Glenara Estate – The Clark family’s home for over 100 years

To find Glenara Estate is no mean feat. It is now a private residence siting on a prominent escarpment overlooking Deep Creek just outside the small township of Bulla – about 10km past the Tullamarine Airport.


Glenara was the home of Walter Clarke, pastoralist, who built up his estate to be over 4079 acres by the time of his death in 1873.


Walter was passionate about gardening. Upon his death the property appears to have been sub-divided. Alister Clark the famous Rosarian (Rose breeder) and Thoroughbred aficionado (Racehorses) managed to purchase the original homestead block at Glenara in 1887 and moved there in 1892, remained there for his entire life. When his father died Alister was but 9 years old so it was no mean feat for him to return and purchase the original property.

Here then is the Statement of Significance from the Victorian Heritage Register:

GLENARAVictorian Heritage Database Report


Statement of Significance

What is significant?

pinGlenara, Bulla was settled by pastoralist Walter Clark in 1857. Originally purchasing 485 acres to the north-west of Melbourne, Clark built his estate up to 4079 acres before his death in 1873. In 1887 the homestead block of about 830 acres was purchased by his son, Alister Clark, one of Australia’s best known horticulturalists and rosarians, and the garden became the site for the breeding of many plant species for more than sixty years. At his death in 1949 the estate covered 1035 acres.

Walter Clark arrived in Sydney from Scotland in 1837, and lived in the Riverina region of N.S.W. before purchasing a dramatic site on Deep Creek, near Melbourne, in 1857. He immediately planted vineyards on this new property, Glenara, and tenders were called by architects Purchas and Swyer for the construction of a house. Walter Clark’s interest in gardening saw the architects also supervising the design of the landscape surrounding the house. Early garden features included a terrace to the west of the homestead with stone steps and urns and a sundial. Extensive paths were constructed to the south of the house and pathways were formed amongst, and steps cut into, rocky outcrops.

The dramatic siting, on a high promontory above large, rocky outcrops along Deep Creek, and early plantings and landscape features, were recorded in a photograph by Nettleton in c 1864 and in a painting by Eugene von Guerard in 1867. By 1868 Glenara’s picturesque beauty was described as unsurpassed in Australia in the Guide for Excursionists from Melbourne.

In 1872 architect Evander McIver called tenders for the erection of a bluestone tower at Glenara, which was constructed on a hill to the south of the homestead. A rustic bridge leading to this tower was also constructed.Walter Clark died in 1873 and his son Alister, born in 1864, finally purchased the homestead block at Glenara in 1887. He settled there permanently in 1892. A series of managers and lessees had been responsible for the property, however the house and the form of the garden had been retained. A billiard room was added to the
eastern end of the homestead in 1895 and Alister began to assemble an extensive range of plants in the garden. His greatest interest was the breeding of roses and daffodils and he introduced many species to the garden at Glenara before his death in 1949.

The Glenara homestead is a large single storey Italianate house of rendered stone and brick, with hipped slate roofs and eaves supported on paired brackets. An encircling verandah has open work timber posts and lintels. The west end features an Italianate terrace with classical balustrade and urns, flanked by staircases at either side leading to an elaborate path system. Double doors, which lead to this terrace from the polygonal bay of the drawing room, are framed by heavy cornices supported on large consoles. The 1895 billiard room, which is designed to match the earlier building, contains a large glass skylight with transfer design, timber dado and coved ceiling, stained glass windows and polygonal bay with French doors and stained glass toplights.The property contains a number of early buildings, including an octagonal, timber building, evident in von Guerard’s painting, and a gatekeeper’s lodge and winery of rendered brick and coursed rubble bluestone, possibly c1870s.

How is it significant?

Glenara, Bulla is of historical, architectural and aesthetic significance to the State of Victoria.

Why is it significant?

Glenara, Bulla is of historical significance for its long associations with the Clark family and the pastoral industry. It is of particular historical significance for its associations with Alister Clark, one of Australia’s best known horticulturalists and rosarians.

Glenara, Bulla is of architectural significance as a representative example of a substantially intact 1850s Italianate homestead. The surviving outbuildings on the property, including the pre-1867 octagonal building, the gatekeeper’s house and the winery are also of architectural significance.

Glenara, Bulla is of aesthetic significance for its rare picturesque qualities which result from the relationship between the homestead, garden and dramatic landscape setting. The retention of indigenous trees and exposed rocks contribute to this quality. The early recording of the property, by Eugene von Guerard in 1857-8, is also of note.

Glenara, Bulla is of aesthetic significance as one of the earliest surviving domestic gardens in Victoria. It conforms to its original pattern and retains an elaborate path system, Italianate terrace, sundial, gates, bridge and bluestone tower from the nineteenth century. The latter is of particular significance as a rare, true garden folly in Victoria. The garden retains trees and plantings from the mid-nineteenth to early twentieth century.

Glenara, Bulla is of scientific (horticultural) as the site of Alister Clark’s extensive plant breeding programmes in the early twentieth century. The garden retains a large number of his plants, including daffodils and mature specimens of many roses.


Alister Clark was a prolific and successful breeder of roses and also Daffodils. What a delightful legacy to leave the world – a wealth of beautiful flowers and rich scents.


We wish you a Happy and Prosperous New Year. See you in 2018

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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.

Tullamarine Airport and the hidden history of its location

For many people visiting Tullamarine Airport there is little or no knowledge of its former life or past. Last week when a guest’s plane was delayed, there was time for me to do a little ‘exploring’. Just north of the Airport is a viewing area on the Bulla-Sunbury Road to watch the planes land. Turning right just a few hundred metres down Oaklands Road there are turns to the left – Bulla Cemetery, and to the right – Woodlands Estate, or as it is now known – Living Legends.

The Bulla Cemetery has graves dating back to the early 1830s. It is one of the first in the colony. Resting in eternal peace, its sleeping deceased denizens lie beneath grand masonry as befitted their station in life. The fact that this cemetery lies directly below the North-South flightpath of the Tullamarine Airport, with a jet every minute during peak periods passing overhead, may well not have been the future vision of ‘eternal peace’ envisaged by its early planners back then in the 1830s.


