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.

Heritage Grants and Major Projects undertaken from 2015-2019

Last week’s article on Heritage Loans and grants has stimulated a lot of interest.To demonstrate a sense of such funding and how it is put to purpose, this week we review some examples of how the Ballarat Heritage Restoration Fund has been applied in the past. We then follow up on the last year of grants funded by Heritage Victoria. Many of the buildings and locations funded have been featured previously here on Balance Architecture’s blog site and latest news.

Ballarat Heritage Restoration Fund

320A Learmonth Street, Buninyong

This is a commercial building located within the town centre of Buninyong. It is a two storey red brick building dating from circa 1890 with a shop at ground level and residence above. The original roof is a prominent feature of the commercial streetscape and was in a deteriorated state requiring complete replacement.

In February 2015, the VHRF Committee of Management agreed to offer a grant of $6,500 for roof replacement works to original galvanised iron specifications. The works, which were completed in September 2016, have greatly improved the appearance of this building as viewed in the main street of Buninyong and will prevent further water ingress and damage to original brickwork.

Clifton Villa, 208 Winter Street, Buninyong

Clifton Villa is a picturesque Victorian Gothic style red brick residence. The main features are the elaborate fretwork to gables, decorative verandah and highly distinctive paired chimneys with round profiles, brick patterning and circular brick capping. A pair of the distinctive chimneys and the gable end fretwork was in a deteriorated state.

In February 2015, the VHRF Committee of Management agreed to offer a grant of $2,000 for chimney repair and a grant of $8,400 towards timber fretwork restoration to the three front gable ends. The works were completed in February in 2016, and have improved the appearance of this building to ensure the longevity of these important decorative features.

13 Young Street, Golden Point

This is a substantially intact Victorian residence in a row of Victorian residences. The roof would have originally been clad in corrugated galvanised iron but at some later date this was replaced with ceramic tiles. This roof cladding was not in keeping with the style of the building and was detracting from its street appearance.

In August 2015, the VHRF Committee of Management offered a grant of $7,000 towards the replacement of the existing tile roof to the main house and verandah. The funding allowed the owner to replace the roof with corrugated galvanised iron to match the original. The roof of the verandah was also returned to its original convex hipped profile.

The works have returned the building to its original appearance and improved the appearance of the heritage streetscape of Young Street.

604 Sebastopol Street, Ballarat

This is a single storey Victorian weatherboard cottage in Ballarat. It has a double hipped roof running parallel to the street and a hipped verandah roof. The building remains remarkably intact and retains its original front appearance with verandah, central front door and double hung windows either side.

In August 2015, the VHRF Committee of Management offered a grant of $6,000 towards the cost of galvanised corrugated iron roof replacement with the original galvanizing specifications.

The works, which were completed in March 2016, have improved the appearance of this building and will assist in protecting the original timber fabric of the building.

39 George St, Ballarat East

This is a single storey weatherboard Inter-War Bungalow. Features of note include the dominant gable roof, bay window to the front gable wing and timber framed windows.

In February 2016, the VHRF Committee of Management offered a grant of $6000 towards the replacement of the existing roof with corrugated galvanised iron matching the existing short sheets.

The works have ensured that the building is now water tight and improved the appearance of the building in the heritage streetscape of George Street.

208-210 Sturt St, Ballarat

This is a three storey building completed in 1869 as a warehouse for Messrs. L.S. Christie & Co (drapers). It has a classically rendered façade with decorative pilasters, cornices and window mouldings. The existing render to the façade had hairline cracking to the entire façade and was causing water ingress.

In November 2015, the VHRF Committee agreed to offer a grant of $40,000 towards the cost of render repairs and repainting after repairs. The works have restored the appearance of the property and halted water ingress through the rendered façade and parapet. The works also greatly improve the appearance of the building in the Sturt Street streetscape.


Living Heritage Grants Program

Grants – Successful Projects Round 3

Wollaston Bridge – Warrnambool City Council, Warrnambool

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A grant of $195,000 has been awarded to Warrnambool City Council to undertake urgent conservation works to the failing timber elements of the Wollaston Bridge. The suspension bridge was erected across the Merri River in 1890 as an entrance to the Wollaston Estate. Today, the bridge is one of the oldest surviving cable suspension bridges in Victoria and a local landmark. The bridge provides a key link for pedestrians over the Merri River and is frequently used for birdwatching, cycling, and other recreational activities.

Balmoral Court House – Balmoral & District Historical Society, Balmoral

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A grant of $50,000 has been awarded to the Balmoral & District Historical Society to undertake vital conservation works to the roof, rainwater goods, and timber elements of the Balmoral Court House, which has been closed to the public due to safety concerns. The rare timber court house was designed by Alfred T Snow and built by the Public Works Department in 1876. It is one of only three surviving timber court houses of its type in the state. Today, the former court house is used as a community space managed by the Historical Society. The grant will allow the court house to re-open, providing a local venue for exhibitions, meetings and education.

Hamilton Botanic Gardens Thomson Memorial Fountain – Friends of Hamilton Botanic Gardens, Hamilton

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A grant of $160,000 has been awarded to the Friends of Hamilton Botanic Gardens, whom together with Southern Grampians Shire Council will restore the Thomson Memorial Fountain in Hamilton Botanic Gardens. The Hamilton Botanic Gardens are one of the earliest regional botanic gardens in Victoria, and the Thomson Memorial Fountain forms an important feature in the historic gardens. The gardens are open to the public seven days a week and is frequently used by members of the local community and visitors alike. The grant will enable water to once again flow through the fountain, currently fenced off for safety reasons.

