 1870.

You can pick up a brochure on the town’s historic buildings at the Information centre, located opposite the Shire’s offices in High St at the Maldon Visitor’s Centre. But! – don’t do it for the two weeks from today – the building is closed for renovations!

For a more contemporary view of Maldon and the attractions of living there, here is a recent article from Domain.

Escape to Maldon, Victoria: ‘There is absolutely not a traffic light’


It’s Australia’s first notable town and a delightfully preserved piece of Gold Rush history. Close to Castlemaine and Bendigo, the scenic town of Maldon is flourishing and attracting artists, the semi-retired, foodies and families.

Population: 1513, as at the 2016 Census.

Who lives here?

Kareen Anchen, the gallery director of Cascade Art, first made the move to the area with her husband around 20 years ago.

“We loved it,” she said. “We’ve always just loved Maldon village.


“Maldon attracts … that sort of foodie,” she said, with residents keen on quality food, quality wine and quality experiences – just a good quality of life, generally.

She has noticed plenty of tree-changers and new families, as well as retirees and the people with small businesses, who could “pick and choose how to run their lives”, who found the town a good place to get away from the rat race.

Rebecca Haack, from Portia & Co on the main street, bought a property two years ago which she now runs as a short-stay accommodation business.

She also opened her store about nine months ago, splitting her time between Melbourne and Maldon, and has met several people in town who have moved there in the past five to 10 years.

“I feel like there’s an established community, as well as new people moving in,” she said. “It feels like a nice balance.”

Ms Haack said Maldon was also drawing “pre-retirees” – people still working part-time and commuting to Melbourne, or working from home.

“Whatever it is, they’re still working,” she said. “But changing lifestyles, maybe downsizing.”

Valentina Tansley, from Tansley and Co, is also a part-timer, settling on Maldon when looking for a weekender with the plan “eventually morphing into a business venture”.

“Look, I really like it! I think there’s a bit of a perception that it’s full of retirees,” she said. “But there’s young kids too, and there’s great opportunity for multi-generational community stuff.”


What happens here?

The Maldon Folk Festival in November is a huge drawcard, as is the Maldon Twilight Dinner in January. Plenty of people also come out for the Maldon Markets, which sells local products and is held on the second Saturday of every month.

“There are lots of events, all organised by different people,” Ms Haack said. “It is wonderful, because it spreads the load, but it brings a bit of a buzz.”

“There are heaps of events in town,” said Ms Tansley. As soon as the weather warmed up, she said, the events season kicked off – a carols by candlelight in the park, an antiques and collectables fair in February and a massive four-day Easter fair for families like hers to enjoy.

“Getting out of the city and experiencing all these different activities is really rewarding,” she said.

Aside from the bigger shindigs, the Kangaroo Hotel and Maldon Hotel regularly host live music, and the town is also home to active football, netball, golf and bowling clubs.


What’s life like here?

Maldon ticks along as a country town, with the change of seasons clearly delineated – it is somewhere it could actually snow in winter.

Weekdays are bit more leisurely and the weekends busier with tourists, with a crowd arriving on the steam train on Sundays.

“It’s gentle, slow,” said Ms Haack. “During the week, it’s locals or people from the surrounding area, doing their shopping and their banking.

“While it’s a tourist town, it still has its own population, its own heartbeat, whether the tourists are coming or not.”

The heritage buildings give the town a particular, striking charm, and many residents are keen gardeners, creating “that contrast of European gardens against the more rustic bush,” Ms Anchen says.

“It has a fairly intact streetscape in the main street, people really love it. There’ll never be neon flashing lights here. It’s not the city, it’s the country!”

The town also had a strong artistic community, Ms Anchen said, with her gallery and shows attracting plenty of local support.

“There’s so many artists in this region, it’s so rich. Hobby artists and amazing professional artists,” she said. “In that sense we’re a bit spoilt for choice, in terms of who to exhibit.”


What jobs are here?