Bulla Shire Hall

Turn right back onto Bulla Road and travel through to Bulla, turn right at the last roundabout. The sturdy Shire Offices of the original Bulla Shire, built of bluestone in 1832, still stand on the corner, now flanked to the west and north by the Alister Clark Memorial Rose Garden. A visual and sensual delight in both Spring and Autumn, the Rose Garden features all 70 roses bred and named by Clark. Alister Clark was the first Chairman of the Moonee Valley Racing Club. (See here for former blogs: link, link). The Melbourne and Victorian Aristocracy were also very much into ‘the hunt’ and the most prestigious ‘hunting’ location (hounds, horns and horses) was the nearby Oaklands Hunt Club. Alister Clark was its master from 1901 to 1908.

Alister Clark’s ‘ancestral home’ was located on Deep Creek and named Glenara (we will visit it next week). Clark bred all of his roses here as well as daffodils, including reportedly the world’s first pink daffodil.

All of the Alister Clark roses are stunning and beautiful with many named after women folk from the landed gentry of the times. More than likely Alister Clark met them through the Hunt or at the Racetrack, with many of these ladies being keen gardeners in their own right.

Head back to Oaklands Road, turn right instead of left this time and you enter Woodlands Estate, now the home of Living Legends, a retirement home for racehorses. There are many well known horses agisted here now, but the place is worthy of a visit purely on its history and its buildings. Here is the history as per the Living Legends website.

Woodlands Homestead History

woodlands_homestead_logoWoodlands Homestead, located at Woodlands Historic Park, is a unique and treasured part of Victoria’s heritage.

The Foundation of Woodlands 1843–1866

William Pomeroy Greene was born in Ireland in 1797. While in the Navy, he contracted fever in India and was advised to emigrate for his health. Emigrating from Ireland to seek a healthier climate, William Greene and Anne Greene (nee Griffiths) arrived at Port Phillip in the barque Sarah on 5 December 1842 with the seven children, a governess, the family butler, a carpenter and his family, two grooms, a guardsman, a gardener and five domestic staff. They also brought two thoroughbred horses, stud Durham cattle and a prefabricated wooden bungalow manufactured in London by Peter Thompson.

The Greenes lived at South Yarra while William looked for land on which they could settle. As a former Royal Navy officer, he was entitled to a grant of one square mile (640 acres or 256 ha.), little of the new colony’s land was surveyed and available for sale at the time, but a site near Bulla met the Greenes’ requirements.


Woodlands Homestead

Carpenters erected temporary buildings for the household staff while the homestead was being established. The family moved to Woodlands, the name they had given the property, on 9 June 1843; although the house was not finished, it was quite livable.

The climate was much cooler than the Greene’s had expected, so the house was lined internally with bricks and fireplace installed to make it more comfortable and permanent. Within a few months a large paddock with a stockyard was fenced in. Crops, vines and fruit trees were soon planted and wells were sunk.

At Woodlands the Greenes were soon self-sufficient. ‘We had flocks and herds, our poultry of all kinds, we baked our own bread, made our own butter and cheese and had melons and other fruits in abundance’. By the end of 1844 the property is reported to have carried 1200 sheep and 180 cattle, including 90 milking cows.

In February 1845 a stable block which was also to serve as a coach house and shearing shed, was built, and extra wings and a verandah were added to the house. French windows in the front rooms opened on to the verandah; doors in the internal corridors led to a courtyard and garden in which magnolias and pomegranates were planted.

Rolf Boldrewood (author of Robbery Under Arms) often visited Woodlands during the 1840’s. He described it as: “The country house par excellence of the period. Neither a farm nor yet a large estate, it was something between the two, while the household and the ménage generally were much more in accordance with the habitudes of the English country-house life than often obtains in Australia.”


Woodlands from the west about 1860. L-R: Sir William Stawell, Maid, Rawdon Greene, Anne Catherine Stawell (aged 2), Mrs. Anna Greene, Smith (butler). (Courtesy Miss D. Browne.)

After William Greene died of a chill suddenly on 5 March 1845, his wife Anne Greene carried on ownership and management of Woodlands with the help of her second son Rawdon.

The family lived the life of transplanted Anglo-Irish gentry, mixing with the ‘gentle folk’ of Port Phillip. Visitors included Lieutenant-Governor Charles La Trobe, and the rising young Irish lawyers, William Stawell and Redmond Barry. Mary Greene, William and Anne’s only daughter, married William Stawell (later Sir William, Chief Justice of Victoria) at Woodlands Homestead in 1856. Mary Lady Stawell (1830–1921) published her memoirs as ‘My Recollections’ in 1911, and they are an invaluable source of information on the early history of Woodlands Homestead.

The property’s long association with horse racing began at the time. Rawdon Greene established private race meetings and steeple chasing. He was a founding member of the Port Phillip Agricultural Society and the Victoria Turf Club in 1848, and of the Victorian Industrial Society in 1851, which ran model farms and aimed to improve the livestock. He conducted model ploughing exhibitions on the property.

Mrs. Greene died early in 1865. Rawdon Greene inherited the property but sold it in August to 1866 to Andrew Sutherland.

Changing Ownership: 1866–1889

Woodlands Homestead then had a succession of affluent and eminent owners, many leading figures in the history of Victoria.

Andrew Sutherland

Andrew Sutherland purchased Woodlands Homestead from Rawdon Greene in 1866 and lived there for six years. Little is known about Andrew Sutherland, a merchant of St Kilda, or his use of Woodlands.

Charles Brown Fisher


Charles Brown Fisher (1818-1908)

In 1873, Charles Brown Fisher (1818–1908) took out four mortgages on the property, acquiring the adjacent Maribyrnong stud at the same time. Racehorse owner and prominent South Australian grazier, he was the largest pastoral holder in Australia and one of the richest men.

A noted sportsman, Fisher had ridden at the first race meeting in Adelaide in 1838 and helped to organize the first steeplechase over four miles (6.4 km) of stiff country. In the 1850s he imported several thoroughbreds and after he moved to Melbourne in 1865 bought most of his brother Hurtle’s Maribyrnong stud in April 1866 and made his début racing under his own colours at the spring meeting of the Victoria Racing Club. He retired from the turf as an owner and sold his stud but continued to import blood sires. Well known at Flemington for his courtly manner and English dress, he was vice-president of the V.R.C.