La Mama Theatre – La Mama Theatre, Carlton

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A grant of $50,000 will assist La Mama Theatre in developing a recovery strategy after a recent devastating fire. Built as a printing works in 1883, it has served as a theatre since 1967. The theatre is important for its significant role in the development of Australian drama and has nurtured a host of internationally award winning Australian playwrights, directors and actors. The grant will contribute towards assessing the impacts of the fire and provide options for restoration or rebuilding of this much-loved theatre.

Murtoa Grain Store – Murtoa Stick Shed Committee of Management, Murtoa

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A grant of $70,000 has been awarded to fund urgent repairs to the windows and doors of Murtoa Grain Store (known as the Stick Shed). Murtoa Grain Store was built in 1941 as a war-time emergency grain storage. Similar structures were erected around Southern and Western Australia during World War 2 for the temporary storage of wheat. Murtoa Grain Store is the only one of its kind still standing.Due to the poor condition of the building, it has only had limited public access. The grant will enable this nationally significant site to be opened to the public, as a witness of an important part of Australian history.

Warracknabeal Town Hall – Yarriambiack Shire Council, Warracknabeal

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A grant of $130,000 has been awarded to Yarriambiack Shire Council to fund structural repairs to Warracknabeal Town Hall. TheTown Hall was erected in 1939-40 on a prominent site in the centre of town, as one of the first Modernist Town Halls in Australia. The building also includes a cinema with 1930s projection and sound equipment. Today, it is used by a wide range of community groups and provides an accessible venue for community events and functions. Due to the structural issues, the Town Hall has been at risk of closure due to public safety.The grant will enable an increased use of the building as a community space.

Tyntyndyer Homestead – Tyntyndear Homestead Inc, Beverford

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A grant of $200,000 has been awarded to Tyntyndyer Homestead to undertake urgent conservation works and the structural stabilisation of the Homestead and Store. The site is one of Victoria’s earliest homesteads dating from 1845. The homestead has a shared indigenous and pastoral history, through its long association with local Aboriginal communities. The grant will support the Watti Watti people in their continued use of the site for educational and cultural purposes and provide a venue for the local community for functions and events.

Theatre Royal – Privately owned, Castlemaine

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A grant of $75,000 has been awarded on a matched-funds basis to fund urgent structural repairs and conservation works to Theatre Royal in Castlemaine. A theatre was built on the site in 1858, replacing a timber and canvas theatre which had burned down. After many moderations, the theatre was extensively adapted to a Moderne-style cinema in the 1930s. The building continues to operate as a cinema, with a café and bar, and now provides a venue for live music and other events.The grant will contribute towards the safe-guarding of this much-loved community space.

Buda House & Garden – Buda Historic Home and Garden Inc, Castlemaine

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A grant of $50,000 has been awarded to Buda House & Garden to undertake much needed conservation works to the garden including replacement of the irrigation system, urgent tree removal and tree surgery, and resurfacing of the historic paths. The extensive garden is open to the public four days a week and is available for community functions and events.The grant will ensure the early twentieth century garden can continue to be accessed by the local community and visitors alike and reduce public safety concerns.

Bendigo Trades Hall – Bendigo Trades Hall and Literary Institute, Bendigo

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A grant of $42,000 has been awarded to undertake the urgent roof replacement of the front section of Bendigo Trades Hall. The hall dates from 1896 and is one of the only surviving purpose-built trades halls in Victoria. Today, it is a well-used community space, providing a venue and meeting spaces for over 50 community groups annually. The building also houses an extensive collection of historical artefacts and archival records relating to the history of Bendigo and the Trades Hall.

Windmill Farm – Kyneton Historical Society Inc, Kyneton

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A grant of $20,000 has been awarded on a matched-funds basis for the urgent repair and stabilisation of the Mill roof and column, which is currently at risk of collapsing. The mill site dates from the mid nineteenth century and is the only surviving wind driven flour mill in Victoria.The emergency works is the first step in enabling this historic site to be re-opened to the community for guided tours and community days, and as a venue for public events.

Omeo Justice Precinct – East Gippsland Shire Council, Omeo

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A grant of $200,000 has been awarded to fund urgent structural repairs to the Old Court House dating from 1859 and conservation works to the New Court House dating from 1893 at the Omeo Justice Precinct. The precinct is one of the most intact example of a nineteenth century police and court complex known to survive in Victoria.The precinct is open to the public 7 days a week, from 10am-2pm. The Old Court House houses a museum, and the New Court House is used as a regular Magistrate’s court.Due to the poor state of both buildings, use for community events are currently limited. The grant will enable increased public use of these important heritage assets.

Major Building Projects 2016-17

Trades Hall, Carlton – Victorian Trades Hall Council

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Melbourne’s Trades Hall will benefit from a grant of $10 million for essential conservation and activation works including, the urgent and high priority roofing works and repairs to the Lygon Street portico. Conservation works will include the specialist restoration works to key interior spaces including the Old Council Chamber, New Ballroom and Bella Union as well as the investigation and protection of decorative finishes within the New Council Chamber. Other works to activate the building will allow for compliant access to all levels of the building including provision for vertical access. Trades Hall is significant for its role in Victorian and Australian political history, and for its associations with working class politics and activism. It is Australia’s oldest and largest trades hall built in several stages from 1873-1926. It is a prominent Carlton landmark, and it continues to serve as a hub for union organisation. Trades Hall also hosts a wide variety of tenants and events and the works will allow new spaces to be opened and accessed by the public.