Long-time local Rob Waller, from Waller Realty, said many of Maldon’s full-time residents worked in health or education, often in the sort of role where they could go into the city for a bit, and work from home for the rest of the time.

“A lot of people will buy a property and do the last five or 10 years of their working career split-living,” he said. “It gives them an opportunity to put their roots down and get a feel for the area.”

Ms Anchen said small businesses really benefited from the tourist trade, with Maldon on the route between Bendigo and Ballarat.

“And also Daylesford,” she added. “They come across for a day trip.”

Visitors were also drawn by the chance to ride in the Victorian Goldfields Rail, a stream train service connecting Castlemaine and Maldon.

While the town is home to Melbourne part-time commuters – it’s a bit too far for a Monday-to-Friday job – the bigger centre of Castlemaine with its food manufacturing industry was only 20 minutes’ drive away, while Bendigo was about a 40-minute trip.


Why should you move here?

“I think it’s that thing of having really old buildings as a beautiful backdrop,” Ms Anchen said. “It’s that bit of a special factor that makes Maldon work.”

Also, she said, people were “very, very, very friendly”, and locals worked together to enrich the town’s social fabric; and it was a well-serviced location.

“It has its own hospital, it has a really fantastic primary school; really fantastic shops and eateries,” she said, noting the town’s French Cafe in particular was going gangbusters.

Mr Waller agreed that the town was great for families and, while the internet connection was good, with the state forests surrounding the town there was plenty of opportunity to enjoy the great outdoors.

“And there is absolutely not a traffic light in Maldon,” he added. “It has that slow, village, country lifestyle, and a really good sense of community – that is what people look for in neighbourhoods.”

“I guess for us,” said Ms Tansley, “it was all about the facilities.”

With a supermarket, a couple of pubs, a butcher and a hospital, Maldon is much better catered for than some other small towns.

“It’s a really interesting, historical place,” she said, but added that practically, it was “really great”.

“You can go to the pub, you can see some music, you can buy supplies at the supermarket,” Ms Tansley said.

“You run out of milk, it’s three doors down. It’s a really nice village environment.”

It also felt pretty safe, she said. “It’s a small community, and people do tend to recognise each other.”

Ms Haack said Maldon was a nice distance from Melbourne – close but not too close – with surprisingly blue skies.

“People might think it’s cold, but it’s a beautiful climate,” she said. “There’s this amazing streetscape to wander through, and the location is great.

“It’s a beautiful, established community – and it is a community. I have been made very welcome.”


Towns like Maldon give a living appreciation of real heritage buildings, architecture and our rich and varied past. Country living is far more relaxed, quieter and closer to nature. To really appreciate it at its very best, call Balance Architecture now on 0418 341 443 and ensure you gain the very best in both lifestyle and heritage values for your home.

Or simply take a drive out to Maldon, have lunch at one of the hotels, cafés or restaurants then take a train ride on the Steamrail locomotive. It’s simply a beautiful little town.

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Balance Architecture recognises the importance of the preservation of Historical Architecture. We specialise in the renovation and restoration of Heritage Buildings.

Steamrail and the Heritage Listed Newport Railway Workshops and Museum Under Threat.

The State of Victoria was firmly established with the introduction of the Railways. Small, private companies running individual rail lines and routes were combined to form the Victorian Railways. And the epicentre of all rail activity up until the 1970s and ‘80s was the Newport Railway Workshops.


Ultimately, the Railway Workshops built the rolling stock, the Steam Engines, and serviced all locomotives. When the suburban system was electrified, the main works still occurred at Newport. The new Diesel Locomotives were also serviced and maintained there.


The Golden Age of Rail was essentially in the early 20th Century through to the 1950s and ‘60s. Luxury trains like the Spirit of Progress, the Daylight Express and the Overlander all departed from the former Spencer St Station, now known also as Southern Cross. The actual trains themselves – the steam engines, the saloon cars and carriages were all built at Newport. Newport currently houses the Railway Museum in Champion St Newport, with its incredible collection of Steam Locomotives, and Steamrail Victoria.