It seems likely that Fisher lived at Woodlands, or on the adjacent Cumberland property, which with the nearby Oaklands he acquired during the 1870s. However, Fisher’s interests were focused on the Northern Territory. By 1885, Fisher was under considerable financial pressure. Bad seasons, falling wool prices and over-capitalisation forced Fisher into bankruptcy in 1895. His fate was a common one for many pastoralists during the 1890s.

Benjamin Josman Fink


Benjamin Fink (1847-1909)

In 1886 Woodlands was sold to a five-man company of politicians, land speculators and money-lenders. The key figures were Benjamin Fink and the well known Sir Thomas Bent (Premier of Victoria from 1904 to 1909). Both men were obsessed with acquiring land for further speculation and may have seen Woodlands as a place for future suburban development.

Benjamin Josman Fink (1847–1909) was a businessman, politician, land speculator and property developer. Amongst other deals in Melbourne, he bought Cole’s Book Arcade, built ‘The Block’, Melbourne’s leading shopping arcade of the day, and took over and rebuilt Georges Ltd. Among the hotels he bought, leased or controlled were the Ballarat Star, Albion, Saracen’s Head, Governor Arthur and Rose and Crown. When he was declared insolvent in 1892, large assets were in the name of his wife.

Thomas Bent


Sir Thomas Bent (1838-1909)

Sir Thomas Bent (1836–1909) was a politician and land speculator. He was a member of both Brighton and Moorabbin town councils, was Mayor of Brighton nine times and a liberal member of the state parliament.

In the 1880s, Bent speculated in land companies all over Melbourne, expending public money to underwrite expansion. He developed the suburb of Bentleigh, named after himself. He was Commissioner for Works and Railways in Sir Bryan O’Loghlen’s government in 1881–1883, and used this position to extend the railway line from Caulfield to Cheltenham, thus enormously increasing the value of his own property developments. The exposure of Bent’s corrupt dealings led to the defeat of O’Loghlen’s government at the 1883 elections.

In the 1890s, when many of his colleagues became insolvent in the severe crash that followed the property boom, Bent was almost bankrupted. He had transferred many of his assets to his wife’s name and this saved him from bankruptcy. He kept afloat by taking up dairy farming at Port Fairy.

Despite his reputation, Bent was chosen as the new Liberal leader in Victoria when Irvine quit to go into federal politics in 1904, and thus he became the 22nd Premier of Victoria at the age of 66. Australian born, Bent was the first Victorian Premier with a strong Australian accent.

In 1887, the leading Melbourne lawyer, William Henry Croker, bought into the company, becoming sole proprietor two years later in 1889.

Horses and Hounds: the Croker Era 1889–1917


Opening meet of the Oaklands Hunt Club at Woodlands, 17 May 1890. (Looking north) (Courtesy Oaklands Hunt Club.)

Under William Croker, a prominent maritime solicitor, Woodlands became a centre for Melbourne’s hunting fraternity. Croker was the foundation President of the nearby Oaklands Hunt Club. Meets and steeplechases often crossed the Woodlands Property and Mr. and Mrs. Croker entertained Club members to dinner after the events. William Croker was also prominent in the horse racing world and was one of the best known Victoria Racing Club stewards of the day.


William Henry Croker (second on left), at a meeting of the Victorian Racing Club Committee, November 1901.

The Crokers used Woodlands as a country house rather than as a permanent residence. From 1896 William Croker owned only 120 acres around the homestead. Croker purchased the ‘Altona Homestead’ in 1905.

Ben Chaffey and Champion Race Horses, 1917–1937


Ben Chaffey (1876-1937)

Woodlands was sold in September 1917 to Cowra Chaffey, wife of Benjamin (Ben) Chaffey (1876–1937). Canadian born, Benjamin Chaffey was the son of George Chaffey, the co-founder of Mildura.

As a noted pastoralist, member of the principal horse racing clubs and supporter of the Oaklands Hunt Club, Benjamin Chaffey maintained the traditions founded for Woodlands by the Greene’s. Ben Chaffey built up a vast pastoral empire, developing and working large tracks of the West darling River country in NSW. His sheep stud at Moorna was famous, and his properties at Manfred and Kilfera were some of the best-watered and improved in the NSW outback.

Extensive alterations were made to the Woodland Homestead house by 1919. The rook gables were extended to cover the verandah and its new granite pillars, and a new front entry porch and projecting picture window on the southern side were added. A tiled pathway and an aviary were built in the central courtyard, and the gardens surrounding the house were redesigned and planted with exotic species, watered from Moonee Ponds Creek by a new irrigation and sprinkler system.


Opening meet of the Oaklands Hunt Club at Woodlands Homestead, 1919.

Chaffey’s interest in elaborate watering systems stemmed from the irrigation settlements pioneered by his father (George Chaffey) and uncle (William Benjamin Chaffey) in the Murray basin. Besides making extensive alterations to Woodlands Homestead, he brought water to the property from the Moonee Ponds Creek through a system of dams, holding tanks and underground pipes.

At Woodlands, Chaffey indulged in his hobby of breeding thoroughbreds. As a young man he’d developed a fondness for the thoroughbred race horse, and later he had a great deal of success on the Turf. He owned horses from 1890 onwards, but probably the first important race which he won was the Adelaide Grand National Hurdle with Stagefright in 1920.

He owned another useful jumper in Percolator, and raced Rawdon with success before selling him to the late Mr. A. Miller, for whom he won the Grand National Hurdle Race.



In 1922 Whittier, owned by Chaffey, ran second in the Caulfield Guineas, and he followed that performance by winning the Caulfield Cup a week later. Whittier repeated his Caulfied Cup victory in 1925, and Manfred was successful in 1926. Whittier and Manfred were Victoria Derby winners in 1922 and 1925 respectively.

The V.R.C. St. Leger was won by Chaffey with Caserta in 1923, and Accarak won the Australian Cup in 1924. Ninbela won the V.R.C. Oaks Stakes in 1927, and a year later Burnaby won the Adelaide St. Leger.

Ben Chaffey was keenly interested in the conduct of racing and was a member of the Australian Club, plus many racing clubs. On the retirement of James Grice in 1930, Chaffey was elected chairman of the Victoria Amateur Turf Club. In the last few years his health declined, and he was not able to maintain a full interest in his own horses. He was the owner, however, of Aldershot, a promising two-year-old.