Abbotsford Convent, Abbotsford – Abbotsford Convent Foundation

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A grant of $2.7 million will enable the transformation of the Magdalen Laundries buildings on the Convent site through priority conservation and activation works. The Laundries are the last remaining buildings to be redeveloped for arts, cultural and learning purposes in the Abbotsford Convent multi-arts precinct. The Laundries provided commercial income to the Convent from the 1860s, and were staffed by the girls and women who had been placed in Magdalen Asylum. It is now acknowledged as a site of suffering for the women who were forced to work there, and since the laundries were decommissioned in 1975, the space has remained empty and unused. The grant funding will allow the spaces to be opened to the public and will provide new leasable space for the Convent, as well as multi-functional performance and event space.

Her Majesty’s Theatre, Ballarat – Her Majesty’s Theatre and City of Ballarat

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A grant of $2 million will fund the urgent roof replacement and drainage works as well as interior render repairs to Her Majesty’s Theatre in Ballarat. Built in 1874 as the Academy of Music, the building is a rare surviving example of the theatres erected in the gold rush towns of Ballarat and Bendigo in the nineteenth century, which rivalled those in Australian capital cities. Her Majesty’sTheatre, Ballarat, is thought to be Australia’s oldest operating theatre, and is known for its unique interior, with double horse-shoe shaped balconies supported on ornate columns – the last example of this type of theatre design in Victoria. Home of the Royal South Street Eisteddfod and Sun Arias for many years and site of the original Fine Art Gallery, Her Majesty’s Theatre has been the centre of the city’s arts and cultural life since it opened.

Returned Soldier’s Memorial Hall, Bendigo – City of Greater Bendigo

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A grant of $1.5 million will support the urgent conservation and restoration works to the Returned Soldier’s Memorial Hall in Bendigo. Funded works will include structural repairs, conservation of the building’s exterior, and restoration works to windows and doors.The works are part of a broader scope of works to construct a new exhibition space to one side of the memorial building.The memorial hall was opened in 1921 to commemorate all those from Bendigo who served in World War One and particularly to those who died in service. The hall is architecturally significant for its unique external detailing and design, including the uncommon feature of a band rotunda on the roof. The memorial is a Bendigo landmark, and the home of the Soldiers Memorial Institute Military Museum.

John Kelly’s Former House, Beveridge – Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning

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The Kelly House in Beveridge will be stabilised and restored through a grant of $1 million. Assessed as part of the 2015 Living Heritage Audit, the house was found to be in very poor condition, requiring urgent structural stabilisation works and weatherproofing. The earliest phase of the house was built in 1866 by John Kelly, the father of Ned Kelly, using materials gathered from the surrounding bush. The place is significant as a highly rare example of vernacular timber cottage construction based on Irish principles, and as the childhood home of one of Australia’s most iconic and divisive historical figures. The conservation project will include collaboration with key stakeholders to activate the site and facilitate tourism to the growing area.

Sunnyside Wool Scour, Geelong – Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning

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A grant of $1 million will fund the most urgent conservation works at the Wool Scour, including stabilisation and bracing, roof repairs, removal of hazardous materials, and general ‘make safe’ works. Associated with the region’s wool trade since 1853, the site is significant as a rare and highly intact example of a wool scouring establishment with operations dating from as early as the 1850s. Funded works will support activation of the Barwon River site, which may include interpretation and adaptation of spaces for various community uses.

Former Royal Australian Army Medical Corps Training Depot, Melbourne Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning

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A grant of $1 million will support urgent conservation works to the A’Beckett Street ‘Drill Hall’. Built in 1938, the site is architecturally significant for its design which combines several stylistic influences, with colonial revival, art deco, classical and Moderne elements. Historically, the building is representative of Australia’s military preparedness prior to the outbreak of the Second World War as international tensions mounted. The Drill Hall is the home of the Royal Historical Society of Victoria, and funded works will allow increased usage of a versatile community space.

Former Reid’s Coffee Palace, Ballarat – UnitingCare Ballarat

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A grant of $700,000 will fund urgently required conservation works to the Former Reid’s Coffee Palace in Ballarat. One of the city’s most imposing and iconic landmarks, the building dates from 1886 and is representative of Ballarat’s grandeur and opulence during the Gold Rush. Now owned and managed by UnitingCare Ballarat, Reid’s Coffee Palace is a key community resource, offering low-cost accommodation and support programs for those facing financial and social hardship.

Polly Woodside, Melbourne – National Trust (Victoria)

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The Polly Woodside will benefit from a grant of $500,000for essential repairs to the three timber masts and all riggings. The ship was included in the 2015 Living Heritage Audit and was found to be in poor condition. Built in Belfast in 1885 as a cargo vessel, the Polly Woodside carried wheat, nitrate and coal between England and South America, North America, Africa and Australia. It was later used as a coal hulk in Australia and New Zealand and as a refuelling ship in New Guinea during the Second World War. The National Trust purchased the ship in 1968, and oversaw its large-scale restoration. Since 1978, the Polly Woodside has been open to the public as a floating museum.

Day’s Flour Mill Complex, Murchison – Parks Victoria

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A grant of $500,000 will support urgently required conservation works at Day’s Flour Mill in Murchison. The site was included in the 2015 Living Heritage Audit and was found to be in very poor condition, owing to ongoing vandalism, loss of windows and doors, damage by birds to soft timber joinery, structural stability of the chimneys and salt damage to handmade bricks. The site was owned and run by the Day Family from 1865 until 1986, and is highly intact with a significant collection of machinery and associated artefacts. Now managed by Parks Victoria, the mill site is closed to the public due to safety concerns.

Camperdown Grandstand, Camperdown – Camperdown Grandstand Restoration Committee Inc.

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A grant of $330,000 will fund the final stage of conservation works to the Camperdown Turf Grandstand, allowing the grandstand to be reopened to the public. The grandstand has been closed owing to unsafe conditions, and the final stage of works will include roof bracing, reconstruction of the mounded retaining wall, and repairs and compliance works to the stairways. Built in 1902-1903and extended in 1913, the structure is an outstanding example of a Federation-era grandstand. It is a highly-valued local landmark, and is the largest of its kind in Victoria.