The Railways ensured that produce was shipped to the ports – Port Melbourne, Victoria Dock, Appleton Dock and other Melbourne locations (Williamstown, Yarraville). Provincial Ports located at Geelong, Portland, Warnambool, Hastings and other less known locations accepted grain, wool, timber and produce bound for the Northern Hemisphere. It was a massive system and represented the State’s biggest employer.

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Passenger Travel was the only means of movement for most of the population in earlier times with busy timetables enabling students, businesspeople, the sick and infirm and young families to travel to provincial cities throughout the State of Victoria and beyond. There were literally hundreds of stations servicing many obscure branch lines deep into regional Victoria.


Much of the original freight infrastructure has gone. Frankly none of it was very attractive, yet parts of the grand design still remain. The Spencer St Goods Yards are no more, the Electric Train Workshops in Batman are now an Art Gallery.

Many suburban Railyards have been sold off to developers. There are still intriguing buildings such as the Goods Shed on Docklands, the old Yard control tower down on Dudley St West Melbourne and many other unique and historical station buildings around Melbourne.


Goods Shed on Docklands

Newport Workshops and its huge parcel of land represent the last vestige of this great rail empire. Today it houses the historical working locomotives and rolling stock of Steamrail Victoria.


Dedicated Volunteers restore and maintain these beautiful old trains and provide the renowned Steamrail journeys for the public. “Riding living history in beautiful timber panelled carriages, many still with fantastic Edwardian pressed tinwork on the ceilings. up front is the real deal – a fully restored steam locomotive up to 127 years old – or a heritage Diesel dating from the 1950s ready to take you on your way.” – Steamrail website.


Victoria’s state railway agency, VicTrack, is refusing to guarantee the renewal of the Heritage Group’s lease, due to expire in 2020.

VicTrack has engaged Consultants to develop and oversee a ‘new strategy that includes the possible relocation of all trains, the workshops and rail groups.

Steamrail have stated that a shift to Regional Victoria will basically shut them down. Read about it here…

Heritage train groups fear wipe out from Newport rail yards


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Joe Kellett runs heritage rail group Steamrail Victoria in Newport. Credit:Eddie Jim

Perhaps you wouldn’t expect to find a Millennial restoring a century-old train at a Newport workshop for fun.

But Sam Barnes is one of several 20-something men and women volunteering at the historic rail workshops in Melbourne’s industrial west, soaking up the history of Victoria’s old steam locomotives and learning from their seniors how to take care of them.

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Vintage trains at Newport Credit:Eddie Jim

“There’s generational knowledge that you can’t pick up from a book,” 23-year-old Mr Barnes says.

“It’s a dying art”.

Mr Barnes is part of several self-funded rail preservation organisations operating out of the old Newport rail workshops for over 40 years.

The volunteers come on weekends, or before or after working shifts, to protect and restore the vintage stock without charge to the government.

But many fear that it will all come to an end, which would put a stop to the 60 days a year that members of the public can board the old trains as they run on the state’s railways.

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Victoria’s state railway agency VicTrack is refusing to guarantee the renewal of the heritage groups’ lease, which is due to expire next year.

VicTrack is reviewing the site, and has brought in consultants to oversee a new strategy, which includes the possible relocation of the trains and rail groups.

The heritage-listed workshops would not be relocated, the agency’s spokesman said.

“This work is ongoing, and no decisions have been made about the future of the Newport workshops at this time,” the spokesman said.

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Railway workshops, Newport Credit:State Library of Victoria

Joe Kellett, the chairman of the biggest rail heritage group Steamrail, says relocating to a regional area (which the groups believe is most likely) would force them to shut down.

Groups like Steamrail rely on volunteers to service the trains, but the bulk of these people live in the city and won’t travel to the country.