Chaffey died on 3 March 1937, deeply in debt. A run of bad seasons, the Depression and his sometimes erratic business behaviour were to blame. He was buried in the Bulla cemetery. His estate was broken up and Woodlands was once again on the market.

Woodlands in Obscurity: 1937–1978

Few physical changes were made by subsequent owners to Woodlands Homestead, which remained a rural retreat on the edge of the metropolis of Melbourne.

Charles Brown Kellow


Charles Brown Kellow (right) at the races

After Ben Chaffey died in 1937, Woodlands Homestead was acquired by Charles Brown Kellow (1871–1943), known throughout Australia as a sportsman, pastoralist and motor car distributor. He lived at Woodlands with his daughters Winifred and Hope, and under Winifred’s care, the southern part of the garden was rejuvenated.

Kellow won the Austral Wheel Race (the ‘Melbourne Cup’ of cycling) in 1896. His interest in cycle racing saw him take over the management of Lewis and Kellow, cycle importers and manufacturers in Swanston Street. His interests switched to motorcars, and he secured the agency of De Dion Bouton cars. He was a founder of Kellow, Falkiner P/L, distributors of Rolls-Royce, Bentley, Packard and Wolseley cars. In July 1928, Kellow purchased two airplanes at the International Exhibition in London. “I consider that flying will soon become as popular as motoring,” he said. “I shall use the machines for both business and pleasure, mainly for flying from city to my station.”

Kellow had extensive pastoral interests and hunted with Oaklands Hounds for some years. In partnership with J.B. McArthur, he raced Forfano, who won several steeplechases. Kellow won many important races, but the win he cherished most was that of Earlborn in Prince of Wales Cup at Flemington.


Heroic – Australian Racing Hall of Fame 2003

Heroic was the best horse owned by him. When Heroric was offered as a 3-year old, Kellow, who was a plucky buyer, startled the racing world by giving a then record 16,000 guineas for him. Heroic won the Champagne Stakes, Ascot Vale Stakes, AJC Derby, Caulfield Guineas, Newmarket Handicap, W.S. Cox Plate, and many other races. Heroic’s great record as a racehorse with 51 starts, 21 wins, 11 seconds and 4 thirds, was matched by his prowess as a sire: seven successive years as Australia’s leading sire. During his seasons at stud, Heroic sired 29 stakes-winners that had 110 stakes-wins between them. (See the entry for Heroic on Wikipedia and also Heroic’s Australian Racing Museum and Hall of Fame webpage.)


Hall Mark, son of Heroic and 1933 Melbourne Cup winner.

Kellow kept a few mares at Tarwyn Park Stud, and from them bred Hall Mark and Nuffield, each of whom had successful careers. Hall Mark, the son of Heroic was a staying professional. At three years old he won the 1933 Melbourne Cup with a split hoof defeating a good field. From 52 starts, Hall Mark had 18 wins, 16 seconds and 9 thirds. His main wins were in the Doncaster Handicap, AJC Derby, VRC Derby, Caulfield Stakes, Underwood Stakes (twice), AJC Champagne Stakes, AJC Sires’ Produce Stakes, Melbourne Cup, VRC St. Leger Stakes, C.B. Fisher Plate and Memsie Stakes.

Kellow’s plans to establish a horse stud at Woodlands were thwarted by his ill-health, and he sold the property to Frank McClelland Mitchell in 1939. (See the entry for Charles Brown Kellow in the Australian Dictionary of Biography.)

Frank McClelland Mitchell


Frank McClelland Mitchell (1872-1947)

Frank McClelland Mitchell (1872–1947) served for 53 years with Broken Hill Proprietary Co Ltd and was Company Secretary until his death in 1947. Mitchell also rented the rest of the Woodlands original acreage and the neighbouring Cumberland property until 1945. In 1945 Mitchell purchased the bulk of the original Woodlands property, and also Cumberland, which had been sold by William Croker in 1906. This increase of 1896 acres transformed the property from the small “country house” allotment, to approximately the area of the present Woodlands Historic Park. Mitchell’s main aim for the enlarged property was to build up a flock of quality wool producing sheep. Sheep were grazed on the property and shorn at nearby Cumberland.

After Mitchell died in 1947, his wife Violet continued to live at Woodlands until her death in 1958. Thereafter, the house, it’s outbuildings and the gardens deteriorated. For some years the property was leased for grazing and agriculture.

A small portion of the land was acquired by the Commonwealth Government in 1961 as part of the approaches to the Tullamarine Airport. This included land between Moonee Ponds Creek, Bulla Road and the site of St Mary’s Church which was moved in 1973 to its present location in Bulla.

The rest of the property remained in the Mitchell family until 1978 when it was compulsorily acquired by the Victorian Government as part of Gellibrand Hill Park.



Sunset over the Cumberland homestead ruins, Woodlands Historic Park.
Photo by Andrew Haysom.

In the 1960s the Shire of Bulla committed itself to the reservation of the Woodlands and adjacent Gellibrand Hill, and in 1972 proposed to the state government that the sites be purchased and developed as a metropolitan parkland. The National Parks Service and organisations involved in planning for the area north-west of Melbourne joined forces; a plan of Management for the proposed park was published in 1974.

Funds for the acquisition were provided by the Commonwealth and State governments and by the Shire of Bulla. Following lengthy negotiations, Woodlands was reserved under the National Parks Act in 1981.

Restoration of the homestead in 1983 and 1984 was funded by the National Estate grants program, Employment Initiatives Program, the Community Employment Program and Victoria’s 150th Anniversary Board, through the Shire of Bulla.

Living Legends: 2006–Today

Living Legends opened in 2006 with a lease of the Woodlands Homestead and 170 acres of cleared farmland from Parks Victoria. Today visitors can mingle with retired champion racehorses, “smell the roses” in the heritage gardens, walk, run, bike or climb in the surrounding Woodlands Historic Park, or enjoy a Devonshire Tea in the Woodlands Homestead. Restoration and enhancement of the interpretation displays continue. As a not for profit organisation Living Legends relies on donations and bequests to achieve these goals. Please give generously.

Historic Research

Research into the history of Woodlands Homestead, Cumberland homestead, Dundonald homestead and Woodlands Historic Park continues. We are eager to learn more about the property, especially its history since 1900. If you have any information or photographs, please contact Living Legends CEO, Dr Andrew Clarke.