Major Building Projects 2017-2018

Former Moonee Ponds Court House, Moonee Ponds – Essendon Historical Society

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The Former Moonee Ponds Court House in Melbourne will benefit from a grant of $1.5 million to fund urgent remedial works following a 2016 fire which destroyed the roof and damaged period timber woodwork. Built in the late 19th Century, the building operated as a court house until the mid-1970s. From 1980 the Court House housed the museum, collection facility and meeting space of the Essendon Historical Society. Currently in a state of disrepair, the grant will reconstruct new timber ceilings and joinery, complete floor repairs and provide new safety fire measures to restore this 1890 building with new purpose. The grant will allow this prominent building to re-open its doors to the public.

Paddle Steamer Gem, Swan Hill – Swan Hill Rural City Council

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A grant of $500,000 will support complex conservation repairs to the Paddle Steamer Gem in Swan Hill to prevent water ingress. The vessel was first launched in Moama, NSW in 1876 and is a rare survivor of the steam boat era of trading along the Murray-Darling. The Gem was built in red gum planking over iron frames for a local Echuca shipowner. The Gem was originally fitted with a40 horsepower steam engine, wood fired boilers and carried both freight and passengers, mainly in the lower reaches of the Murray below Mildura.The grant will ensure the Gem continues to float and will enhance the visitor experience aboard the vessel.

Werribee Park Mansion, Werribee South – Parks Victoria

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The Werribee Mansion in Werribee Park will undergo urgent masonry repairs, supported by a grant of $500,000. Conservation works involve repairs to the bluestone and sandstone parapets, chimneys and roof, addressing safety issues for visiting public and staff. Werribee Park is one of Australia’s grandest and most architecturally sophisticated mansions, notable also for its extensive garden. Built from 1874 for Scottish pastoralists, the Mansion has been used variously as a private home, religious seminary and currently, hotel. The estate is open daily and the funded works will ensure the continued public use and appreciation of the mansion.

Bluestone building, Pipe Makers Park Complex, Maribyrnong – Maribyrnong City Council

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A grant of $400,000 will enable the reopening of the bluestone building for use as a community/public event space and will include masonry repairs, essential structural works and roof, joinery and flooring repairs.The ‘Pipe Makers Park Complex’ building was originally occupied in 1847 as a meatworks, boiling down and canning establishment in the industrial heartland of Melbourne and the banks of the Maribyrnong River. During WWI, the site was repurposed as a concrete works producing reinforced concrete pipes. It is located within an 8 hectare park precinct, also home to the Living Museum of the West community museum.

Great Melbourne Telescope Building, Melbourne Royal Botanic Gardens Board

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The Great Melbourne Telescope Building, located in Melbourne’s Royal Botanical Gardens, will benefit from a grant of $400,000 to bring the building up to a standard to enable the return of the ‘Great Melbourne Telescope’ –one of the world’s major nineteenth century astronomical instruments – currently under restoration and due for return in 2019. The building was purpose-built for the Telescope with a roll-off roof to be reinstated through this grant. The works include the remediation of rising damp and salt attack issues. The works will ensure that the place will be accessed, understood and appreciated as originally intended.


As can be seen, the projects funded are both intriguing and quite diverse. Some are privately owned, many are not. For further information on applying for a Heritage Victoria Grant please visit the Living Heritage Program – Heritage Victoria

Please also visit Victoria’s Heritage Restoration Website

Further Commonwealth funding is available for Australian Heritage Council Grants, but this program requires substantial evidence of the National Heritage value of a site and it is a competitive fund.

Utilising an experienced Heritage architect is eminently sensible. Andrew Fedorowicz (FAIA), principal Architect with Balance Architecture, is well qualified to assist you with your project. Please call direct on 0418 341 443 and schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with Andrew. Alternatively, please leave your details here for a prompt reply.

Preserving our past provides guidelines for the future and future generations.

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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 property within a Heritage Overlay? It may qualify for a ‘Heritage Loan’.

For many people living in designated ‘Heritage Overlay’ areas or in a Heritage listed building, the cost of restoration can be somewhat daunting. However it can be entirely less problematic if your property and its buildings qualify for a nil-interest or low interest Heritage Loan.


The criteria for eligibility is restoration, not maintenance. Essentially your proposed works must be restorative, and your property publicly visible in most cases. You will need to prove that the works are of a restorative nature through building plans, photographs and drawings. It goes without saying that the services of a specialist Heritage Architect would be recommended and ultimately most advantageous.

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There are restrictions and it is wise to be well aware of what these are before commencing your application. Each council area has slightly different criteria. Balance Architecture’s Principal Architect, Andrew Fedorowicz (FAIA), has a thorough working knowledge of such requirements and is happy to assist you (His contact details appear at the end of this article.)

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Currently, the Ballarat City Council, the Bendigo City Council, the Shire of Hepburn, the Geelong City Council, the Melbourne City Council and the City of Yarra all offer such low interest loans. The Borough of Queenscliffe also offers a comprehensive package but it is also far more demanding in terms of detail and competitive quoting on proposed restorative works.

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If you are interested and would like to know more, here are the links for each location. The Victorian Heritage Restoration site provides information for property owners and residents in the City of Melbourne, the City of Yarra and also Ballarat.

To give some examples of what may be funded in different areas, in Bendigo the re-installment of Verandahs, the restoration of shop-front joinery and front fences from historic photographs, repainting and repairs to timber windows and to chimneys have all been funded.

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In both the City of Melbourne and the City of Yarra, painting is not funded and if the building is not visible to the public, funding is restricted.