It would also cost double the price to run the trains on the railways if they are based in the country, he says.

The trains would have to do two extra trips, as most of their customers are from Melbourne.

“Our future would be very uncertain,” Mr Kellett says.

“We would probably have to end up curtailing the business or just go out of business.”

John Green, who heads up another heritage group called 707 Operations, says that he faces the same fate.

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Painters at Newport Workshops in 1973 put finishing touches on the Victorian Railways new luxury twinette carriage which will be operated with the Spirit of Progress train. Credit:The Age archives

“If we relocated to regional Victoria, we won’t exist,” he says.

VicTrack argues that as the government runs more train services, it will become increasingly difficult for the steam trains to depart from inner-city Newport.

However, rail experts have denied that this is a pressing problem.

The uncertainty hangs like a cloud over 23-year-old Mr Barnes, the rail enthusiast who showed up at the workshops a few years ago after moving from Sydney to offer his services.

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Jim Martin with Spirit of Progress’, 38 class in 1990. Credit:The Age archives

“Newport was built around these workshops,” he says, as we tour the cavernous sheds. “The inner west owes its history to these workshops.”

The Newport workshops, which opened in 1888, is not the only location in the state where old steam trains are stored, but it is certainly the biggest.

When constructed, it was the largest industrial centre in Victoria – the cutting-edge of new railway technology, where locomotives and carriages now at the Puffing Billy Railway were made.

It houses a navy blue steel carriage belonging to the Spirit of Progress, a steam locomotive built in 1937, fitted out with Art Deco seating booths, cast brass luggage racks and polished wood and glass sliding doors.

The train ran from Melbourne to Albury, and was the first fully air-conditioned train in the southern hemisphere.

Two stripes of yellow painted across the centre of the carriage were was once made out of 24 carat gold leaf.

“That’s how proud they were of this train,” Mr Barns beams.

Not far from the Spirit of Progress is a severe-looking black loco with polished brass and exposed copper, which used to belong to the Victoria’s railway commissioner, Mr Barns says.

This commissioner had his own sleeping quarters, a buffet dining area and separate quarters for the press and his minders.

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Spirit of Progress’ parlour coach  Credit:Economy & ingenuity

It’s a world away from the current commuter experience, which comes sharply into focus as 18 or so faulty and graffitied Metro train carriages lie at the edge of the workshop site.

The street artists have turned their cans away from the carefully restored locos, targeting only the newer stock.


There is a degree of cynicism and/or pragmatism here depending on your perspective. There is a huge land parcel involved, worth literally billions. However, before it could be sold for residential or commercial usage, it would require a massive expensive environmental clean-up.

The Steamrail group and the Railway Museum deserve Government funding. The sound of the steam train whistle echoing through the CBD is still amazing and the old trains have now formed part of our character.

The Heritage Victoria Statement of Significance can be read here. It is a very long document, one of the longest on their website.

The situation calls for clever compromise. This is no small part of Victoria’s history and it must be protected in some form and in an effective manner. Much of the overall site is neglected with detritus of the 1960s ’til the present bringing disrepute to the much older more important sites and facilities on the entire land lot. This requires intervention from Heritage Victoria, the Government’s Planning Department Heritage arm – it is non-negotiable. We cannot lose this site or these incredible old trains. This Heritage belongs to all of us – let’s fund it properly and protect it for posterity. Time to get on board.

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Balance Architecture recognises the importance of the preservation of Historical Architecture. We specialise in the renovation and restoration of Heritage Buildings.

Is your Heritage Project eligible for a Grant in 2020?

With significant Grants available through Victoria’s Heritage Restoration Fund, the Living Heritage Program (administered through the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning) as well as specific Grants from the City of Melbourne, the City of Yarra and the City of Ballarat dispensed by the Heritage Restoration Fund soon to be determined and announced, it’s timely to remind all those interested in Heritage and its protection to now prepare for the next round of grants available in 2020.