The ownership, the buildings, the position of the property all give lie to a different Melbourne; a different Victoria in comparison to that extreme location, the Melbourne Airport – voluminous noise, traffic coming and going on a grand scale.

Just over the hill to the north-east of Woodlands Estate lies another cemetery. A quiet place known only to few. Entrance is via Gellibrand Park at the rear of the Woodlands Estate. Turn left from Mickleham Road into Providence Road. About a kilometre in you have arrived. Here is Melbourne’s Indigenous Cemetery. It’s open, peaceful and well maintained. In it sits the silence and the life of 40,000 years of uninterrupted habitation. Many buried here are young. Life during the late 20th Century and early 21st has not been kind to our original inhabitants. But one thing when standing there becomes crystal clear. This was and is and always will be the land of the Woiworung people.


Dundonald ruins, Gellibrand Park

Next week we will visit Alister Clark’s ancestral home – Glenara, located on the banks of Deep Creek Bulla. Have a very Merry Christmas and thoroughly enjoyable New Year from all of us here at Balance Architecture.

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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.

What is being done to Save the Mt Buffalo Chalet?

The Mt Buffalo Chalet remains a ‘bone of contention’ for local activists intent on ensuring a viable future for this iconic location, its structures and purpose. The Mt Buffalo Chalet represents a particularly important stage in the early development of Victoria’s high country and its Alpine retreats.

The dispute is largely that the local Mt Buffalo Destination Advisory Group are of the belief that the current works are insufficient and some monies collected under insurance have not been properly applied to restoration of the Chalet’s buildings but rather were allocated by Parks Victoria in maintaining and securing the property in the last few years.

The Victorian Environment Department’s position was made clear this Wednesday when the Parliamentary Secretary for Tourism Danielle Green announced a budget of $200,000 for a new feasibility Study, building off the Mt Buffalo Destination Group’s concepts for the National Park.

“The funding will support the appointment of a professional Consultancy service to evaluate and prepare a business case for Tourism Opportunities” she said.

Balance Architecture firmly believes a truly professional approach will ensure the venue and all of its facilities will enjoy the best chance of rejuvenation and refurbishment with such independent input.

Here are the articles form the Fairfax newspaper ‘The Border Mail’ – reprinted for your interest.

Money meant for old chalet eroded, a ‘breach of obligation’ by Parks Victoria


TIME TO ACT: Supporters of the Mount Buffalo Chalet’s restoration have been shocked by revelations insurance money earmarked for the heritage-listed building was spent on various plans, project management services and nearly $10,000 on wages, food and accommodation costs. Picture: MARK JESSER

In 1934, at the height of Melbourne’s centenary celebrations, a banner promoting Mount Buffalo hung prominently on the famous facade of the city’s Flinders Street Station.

The chalet at Buffalo’s peak, owned by the Victorian Railways, was seen as ‘the epitome of luxury’ and a sanctuary for Europeans displaced by World War II.

More than 100,000 still visit the ‘Grand Old Lady’ each year, and most ask why the chalet has been mothballed for 10 years, since a fire claimed a sister ski lodge on the mountain.
The answer, depends on who you ask.

Sean Hallam, who quit a community group for the chalet in 2015 amid proposals to remove 60 to 70 per cent of the building, believes governments have never intended to re-open it.


Melbourne’s busiest intersection, the corner of Flinders Street and Swanston Street. In amongst the motor vehicles, trucks and trams are horse-drawn carts. Swanston Street crosses Princes Bridge to become St Kilda Road. In the middle distance is the Shrine of Remembrance. The banner on Buffalo reads “There’s magic in the springtime air at Mt Buffalo National Park”. PICTURE: H. H. FISHWICK, Fairfax Photographic

“The chalet is probably Australia’s biggest example of demolition by neglect of a government-owned, heritage-listed building,” he said.

“The chalet really needed a large and proper restoration a decade or more ago and it was never done.

“I’m confident that once the majority of the chalet is demolished, Parks Victoria will never allow further substantial investment.

“What the public doesn’t know is that plans for the chalet were abandoned at one point.”

Mr Hallam learned this, through requesting a copy of an Ernst and Young report the former Liberal government commissioned to canvass chalet redevelopment options.

The Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning denied access, but the Freedom of Information Commissioner overturned the ruling.

Replying to Mr Hallam, the commissioner stated during a phone call in October 2015, an agency officer said that ‘at one point, the agency abandoned its plans to redevelop the Mount Buffalo Chalet … however, the agency has re-commenced its plan to redevelop’.

It’s not known how long the chalet’s future was off the table, but the public wasn’t told.


Hundreds of North East people have a personal connection to the chalet. Picture: MARK JESSER

The Ernst and Young report proposed four options ranging from $7.8 million to $52.9 million, with the Liberal Napthine government selecting the cheapest, involving the demolition of poor quality and risky structures and restoring the core of the building to become a day visitor centre and cafe.

Heritage Victoria signed off on the works, but they did not come to fruition before the 2014 Victorian election which saw Labor elected.

In 2015, new environment minister Lisa Neville announced tenders to fix the 107-year-old building had come back “more than $3 million over budget”, and both the restoration and demolition was shelved.

Instead a community advisory group was established and the chalet was to be ‘secured’ through $2.8 million in re-stumping, and the replacement and restoration of weatherboards, wall and window frames.

But it wasn’t new funding.

Documents obtained by The Border Mail under freedom of information laws show Parks Victoria received a $7.2 million settlement from the Cresta Lodge fire.


The ski lift at Cresta were the first in Australia, built by Buffalo Chalet engineer Gill Affleck with the assistance of Vic Railways Engineers in the Mount Buffalo Chalet workshop.

Since then, only half of that money has been spent on actual works to the building.

After fire clean-up, planning and essential chalet maintenance totalling $2.6 million, Parks Victoria spent a further $2 million between 2013 and November 2016.

In that time more than $400,000 was absorbed by ‘project management services’ and nearly $10,000 on Parks Victoria food, accommodation and contractor wages.

A $20,000 contribution was made to a coffee van operating on the mountain in 2013, and the same year $2948 was spent on the ‘disposal of confidential documents’.

By November 2016, $2.5 million remained.

Parks Victoria has confirmed the most recent works were paid for out of insurance money.