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In the Borough of Queenscliffe the projects approved are entirely at the discretion of the Council’s Planning Department.


The City of Adelaide offers similar funding but it requires documentation and plans of a completely professional standard.

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The simplest solution is to engage a Heritage Architect with a proven track record in preparing such documentation and in supervising such restorations. Andrew Fedorowicz, our Principal Architect has over 25 years experience in Heritage Architecture. Whether it’s a restoration of Ironwork or Verandahs, ornate Victorian tiling, roofing, chimneys or decorative external mouldings, it’s worth making an enquiry – even to restore that original fence.

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Then again if it’s a full restoration of a Victorian Terrace, a Queen Anne or Georgian style home, or simply a Californian Bungalow, discover what is possible. Restoration of commercial premises – shops, warehouses and older shopping centre façades and verandahs? Call now on 0418 534 792 for a free no-obligation consultation on both your potential renovation and the possibility of a low interest loan to achieve it. You can leave your details here for a prompt reply. The funding is available if applicants follow due process. Let Balance Architecture restore your Heritage property to its former grandeur.

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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.

Professor David Yencken AO – A true visionary

In Architecture more than any other discipline the visionaries are unconventional. When in the 1950s and 1960s builders and developers were having a field day ‘modernising’ Melbourne, there were voices calling for a more moderate approach. There were those who knew and respected the grand heritage of old Melbourne and did what they could to protect it. Of these David Yencken was one of the most foremost and most effective.

For more than 50 years, Professor David Yencken has been a champion for the Australian environment, the nation’s heritage and excellence in design. Working in industry, politics and academia, especially through his association with the University of Melbourne, he has been a staunch advocate and activist, promoting better outcomes for strategic policy, innovation in implementation, design and practice across our cities and landscapes.

David George Druce Yencken was born in Berlin to Australian parents in 1931 and undertook his schooling in England and Australia, receiving a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Cambridge. From early in his career he strove to break new ground, opening one of the earliest art galleries in Melbourne devoted to Australian painting in 1956-57 and building and running one of the first motels in Australia, the Mitchell Valley Motel in Bairnsdale (1957-60). He also commissioned noted architect Robin Boyd to design the architecturally significant Black Dolphin Motel in Merimbula, NSW (1960-65).

In 1965 he co-founded Merchant Builders Pty Ltd where, as Chairman and Joint Managing Director, he led the way in pioneering new project housing developments in Victoria that combined progressive architectural design with native landscaping. Yencken’s firm won a number of architectural awards including three Victorian Architectural Medals and the inaugural Robin Boyd Environmental Award (1972) for “changing the face of residential Melbourne”. During this period he also founded Tract Consultants, a firm of town and regional planners, resource analysts and landscape architects, in which he held the position of Chairman and Managing Director from 1971-79.

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The Black Dolphin Hotel, Merimbula, one of Autralia’s earliest hotels. Designed by Robin Boyd at the request of David Yencken.

One of Yencken’s most influential roles was as Secretary (Chief Executive) of the Ministry for Planning and Environment for the Victorian Government, a position he held from 1982-87. During this time he was involved in a number of important strategic projects, including the preparation and release of a new Metropolitan Policy and State Conservation Strategy; the preparation of a comprehensive plan for the redevelopment of central Melbourne; and the consolidation and re-writing of seven different Acts, as well as a number of smaller local community projects. His work with the Ministry was recognised with several Royal Australian Institute of Architecture awards, a special Australian Institute of Landscape Architecture award for the greening of Swanston Street, and a Royal Australian Planning Institute award for its work on central Melbourne pedestrian and street planning and Yarra River bank works.

David Yencken has been active throughout his career on a significant number of international organisations, serving as the inaugural Chairman of the Australian Committee of the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) and representing Australia twice as a joint leader of the Australian Delegation to the UNESCO World Heritage Committee in 1980 and 81. He has also participated in numerous government bodies, including as Chairman of the Interim Committee on the National Estate (Commonwealth Government) in 1974-75. He was an author of the seminal Report on the National Estate (1974), which led to the establishment of the Australian Heritage Commission, and which he then chaired from 1975-81. In these roles, Yencken helped to realise some significant achievements including stimulating national planning, research, professional standards, training and public education across Australia, and developing a Register of 6,600 natural, Aboriginal and historic places, published in an 800 page catalogue, The Heritage of Australia, in 1981. He was a member of the Prime Minister’s Urban Design Taskforce from 1994-95, chaired the Design Committee of the Australia Council for the Arts and was President of the Australian Conservation Foundation. He is currently Patron of the Foundation.


It is during the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s that Heritage values in Australia became a recognised asset of our nation. David Yencken played no small part in this.

A recent article aptly and accurately describes his influence.

The man who helped re-imagine Melbourne

In the 1950s, iron lace on Victorian-era buildings was considered so outmoded in Australia that magazines such as Women’s Weekly were full of articles illustrating how to spruce up old buildings to remove it.

But cultural tastes change, which is why David Yencken – one of the architects of heritage protection in Australia – believes heritage listings are so important.

“Later, following the establishment of the National Trusts, along with spirited defence of iron lace by writers such as Graeme Robertson, Victoriana gradually came fully back into fashion again,” Professor Yencken writes in his new book, Valuing Australia’s National Heritage.

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David Yencken when he was a member of the inquiry into the National Estate in 1978. Credit:The Age

In 1975, Professor Yencken, who is critically ill and too frail to interview for this story, was appointed the inaugural chairman of the Australian Heritage Commission.

The prime task of the commission was to develop the Register of the National Estate, which had more than 13,000 listings when the commission was abolished by the Howard government in 2003.