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Buda House, Castlemaine

Specifically it is a very sensible approach to engage a Heritage Architect to assist you or your organisation in pursuing such grants. To ensure your application will qualify, firstly visit and read over the ‘Assessment Criteria’ and ‘Online Application Checklist’ before starting your application. Each Municipality has slightly different criteria.

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Her Majesty’s Theatre, Ballarat

Where a qualified and experienced Heritage Architect can assist you is with the ‘Description of Works’ and ‘Historical Information’. As well you will be required to supply 2 Firm Quotes for each eligible component of works. This combined with a Total Estimate of works, Permit/s or Permit/s exemptions and include any other financial assistance you may have sought, is best prepared by an experienced Professional.

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Camperdown Grandstand

Andrew Fedorowicz is both experienced and competent in all aspects of preparing such grant applications as well as a long track record in both the planning and completion of many full heritage restorations.

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Werribee Park Mansion

Andrew is a Fellow of the Australian Institute of Architects. He is currently involved in a number of Heritage projects including several in the municipalities offering heritage restoration grants. Both private individuals and community based organisations are eligible for such grants.

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Windmill Farm – Kyneton

For Heritage Grants from the Living Heritage Program the criteria is somewhat different. Launched in 2016, the program was formed to deliver $38.5 million to ‘safeguard and reactivate’ Victoria’s Key Heritage resources. Over $8.5 million is targeted towards ‘at risk’ State listed heritage places.

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Returned Soldier’s Memorial Hall

The project is designed to address the risk to a place or object and delivers demonstrable benefits to the community.

From the Heritage Victoria Website…

Who can apply?

The heritage place or object that is the subject of the application must be on the Victorian Heritage Register. The following parties can apply for a grant:

  • a Victorian municipal council
  • a community or not-for-profit organisation that is a legal entity (for example an incorporated association, incorporated cooperative or Indigenous corporation) –please note that an incorporated not-for-profit organisation must provide proof of not-for-profit status.
  • a Committee of Management under the Crown Lands Reserves Act 1978.Groups must meet the conditions of clause 14(4)a (any three or more persons) or 14(4)e (any board, committee, commission, trust or other body corporate or unincorporated established by or under any Act for any public purpose)
  • Trusts appointed pursuant to a restricted Crown grant (during the 19th century, under a series of Land Acts, Crown land was often permanently reserved for specified purposes – mechanics’ institutes, sports grounds etc. – and granted to trustees on trust for the purposes of the reservation)and Cemetery trusts appointed under the Cemeteries and Crematoria Act 2003
  • an owner of a privately-owned place or object (including places of worship)–please note that applicants must:match the grant funding on a dollar for dollar basis; must meet public accessibility criteria and; must demonstrate significant community and public benefit from the investment. Matched funding cannot be offered ‘in kind’ and must relate to the nominated project. For example, if a privately-owned place requires conservation works to the value of $100,000, the applicant may request $50,000 from the grant. Private owners must be incorporated, or partner with an organisation that is, please see below for further information.

Funding will not be provided to any party that has failed to complete, or has not yet completed, any projects funded under previous State or Commonwealth heritage grants programs. If the property has an active project under a previous round of the Living Heritage Grants Program (or another funding program for heritage-related works), then this must be completed before applying. Applicants who do not have adequate insurance or are not incorporated/registered as a not-for-profit will need to partner with another group or organisation who does meet the requirements. This is an ‘auspice’ arrangement. If your application is successful, the auspice organisation agrees to take the full legal and financial responsibility for the project. Grant funds are paid directly to the auspice organisation. For further information refer to: Applicants must possess an Australian Business Number (ABN) or provide a completed Australian Tax Office form (Statement by a supplier) so that no withholding tax is required from the grant payment. If the applicant is not the owner of the place, the project and application must have the owner’s consent at the time of submission.

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Polly Woolside, Melbourne

What types of projects may be funded?