The use of the settlement for operational costs was labelled by former deputy prime minister Tim Fischer as a “breach of obligation”.

“In the broad principle that insurance money was to be used as much as possible for replace and repair at the chalet,” he said.

Mr Fischer was part of the Mount Buffalo Community Enterprise, a partnership with North East business people including Browns Brothers winery group’s John Brown.

In 2011, the Government rejected a $50 million plan developed by his group to redevelop the chalet as ‘the first major hotel/resort in Australia that can claim to be powered primarily from renewable energy sources’.

“As a bare minimum, we await a popular summer cafe booming in the old chalet building, as soon as possible,” Mr Fischer said.

“Unless real action to re-energise an operational function for the chalet is operating by Melbourne Cup day next year or earlier, we are going uphill.”

The Mount Buffalo Destination Advisory Group put a proposal to the government in February, outlining a cafe as a first priority and other tourism offerings such as a day spa and glamping.

Today, the government will announce $200,000 for a feasibility study to take those plans further.


The chalet in March, 2016, before the current works commenced. Picture: MARK JESSER

Critics of the plans say the focus should be purely on the chalet’s restoration.

Mount Buffalo Destination Advisory Group member David Jacobson believes such an approach will never be successful.

“We have identified eight different funding sources because we understand the government on its own will never fund the chalet,” he said.

“What a lot of people still can’t grasp is for 100 years, before the chalet closed and in the 10 years since, until last year there was never a master plan drawn up for Mount Buffalo and the chalet together.

“They were always treated as separate entities, and everything was always decided from Melbourne.

“To maintain an old building, you have to operate it.”

Member for Ovens Valley Tim McCurdy, a long-time supporter of the chalet, agrees the chalet can’t be a stand-alone venture.

“If you make it a government problem, it will get demolished,” he said.


Former chalet workers inside the building in 2010

“I think Parks Victoria’s long-term plan has been to hope the problem goes away and the Mount Buffalo Chalet will just be demolished because it’s structurally insecure.

“The community group are lobbying for permission to get onto it themselves and get private money in to do it.”

Mr McCurdy conceded, ‘As long as the building’s not falling down in the meantime’.

“When I saw it 12 months ago, it was going downhill quickly, but it was recoverable and that is what the insurance money was meant to be used for, so that the building did stay suitable until a final decision was made by the government of the day.

“There has been an enormous waste of money in different planning mechanisms … if the government was going to ignore it at the end of the day.”

Years of snow and harsh winters have taken their toll on the building.

As early as 2002 a heritage assessment by Allom Lovell and Associates identified investigating and rectifying “the structural failure of the sub floor and dining room floor in the cafe” as urgent works to be undertaken.

A video recorded by Mr Hallam last year shows carpet within the building squelching underfoot.

In an email written to the Parks project manager that month, the Ovens Area Chief Ranger overseeing the chalet said actions were taken to stop water ingress that occurred when windows were removed for restoration.

He went on to add “In terms of priorities for the building I have some areas that are of far greater concern”, and that these areas were not related to the current project.

A Parks Victoria spokeswoman said the chalet was ‘currently 99 per cent water-tight, with two areas that did see some minor water ingress over the last winter’.

“As per last summer, we will be working to rectify this with the use of a protecting membrane in some cases,” she said.

“Parks Victoria is working hard to maintain the Mount Buffalo Chalet to the highest standards possible within the available resources.

“The building has had a lot of work recently, it is looking fantastic, is in great condition and we are continuing with our ongoing program of maintenance activities.”

The spokeswoman re-affirmed that Parks ‘is not planning to undertake demolition of the Mount Buffalo Chalet’.

But it’s a case of ‘too little, too late’, says Mr Hallam, a Balwyn piano teacher whose mind has not left the mountain since he spent a weekend away there.

“If Parks had painted that chalet even once in the 10 years since it’s been closed, it would be in much better condition,” he said.

“(These new plans) will again let Parks and the government off the hook as they will again be seen publicly as looking at new plans for the Chalet while in reality, the majority is going to be lost.

“For some reason, Australian governments do not seem to understand that we have to start saving some of our most precious heritage.

“We shouldn’t have to travel to other countries to stay at amazing heritage buildings like the chalet.

“Given the critical state of the majority of the building, plans being pushed by the Mount Buffalo Destination Advisory Group for the mountain are largely irrelevant until the Chalet is appropriately restored and functioning.”

Grant Cohen, whose family restored the Block Arcade in Melbourne, agrees the government has not done enough for the historic chalet.

“I’m not sure why the Victorian government doesn’t put their hand in their pocket for even $20 million, to clean it up, and get it going again,” he said.


Sean says he will keep fighting for transparency around the chalet’s state and future. Picture: MARK JESSER

“Other countries that have places like this celebrate them to no end – El Tovar on the southern rim of the Grand Canyon is well received.

“Mount Buffalo is one of Australia’s greatest assets of that period … someone has to put their hand up and say ‘enough is enough’ … it has to be bipartisan.

“We were always at the chalet for Australia Day, and then we started to go up in the snow, but it wasn’t about skiing.

“It was about being with family and friends and enjoying the facilities only Mount Buffalo could offer, and still could offer, if someone was given a real tax incentive and a long-term lease to bring that history back.”

Correction: A previous version of this article started that Parks Victoria had denied Sean Hallam access to the Ernst and Young report, rather than the Department of Environment, Land Water and Planning


‘Investors sitting on sidelines’ but Buffalo feasibility study to come first


NEXT STEP: Alpine Mayor Ron Janas thanks Victorian Parliamentary Secretary for Tourism Danielle Green for her support. Picture: JAMES WILTSHIRE

There are investors ‘sitting on the sideline’ ready to put money into Mount Buffalo but what could go to the heritage-listed chalet will be subject to a feasibility study.

Parliamentary Secretary for Tourism Danielle Green has announced $200,000 for a feasibility study to build off the Mount Buffalo Destination Advisory Group’s concepts for the national park.

“The funding will support the appointment of a professional consultancy service to evaluate and prepare a business case for tourism opportunities,” she said.

“The scope will be determining potential demand and target markets, reviewing infrastructure and road capacity and preparing a marketing prospectus for feasible options.

“The community shouldn’t think it’s more money being thrown at something that there’s not an intention to do something with.”