“We collectively reached the view that the only way to avoid bias in listing caused by temporarily prevailing architectural likes and dislikes, was to seek to list the best examples of each style period,” Professor Yencken writes.

He says whether or not they enjoyed architectural popularity at the time, the likelihood was that the heritage significance of each would almost certainly be better appreciated at some time in the future.

Urban historian Graeme Davison says Professor Yencken is a “national treasure”. “I can’t think of anybody who has contributed more to our understanding about the Australian environment than he has.”

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Urban historian Graeme Davison says Professor Yencken transformed Southbank. Credit:Eddie Jim

Professor Davison met Professor Yencken at a party when he was secretary of the Victorian Planning Ministry from 1982 to 1987. They talked all night. “I thought this is a most remarkable person – he had a breadth of vision, a capacity to think imaginatively and creatively.”

Professor Yencken contributed to the re-imagination of Melbourne.

In 1985 Swanston Street was a gloomy, car-clogged thoroughfare. As part of Victoria’s 150th celebrations, Professor Yencken had the radical idea of turning it into a giant green pop-up park.

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Professor Yencken turned Swanston Street into a green pedestrian mall as part of Victoria’s 150th celebrations. Credit:The Age

For the weekend of 9 and 10 February, 13,250 square metres of fresh grass was rolled out along four blocks of Swanston Street.

The price tag for the party – $550,000 – was not cheap. Professor Yencken’s wife – Dr Helen Sykes – recalls a friend sniping “this is my taxes at work”.

Premier John Cain wobbled after a sustained attack from then opposition leader Jeff Kennett.

He rang and asked Professor Yencken to pull the pin on the turf. Dr Sykes recalls him saying no.

For one weekend tens of thousands of families picnicked on a gritty strip transformed into a green oasis. “The garden party to end all garden parties,” was the headline in The Age. Journalist John Lahey wrote: “the cheerfulness is the one thing that will stick in most people’s minds”.

Professor Davison said Professor Yencken had an agenda. “This illustrated how clever he was. This one event was a dramatic way of sowing the seed that Swanston Street could become a pedestrian street.”

Professor Yencken was also responsible for the redevelopment of Southbank. At the time the precinct was made up of derelict factories and the city turned its back on the Yarra River.

“A lot of our work in the initial instance focused on the central area of Melbourne because there was such a sense of neglect and lack of policy direction,” Professor Yencken told Planning News in 2017.

“This lack of effective action was being expressed in papers like The Age on a very regular basis. We had a big program and that included Southbank.”

Professor Yencken’s introduction to architecture and building was a road trip through Canada in his early 20s, where he wrote he was introduced to “several wonders of the new world: hamburgers, three-minute car washes and motels”.

One of Australia’s original hotels, the Mitchell Valley Hotel in Bairnsdale, designed and built by David Yencken

He built one of the first motels in Australia in Bairnsdale in 1957 and later asked architect Robin Boyd to design a second – The Black Dolphin – in Merimbula.

In 1965, Professor Yencken co-founded Merchant Builders, which built homes that emphasised the Australian character of the landscape.

The firm pioneered cluster housing at Winter Park in Doncaster and Vermont Park, where groups of homes share communal space such as a park or swimming pool.

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The Winter Park Estate in Doncaster. Credit:Eddie Jim

Melbourne University architecture professor Alan Pert says Merchant Builders was ahead of its time. He says its model of suburbia is relevant to Melbourne’s current debates about housing affordability and population growth.

“A lot of the things Nightingale is trying to do with apartment building – the attitude of shared space and community – were all things Merchant Builders was doing 40 to 50 years ago in a suburban context.”

Valuing Australia’s National Heritage, which Professor Yencken wanted to see published while he is still alive, is part memoir, part history of the development of Australia’s national heritage consciousness.

The book is full of interesting tidbits.

Professor Yencken describes his initial battle to persuade a sceptical media that the National Estate was not a middle class conceit. (Curiously, after Malcolm Fraser came to power, he was never asked this question again.)

He details the “fierce and unexpected opposition” of Liberal Billy Snedden, then Speaker of the House of Representatives, to Parliament House in Canberra being on the register.

But it is also a lament for what Professor Yencken sees as the current neglect of national heritage and the “apparent unwillingness” to add places to the national lists.

Dr James Lesh from the School of Architecture at the University of Sydney says Mr Yencken has been a life-long advocate for the conservation of things and places.

“As businessman, as developer, as conservationist, as policymaker, as urban planner, as educator, his overriding ambition has always been to make Australian society a better place.”

Valuing Australia’s National Heritage is published by Future Leaders, a not-for-profit initiative. For a free copy email


The Heritage Council of Victoria and the bodies active in other states as well as the Commonwealth are seriously under-financed and under-staffed. A heritage assessment can take anything from 8 months to 2 years. Where municipal councils remain active in presenting Heritage buildings and sites for assessment, the relevant body in Victoria, the Heritage Council, simply does not have sufficient staff to keep up with the demand from such bodies.

As we have stated previously, it’s time to acknowledge the challenge Heritage Architecture faces in modern Australia and develop a uniform platform that is pragmatic and practical ensuring our precious heritage resources are preserved and protected for future generations. It was the visionaries of the late 20th century that established the parameters of Heritage protection in Australia. It’s now time for a new generation to step up to the plate. Our heritage is precious and it is most definitely worth preserving, now even more than ever.

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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 Architecture Preservation is in dire need of a Strategic National Plan.

Adelaide is a unique city. Often referred to as ‘the city of churches’, right now it is busy tearing down many of its heritage buildings in rampant destruction (including Churches!) The Marshall Government has little regard for history, extraordinary buildings and early settlement. At loggerheads with the Adelaide City Council, it would appear that this episode will not end well. This is a real pity – Adelaide features some exceptional architecture and as Australia’s first ‘free settler’ city it certainly deserves a far more comprehensive Heritage protection plan.