Projects will include conservation works to the exterior and/or interiors of Victorian Heritage Register listed places and objects to improve their overall condition. The place or object must be publicly accessible. Works should be guided by advice sought from a heritage professional, such as a heritage architect or advisor. It is generally expected that projects will replace materials in a like-for-like manner, rather than introduce modern materials, as is considered best practice.Examples of projects include, but are not limited to:

  • works to mitigate the identified risk(s) to the place or object
  • repairs to roofs, installation of new guttering and downpipes, or stonework repairs, using traditional materials and methods
  • re-stumping and repairs to timber framing, weatherboards, windows and doors
  • works that will enable the re-use of a building that has been unoccupied due to poor condition
  • repairs, restoration or reconstruction and conservation of an object at risk of deterioration
  • protection works such as the installation of appropriate fire protection systems
  • documentation projects will be considered if the project outcomes demonstrate a commitment to undertake urgent ‘at risk’ works to the place. Documentation projects may include for example, conservation management plans that include a prioritised and costed works action plan.
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Carlton Trades Hall

What types of projects will not be funded?

Certain projects will be ineligible for grant funding through the Living Heritage Grants Program. These include, but are not limited to:

  • projects relating to heritage places and objects that are not on the Victorian Heritage Register
  • works that are the subject of State or Local Government ‘Emergency Works Orders’
  • works to privately owned heritage places and objects, and places operating on a commercial or for-profit basis, unless public accessibility criteria can be met, and a significant public benefit can be demonstrated
  • purchase of heritage places, associated land, equipment, furniture, storage or display cabinets
  • employment or remuneration of staff
  • relocation of heritage buildings or objects
  • refurbishment projects involving, for example, the purchase of new carpet, and the installation of kitchens and bathrooms and construction of new buildings (such as a new toilet block, storage facility, fence or museum) or new additions to heritage places
  • projects that have already started
  • works to heritage places and objects that have no general public access or where access to the general public is limited.
  • demolition or other works that may affect the heritage significance of the heritage place or object
  • interpretation projects
  • regular maintenance activities that should normally be carried out to keep the place or object in good repair. This could include, for example, cleaning or repairing of blocked or broken stormwater and sewer lines, blocked gutters and downpipes, broken water services or leaking taps and toilet cisterns, damaged or defective light fittings and general painting works
  • repair of damage caused by vandalism, fire or other natural disasters where the repair of damage should be covered by insurance
  • any other projects deemed ineligible after assessment of application.
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Wollaston Bridge

What are the funding details?

An amount of between $20,000 and $200,000 per project is available.

Complex or multi-phased projects may be eligible to apply to more than one grant round. This may be done if, for example, a project to restore a place involved complete restoration of a roof and associated works that would exhaust the full $200,000 allocation for that year. In order to apply for a grant in a subsequent grant round, any previous funding provided would need to have been completed and fully acquitted. Successful grant applications for stage one of a project will NOT guarantee the awarding of a grant for any subsequent rounds. It is therefore essential that each project stage is able to be completed within the allotted timeframe, and without reliance on receiving future funding.The table below shows the funding available and the funding ratios that apply:

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For projects valued at $50,000 or more, an appropriately qualified project manager, with experience in heritage conservation, will be required and a percentage of the grant funds. The percentage will be determined at the time of entering into the Funding Agreement.If applicable, the project manager should be nominated in the application


A primary requirement is “An appropriately qualified manager, with experience in heritage conservation” – (mentioned in the last paragraph for projects valued at $50,000 or more.)

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Murtoa Grain Store

Ensure your project receives due consideration and wherever possible a suitable grant. This year’s round of grants for both bodies has now closed. However with a new round of grants being considered next year, now is the time to properly prepare, provide thorough working drawings and costings and the benefit of an experienced eye.

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John Kelly’s former house

Call Balance Architecture now on 03 8696 9700 during business hours or leave your details here for a prompt reply. Better still call Principal Architect Andrew Fedorowicz (FAIA) now on 0418 534 792 to discuss your project.