Ron Janas, Danielle Green, Mount Buffalo Destination Advisory Group member David Jacobson, and (back) Alpine chief executive Charlie Bird, and MBDAG members Amber Gardner and Janelle Boynton

Ms Green said it wouldn’t be limited just to feasibility of tourism developments, as opposed to potential funding options, ‘if the project facilitator is able to bring to the table investors’.

Alpine Council Mayor Ron Janas said ‘private investors, insurance companies, superannuation companies, government’, were interested in the project.

“We have to have public-private partnerships because that’s how things survive and endure,” he said.

“Early next year the tendering process will start to get an advisor to this work and then we will look at timeframes after that.

“I would think once the process starts, a 12 or 18 month timeframe would be reasonable, particularly if we can get a lot information that’s already out there.”

The consultants will be given access to past reports done on the chalet and Buffalo.

The Mount Buffalo Destination Advisory Group has repeatedly asked Parks Victoria for access to an Ernst and Young report from 2013, documents obtained by The Border Mail show.

It revealed a ‘strong level of interest in the proposition of operating a hotel at the Mount Buffalo Chalet site’ from hotel and tourism operators’ but a ‘lack of interest from high-end accomodation providers’.

A $52.9 million option canvassed in the report proposed eco-retreats at the chalet, a ‘day spa experience’ and an ‘adventure hub for the mountain’, but feedback from commercial and consumer testing indicated ‘limited demand/interest’ for that option.


Supporters of the MBDAG and community members gathered for the announcement

Mr Janas said the Ernst and Young report was not a public document and the advisory group would ‘work with government to glean what information’ could be reviewed.

“It’s not like we have to start from scratch and there’s commitment that some of those reports will be made available to the consultant and that will be case-by-case,” he said.

“I’ve seen comment around people saying we’re spending all this money to do what’s already been done, but this is a different approach.

“The government is committed to this project.”

Ms Green referred questions about how $7.2 million of insurance money received by Parks Victoria was spent to Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio.


The Border Mail has revealed spending of insurance money received by Parks Victoria, prompting anger from supporters of the chalet’s full restoration

Ms D’Ambrosio did not answer whether the government would investigate the spending but said the government would ‘continue to work with the community to identify future improvements’ to the chalet.

“The government has already delivered vital repairs to ensure the building is water-tight and safe,” she said.


Tell the premier to act, says National Trust


The National Trust thinks further needs to be done to restore the Mount Buffalo Chalet and make it viable. Picture: MARK JESSER

The National Trust wants further restoration done to the Mount Buffalo Chalet and has issued a call-to-arms to supporters to ensure their voices are heard.

The trust’s advocacy team inspected the $2.8 million works being undertaken in February and regarded the building to be watertight.

They were pleased to see the works addressed significant structural issues but noted they were limited to a small part of the chalet, and are advocating for a viable use for the building to be found.

Chief executive Simon Ambrose said residents should “write to Premier Daniel Andrews to express their deep concerns about the future of the chalet”.

“Call for funding to be provided to enable Parks Victoria to fulfill their obligation to look after this place on behalf of the people of Victoria,” he said.

The Border Mail revealed this week of $7.2 million available to the chalet in an insurance pay-out, only half was spent on actual works to the building, with some money spent on food and accomodation for Parks staff and contractors.

Documents show plans to redevelop the chalet had been dropped at one point in time.

Northern MLC Jaclyn Symes said there were questions to answer but an audit into the insurance money would not be likely.

“I’ve got some sympathy for ‘let’s just get on with it’, because it’s been stalled for so long,” she said.

“Let’s just get this planning done and let’s get started.”

A feasibility study into tourism offerings on Mount Buffalo, as proposed by an advisory group appointed in 2015, will be conducted with $200,000 announced on Wednesday.

Ian Browne, a descendant of the Mansfield family linked to the chalet, believes the building and surrounding land should be put on a separate title.

“The only thing that will save the chalet is if it becomes commercial and viable in its own right,” he said.

“One of the gatekeepers here is Parks Victoria and they need to let go.

“You wouldn’t get much change out of $100 million bringing it up to a standard required of modern day – to encourage someone to spend the sort of money, you would have to give a 70 or 90 years lease.”


There is no doubt the Chalet is both a potential profitable Tourist destination as well as a Heritage Icon.

Let’s hope common sense prevails and what could easily be an unproductive political stoush, becomes a strong program to rejuvenate and reinvigorate a fully restored Mt Buffalo Chalet – a real asset and treasure for generations to come.

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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.

The Maribyrnong – Melbourne’s best kept secret. Green or Greed?


Saltwater River was the name given to the City of Melbourne’s ‘western’ river until 1913. It was an industrial nightmare. And it was the place to store explosives. From 1876 ‘Jacks Magazine’ – not far from present day Highpoint West Shopping Centre – stored a massive quantity of Gunpowder and Dynamite. These were the base materials driving the Gold Rush and were stored in solid Bluestone Vaults. These vaults were strategically placed in a natural amphitheatre below an escarpment. As time went by the vaults were then used to store highly explosive munitions from the factory on the hilltop and then the new complex situated further up the river.

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With the new Edgewater development adjacent, with its myriad townhouses and apartments these unique buildings constructed from bluestone quarried on the site have been unoccupied and remained somewhat inaccessible. What’s more very few people these days even know of their existence.

Now, the government-appointed heritage body (Working Heritage) wants to find a use for the six-hectare site.


It consists of two gunpowder storage buildings surrounded by huge earth mound blast walls, tunnels, small tram lines once used to move explosives, a large ammunitions storage hall, a disused loading dock and even a canal – it’s blocked from the Maribyrnong but could be reconnected.

The catch is the land can’t be used for housing, and it has the highest level of state listing – meaning it is protected and can’t be altered without the Victorian Heritage Council’s approval.

“There’s a growing population in the area and Jack’s could be a really significant local amenity, completely different to the Highpoint shopping experience,” says the acting executive officer of Working Heritage, Ross Turnbull.


Working Heritage – until this week known as The Mint Inc, as a result of its role as the public manager of the leased Royal Mint in Williams Street – has commissioned planners Tract Consultants to oversee a process to consider what might happen with the old buildings.

The state-backed manager of treasured publicly-owned heritage buildings is responsible for properties across Victoria ranging from the old Mint to courthouses in country towns. The places the body manages are no longer needed for their original purpose, and Working Heritage tries to devise ways of adapting the buildings to suit contemporary needs.