Contrast this situation to both Sydney and Melbourne. Sydney appears to be somewhat advanced on Melbourne. But first here is a report on what is currently occurring in Adelaide. North Adelaide is a wonderful old-worldly precinct with a genuine feeling of heritage and history. Its so disappointing to see wonderful buildings being put at risk in such a calculating fashion.

Heritage advocates prepare for battle over Knoll’s North Adelaide rejection

Heritage advocates say they are ready to stand in front of bulldozers and launch a strident public campaign after the State Government rejected heritage status applications for nine North Adelaide buildings they say hold irreplaceable historical value for the state.


Lord Mayor Martin Haese says the decision not to grant heritage listing for the Lohe Memorial Library means it is at the mercy of the Australian Lutheran College, which owns it.

Last week, Local Government Minister Stephan Knoll rejected the Adelaide City Council’s application for the buildings to gain heritage listing, but said they could be protected in other ways.

North Ward councillor Phil Martin said he feared one or more of the property owners may take the opportunity to demolish the properties before heritage advocates had a chance to change the minister’s mind.

Martin said he and many others were willing to stand in front of bulldozers if any landowner attempts to demolish those buildings.

“If it has to come to it, there are a lot of us who will stand in front of bulldozers and contractors and ensure that this doesn’t happen,” he said.

“My inbox is full of complaints from residents.

“It took almost two decades for Labor to destroy its reputation on heritage – this minister looks like he’s done it in less than two months.”

The buildings include the Lohe Memorial Library at the Australian Lutheran College, cottages at the Kathleen Lumley College on Jeffcott Street, stables at St Mark’s College and a former mortuary at Calvary Hospital.


Former stables at St. Mark’s College.

Martin’s said Knoll’s decision “could irrevocably damage the reputation of this new government” if it is not overturned.

“I would urge everyone to write to the Premier, write to the minister, write to their local member and tell them that these are places that are worth preserving.

“Anyone who cares about heritage needs to … send a message to ministers like this that history is worth preserving.

“Once it’s gone, it’s gone.”


The former mortuary at Calvary Hospital.

Lord Mayor Martin Haese said the city council would likely appeal to the Environment, Resources and Development Committee of parliament to challenge Knoll’s decision.

“I remain very disappointed that any number of those nine sites weren’t listed,” he told InDaily this morning.

“We will continue to explore every avenue that we have got to see if that decision can be challenged.

“I’m taking advice this afternoon on (rights of appeal).”

However, he said the committee – attended by members of various parties across the political spectrum – only had the power to advise the minister, not overturn decisions unilaterally.

In other words, the minister would still have to be convinced, even if the committee found that he had made the wrong decision.

Haese said agreeing to add the buildings to the heritage list would have been Knoll’s opportunity to send a message that he was different from his predecessor, Labor’s John Rau.

“I was certainly hoping that Minister Knoll would be in a position as a new minister to send a strong signal that he’s understanding and appreciative (of the) economic value of heritage.”

Phil Martin said he was not aware of any buildings in “immediate” danger of being demolished – but he warned property owners against exploiting a window of opportunity, while the debate over the buildings rages, to knock the buildings down while they have the chance.

“It isn’t uncommon in these circumstances where there’s a window of opportunity for these buildings to be demolished.

“I would urge each and every one of these institutions to not demolish – and behave sensibly and responsibly until those who want to preserve those buildings have exhausted every last opportunity to save them.”

He said one of the buildings had been a school, before being used as a hospital during World War I, and then as a training facility for soldiers, and later, Lutheran missionaries.

The buildings have been protected by an interim heritage listing which expires this month as a result of Knoll’s decision.

Area councillor Sandy Wilkinson said the heritage listing was part of a quid pro quo with the former Government in negotiations with the council about the North Adelaide Large Institutions and Colleges development plan amendment.

Wilkinson said he was “appalled” when he read about Knoll’s decision.

“Any member of the public looking at these buildings will assume that they are (protected),” he said.

“The minister has been poorly advised.”

He said the decision was out of step with community expectations and that he would seek a meeting with Knoll this week to try and persuade him to change his mind.

“I would hope that by discussing this with him we would be able to enlighten him about the (heritage value) of listing these properties.

However, Knoll said he believed that the North Adelaide historic conservation zone was sufficient to ensure the buildings remain standing.

“I have received advice from SCAP (the State Commission Assessment Panel) that there was insufficient merit to warrant granting these buildings heritage status,” he told InDaily in a statement this morning.

Correction: Knoll’s office had insisted, prior to the publication of this story, that the SCAP was the body that made the assessment. But a spokesperson this afternoon clarified that it was, in fact, the Planning Commission that made the assessment.

“I’m very confident that the North Adelaide historic conservation zone will appropriately safeguard these buildings,” said Knoll.

“I am working with the department and Adelaide City Council to remove any ambiguity about the ability of institutions to expand their footprint as a result of the North Adelaide Large Institutions and Colleges DPA.”

Haese said he took heart from Knoll’s comments about the DPA which he believed would threaten to transform North Adelaide into a suburb dominated by institutions rather than residences.

“That will change the face of North Adelaide if that’s not (amended),” he said.

“That is an absolutely critical matter.

“I look forward to hearing the minister’s views on how he’s going to address the deficiencies of that DPA.”

Haese said the DPA – which the council had negotiated with the former Government on the basis that it only involved 11 sites in North Adelaide – has been drafted in a way that would potentially allow more than 100 properties adjoining or “associated with” those institutions to be bought and knocked down as well.