Balance Architecture and Interior Design.

Experience Professionalism Vision.

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Balance Architecture recognises the importance of the preservation of Historical Architecture. We specialise in the renovation and restoration of Heritage Buildings.

Demolition Derby Continues, Elsternwick ‘Heritage’ Homes Destroyed

Heritage overlays are curious creations. In the most part the Heritage Council’s approvals for many inner Melbourne locations occurred in the 1980s to 1990s. At the time, many of the areas protected featured buildings aged 100 years or over, constructed in the 1870s and 1880s onwards. Now properties outside of these Heritage overlays are at risk, in that unless holding an individual Heritage protection, demolition permits can be issued, readily.

Originally it was East Melbourne, Carlton, South Melbourne, Fitzroy and Flemington – as well as parts of the CBD that were given Heritage protection. Stately homes in Hawthorn, Kew, Essendon, Moonee Ponds and other suburbs also received Heritage protection.


A buyer paid $9.6 million for 9-11 Edward Street in Kew and ripped it down, after a last-ditch bid for heritage protection was knocked back.

Homes of more a modest dimension often did not, particularly those built in the late 19th Century and also early 20th Century. These homes were constructed between 100 and 130 years ago. But as smaller domestic residences, they had not attracted the attention of the National Trust or the Heritage Council in earlier times. And in the 1980s and 1990s the homes were less than 100 years old.


This rundown Toorak house sold for more than $5.8 million, a heavy discount, after it passed in at auction.

Heritage listing is a time consuming and meticulous process undertaken by the Heritage Council of Victoria upon request, generally form Municipal Councils or the National Trust. The Council is underfunded and there is no overriding policy enacted by the State Government to protect Heritage buildings outside of current declared Heritage overlays and buildings given a listing on the Victorian Heritage Register.


Before: ‘Forres’ at 9-11 Edward Street, Kew, torn down in July 2016.


After: The empty Edward Street block.

With the destruction of the property in Seymour Rd Elsternwick (where over 2000 people petitioned to save it), the intervention of Planning Minister Wynne to save Currajong House on Auburn Rd in Hawthorn, and the unfortunate demolition of two 100 year old plus homes in Armadale in recent times, it is obvious that it is time to provide further funding and legislative power to the Heritage Council of Victoria. With only one or two inspectors available most of the time, heritage approvals in dire situations are simply not possible. More demolitions will occur – it’s far quicker to arrange a demolition permit.

Add to this the destructive nuances of Developers seeking prime property locations. The London Hotel Port Melbourne and the Greyhound Hotel in St Kilda were both demolished on the basis of development plans. Both remain vacant blocks, and have been so since demolition nearly two years ago.

Uncertainty with regard to Heritage protections saw the incredible destruction of the property located at 16 St Georges Rd Toorak by its new Chinese owners in 2015. Having paid $16.5 million in 2013 when informed a Heritage protection order was to be applied imminently and not understanding what they would be permitted to do, they promptly demolished the building. It now stands on the market, an empty block valued at $40 million.


The former house at 16 St Georges Road, Toorak.

All this points to the need for a timely re-assessment of heritage values, their applications and protections. Currently the State Government, Local Councils and VCAT can give totally contradictory orders based on what appears to be out of date and flawed legislation, coverage and values. It’s time to introduce new assessments, values and punitive measures. Surely the Corkman Cowboys have more than adequately demonstrated the urgency of the matter?

A 108-year-old home in the Melbourne suburb of Armadale is being dismantled piece-by-piece after a last-ditch effort to save it from demolition failed.

Regarding the Seymour Rd Elsternwick demolitions, here is the Age Article where even the Opposition spokesperson on Planning is calling for immediate action (we say this as previously the LNP have been ‘pro-development’ under the then Planning Minister Matthew Guy).