It isn’t easy to think of what Jack’s Magazine – named after its former foreman and keeper Wally Jack, who served at the site from WW1 to 1943 – could be rebirthed as today.

“We want to see the place open – we want to see it become a place that’s known and treasured,” says Mr Turnbull. “It’s definitely not going to be a gunpowder store and it definitely won’t be housing, but other than that were not putting any limit to what it could be.”



Earlier this month the 12 hectare was advertised by the Commercial Real Estate Company Fitzroy’s. Fitzroy’s are seeking registrations of interest for the compound. It consists of 13 buildings on the site. As explained, the State Government organisation ‘Working Heritage’ currently manages the site. Up until 1993 it was a Department of Defence facility. After decommissioning it was returned to the State Government.


Most of the buildings were constructed between 1875 and 1878, and used for gunpowder magazine and ammunitions storage.

Among them is a loading dock shed, cordite store and examining room – all positioned amongst tramways, tunnels and earth blast mounds throughout the parkland.

The search is on for operators in retail, education, tourism, hospitality, creative industries and accommodation to bring life to the unique space – with lease terms of up to 65 years available for successful applicants.


Fitzroys is offering weekly tours of the site for potential vendors, and Working Heritage will look at all of the interested parties proposals to work out a cohesive game plan. Registrations of interest close December 15.

Fitzroys director Rick Berry said the site was one of the most unusual property he had handled – but it’s getting attention from the hospitality industry.

“We’ve had interest from restaurants, for wine storage, even a distillery and as a function centre. Everybody is looking for something that’s a little different.”


Rather than asking for a complicated proposal, the registration is a one page document (with supporting material), so people can put up their ideas without going to a lot of cost or effort.

“We want to cast the net as wide as possible, so people feel welcome to put something up.” Mr Berry said. “I’m hoping we get an outcome, because I think it will be a really interesting place to visit when the whole project is up and running.”

Working Heritage executive officer Ross Turnbull said the organisation, appointed managers of the property in 2015, was trying not to preempt the registration process.


“Our expertise is in heritage conservation, and we’re trying to stick to our knitting and look to the market to tell us what people think might work there,” he said.

Mr Turnbull said they were open to new buildings being constructed to complement the existing structures – and have approached heritage consultant and architectural experts Lovell Chen for assistance.

“We think there are opportunities to enhance and complement the existing fabric through the right architectural intervention,” he said.

Working Heritage has given local artists and makers short-term, low-rent licences in some of the buildings.

“Our thinking there was that if we can get people in there and doing things, they can give us feedback on issues or problems and benefits of working in that place,” he said.

Imagination will be the best tool for the successful candidates but Mr Berry and Mr Turnbull said the site was geared towards hospitality ventures.

“We want businesses or organisations that will generate visitation to the site,” he said. “The ultimate goal is to have the magazine and its buildings used and active seven days a week.”


This area of Melbourne has long been utilised for the storage and production of Munitions. In 1873 on the West Bank of the Maribyrnong River (or Saltwater River as it was then known) stood a Naval Battery. The site was used to test fire torpedos in the 1870s. It lay opposite a Government Ship Building Site on the other side of the river. It stood between ‘Henderson’s Piggery’ and the Ship Inn.

In 1888 the Colonial Ammunition Factory opened in Gordon St Footscray. The site sits above the river and looks east to the Melbourne CBD. It was access to the river from Jack’s Canal mentioned earlier that made this site desirable.

The factory provided the bulk of Australia’s arsenal in World War 1. More than two million rounds of .303 rifle ammunition was made annually during the war period.

A bigger facility was added in 1908. It was Australia’s largest at the time. Privately owned until 1927 it was transferred to the Department of Defence in 1927. During World War 2, the factories employed 20,000 men and women. There was a great fear that the Japanese would attack the facility and Melbourne’s Western Suburbs.

The factories were huge and spaced well apart to prevent chain reaction explosions. Most have since been demolished to make way for housing developments. Only one remains.

The State Government had through its Development Victoria arm earmarked a 3300 dwelling development plan for the site.

However, the current Federal Government announced in this year’s budget a plan to develop a 6000 dwelling development. It intends to sell the site to the highest bidder.


The site is heavily polluted with asbestos and other chemicals. The clean-up, it is estimated, will cost up to $300 million, with $580 million budgeted.

Currently the favoured bidder is – wait for it – a Chinese Property Developer – Zhongren. This group plan on building between 4000 and 6000 homes on the site. Their plan includes two new bridges, apartment blocks and office blocks. It would ‘incorporate Heritage Buildings, a military museum and a public beach and swimming pool’ – and a new canal through the land to provide more ‘Maribyrnong River frontage.’

Suffice to say the Heritage report produced by Heritage Consultants, Godden Mackay Logan is 147 pages long – not including appendices. We would suggest there may well be further due diligence required by Zhongren if it is to meet the State Government requirements.


The Maribyrnong has been locked up for over a century. With the Edgewater Project having been developed on the old Humes Pipes site and the old Footscray Abattoirs site and Flemington Saleyards also developed as intensive housing, the question is what of the green corridor this land represents. Is it to disappear without trace in a sea of townhouses, apartments and office blocks?

There is the possibility of a relaxed and meandering green ribbon winding through the western suburbs from Footscray Rd through to Avondale Heights. Flemington Racetrack and Footscray Park meet Edgewater and flow through along the Essendon Boulevard. It is the development planned beyond the housing across the river in current Maribyrnong that raises real questions.


Is there a linked plan? It seems there are strong conflicting interests at play here. With clever planning, intelligent architecture and an eye for open space, this former industrial no-go area could become a delightful and hidden gem of Melbourne living. A continuous river boulevard with great recreational attributes for all.

But not without planning, co-operation, vision and foresight. Who is going to pick up the pace and demonstrate some common sense? This is a golden opportunity. Let’s not waste it. It’s time for the proposed development plans right along the river to be synchronised with an eye to the future and deference to the past. Surely it’s realistic to at least present the vision to the public as was done by Development Victoria and the Victorian Government over 10 years ago.

At this stage, we think we can probably sit on that ‘virtual’ (at this stage) Beach and simply wait for a documented Masterplan – sometime soon please.

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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.