He said Calvary Hospital had bought a house on Ward Street that had gained but later lost its heritage listing – in unclear circumstances – and that it could be demolished under the rules of the DPA.

He stressed that his council’s heritage advocacy did not mean it was “anti-development”.

“People occasionally attempt to criticise a pro-heritage stance as an anti-development stance – and I think that’s utter hogwash,” he said.

“There’s enormous unrealised economic and tourism value in South Australia’s heritage buildings, and there’s ample development opportunities on other sites.”

CEO of the National Trust of South Australia Dr Darren Peacock said the Government’s planning assessment bodies operated behind closed doors on matters of public interest.

“SCAP (see correction above) is not really transparent and accountable to anyone other than the minister,” he said.

“It isn’t clear how these assessment processes are happening in the new SCAP body.”

He said the only information he had about the decision was from InDaily’s story on the subject last Friday.

Peacock said the value in heritage was not so much in individual buildings but in the sum of all of the historical buildings in an area, that contribute to its character.

“The collective is greater than the sum of the parts,” he said.

Although: “Each of the buildings has merit in its own right”.


In Sydney, the question of preserving the city’s rich heritage is approached very seriously by the Sydney City Council. Confronted with the ‘destruction through neglect’ method of ensuring demolition of heritage listed buildings, the council has developed an innovative approach offering the exchange of ‘floor space’ in other buildings as well as implementing compulsory repairs to neglected Heritage buildings. This article from the Sydney Morning Herald goes some way to explaining the process.

Innovative techniques needed to protect heritage buildings

Battles around which buildings should be placed on Sydney’s heritage list show an increasing awareness of the value of its built environment. But for many buildings listing is only the start of the battle.

Listing can save buildings from a developer’s wrecking ball but without maintenance they are vulnerable to vandalism, decay and fire. The owners are the ones who must shoulder the cost of repairing the bad plumbing and fixing the rotten beams.

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Mark Goggin, Sydney Living Museums director outside Hyde Park Barracks.

Love will only go so far. To help maintain significant heritage buildings governments need to help out. The Herald reported on Tuesday on one of the better established schemes developed by the City of Sydney Council to try to encourage owners to maintain their buildings but it underlines that more needs to be done.

Faced with scores of decrepit heritage buildings, the City of Sydney council, starting in the 1970s, set up a system where in exchange for doing repairs or improvements, the owners would be given the rights to build extra floor space and they were allowed to sell these rights to developers elsewhere in the CBD.

Sydney Living Museums, formerly known as the Historic Houses Trust of NSW, has just set a record for a deal where it has sold floor space credits worth $20 million in recognition of its program to preserve the UNESCO-listed Hyde Park Barracks on Macquarie Street and create a world class interactive exhibition. In exchange, developers have bought the right to add about 12,700 square metres of floor space at sites around the city.

The system has generally worked well. Heritage buildings, including Railway House on York Street next to Wynyard Station to the Commonwealth Bank Building on Pitt Street, have done similar deals in the recent past but this is the biggest.

The scheme should be welcomed as a smart way of making the developers who are profiting from the transformation of the CBD pay a share of the costs of preserving the past.

Yet this system only applies to the CBD. In other areas, more needs to be done to help owners keep up their heritage buildings.

The local area plans of most councils include rules which relax planning restrictions for developers who agree to preserve heritage buildings on their site.

That probably helps protect buildings in the Sydney metropolitan areas and encourages so-called adaptive reuse where old schools or churches are incorporated into apartment developments or retirement villages. But it also creates the risk that the developer is allowed to over-develop the surrounding site. Some care is still needed to maintain the integrity of the heritage building.

It also does little for historic buildings, mostly outside the metropolitan area in rural areas and regional towns, which are of little interest to developers but which are just as expensive to preserve.

Some countries offer much more generous rules to help conservation. Britain has a Heritage Lottery Fund which pays for preservation of heritage buildings and in the US developers receive federal tax credits for approved work on historic buildings.

The NSW Office of Environment and Heritage must carry the burden of funding local initiatives to protect these sites. Since it has just saved $20 million that it would have had to spend on restoring Hyde Park Barracks it should have more funds to pay for other heritage buildings which are at risk.


In Melbourne we do not seem to have moved past punitive action on those who would transgress Heritage sites through demolition or non-permitted alterations. The Victorian Government now also prosecutes neglect in a similar fashion to the NSW Government. Neglected buildings of Heritage Status are compulsorily repaired at the owner’s expense to prevent ‘destruction through neglect’ style demolitions.

However, looking at the Corkman fiasco (The Corkman Hotel Carlton), the proposed St Vincent’s Hospital demolitions of historic buildings, the Armadale and Kew demolitions of historic Victorian homes and the senseless demolitions of the Greyhound and London Hotels, Heritage Listing is not a failsafe. Firstly, it’s a slow process, too slow – and Heritage Victoria is underfunded. Secondly, there isn’t really an overriding Heritage Strategy.

Such a strategy needs to be a National strategy. It needs to be adequately funded and based on intelligent premises, with real regard for architectural, social and cultural history and heritage values.

Frankly, sanctions should be of such a nature that if someone (corporation or individuals) illegally demolishes a heritage listed building or construction, the fines or action required should equate the land value – and the cost of a reconstruction. This is the case in Britain.

It’s up to our Politicians to work cooperatively with the National Trust and various Heritage Councils to make sure such treasures are fully protected. Right now many Heritage Listings date from the 1980s and ’90s with few updates occurring. It’s time for across the board Heritage action – from all levels of Government and all industry participants. Because – as was stated once again in the Adelaide article…

“When it’s gone, it’s gone”

And that, friends, is just not good enough.

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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.