Minister should have heeded locals before wreckers moved in, Libs say

Local outrage should have been enough for Planning Minister Richard Wynne to stop the demolition of a historic Elsternwick home that began on Thursday, the opposition says.

More than 2000 people signed a petition to try and stop the 130-year-old house on Seymour Road – which Glen Eira Council failed to recommend to Mr Wynne for heritage protection – from being torn down.

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But a local resident’s referral of the property to Mr Wynne’s agency, Heritage Victoria, and the independent Heritage Council, was not enough to save the home.

A demolition crew arrived on Thursday to begin knocking down the property, bought in June for a touch over $3 million.

“We can’t have Melbourne’s soul torn up because of developers wanting to make a profit,” opposition planning spokesman Tim Smith said on Thursday.

The house is the latest in a number of irreplaceable homes across inner and middle Melbourne whose demolition has enraged locals in recent years.

Four days before May’s federal election, Mr Wynne stepped in to stop an even older property in Hawthorn from being bulldozed.

Mr Wynne said of that 135-year-old property, Currajong House on Auburn Road, that there had “been community concern about the demolition of this grand home, which we have listened to”.

The Elsternwick property destroyed on Thursday is the second historic house in the street to be knocked down this week.

Sam Dugdale, who lives a few doors down from the Seymour Road home started the online petition to save it after a cyclone fence went up outside it last week.

“I was walking past and saw someone was removing the window frames. The next day they were taking out the doors and fixtures,” said Ms Dugdale, who was surprised there was no heritage protection on the tree-lined street.

She rang the council, who said they could not do anything immediately about it. But the council suggested Ms Dugdale file an interim protection order with state heritage authorities.

The department came back to her after she had filled out the form and said “I haven’t established a prima facie case – which isn’t exactly surprising. I don’t know the first thing about planning law or heritage,” said Ms Dugdale, a marketing consultant.

“I just know it’s wrong,” she said, that the house was being demolished without consideration of what was being lost.

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Mr Smith said that too many historic homes around inner and middle Melbourne were being demolished because the system set up to protect them was not working.

“Our local heritage protection system in Victoria is broken, and the Andrews government has to do something about it. We can’t just have this constant stream of Federation-era homes, Edwardian-era homes, being knocked down without any recourse,” he said.

Glen Eira councillor Mary Delahunty said until the recent demolitions in the street, “I didn’t realise quite how unprotected parts of Elsternwick are until we started this process”.

“It’s a reminder we need to throw some more resources at our heritage study,” she said.

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The National Trust’s Victorian chief executive Simon Ambrose said the state government needed to provide more support for councils to update heritage studies, so that more homes of local importance were not lost.

“This problem is bigger than just one house,” he said. “In many areas across Melbourne, heritage protections have not kept pace with development and community expectations.”

In order to protect a home considered important, a council must apply to the planning minister to change the council’s planning rules – a process that can be costly and take months or even years.

“Planning scheme amendments to apply heritage overlays are expensive and time consuming for councils to undertake,” Mr Ambrose said.

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“The state government needs to step in and provide real support.”

A spokeswoman for Mr Wynne said the council was responsible for ensuring its local planning schemes were up to date to protect sites with local heritage significance. She said the council had made no request to the planning minister to stop demolition of the Seymour Road property.

But she acknowledged that Heritage Victoria and the Heritage Council had received an application from another party to stop the demolition.

Both refused the application for an interim protection order because there was no prima facie case on the evidence provided for the building to be deemed of state-level heritage significance.


The issue is becoming quite serious. Both historic and modernist homes are demolished with impunity. Corporations and hospitals partially demolish some of our oldest and most important buildings. Progress and development is entirely a balancing act, we don’t dispute that, but realistically it’s time to ‘put the brakes on’ and review and refresh Victoria’s rather out-of-date and fractured Heritage protection laws. The destruction must stop.

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Balance Architecture recognises the importance of the preservation of Historical Architecture. We specialise in the renovation and restoration of Heritage Buildings.