The Ballarat City Council conceded it failed to protect the former Ballarat orphanage from vandalism and neglect, before supporting the demolition of six buildings at the site last night.
But the council rejected a developer’s bid to knock down the majority of former Ballarat Children’s Home buildings.
The gallery was packed for last night’s meeting, with 10 members of the public making passionate submissions in favour of retaining all or parts of the former orphanage.
Many spoke of their distress over recent vandalism of the buildings and culturally significant items inside.
Some elements would have been kept under the developer’s plan, including the former toddlers’ block, some mature elm trees, the Stawell Street wall, the front memorial garden, a shade structure, several magnolia trees and the memorial Ludbrook seat.
But the council agreed another six structures earmarked for demolition should be protected, including the former school house, Floyd Sloyd room store and superintendent’s residence.
Former Ballarat Children’s Home resident Deborah Findlay said she asked the council a year ago to protect and preserve what was left of the era, and now the items were damaged.
Another former resident, Frank Golding, said it had made “his heart bleed” to see broken windows and urine inside.
One speaker, Phyllis Read, said she put a ‘blood claim’ on the site to protect it through her Aboriginal heritage.
She said the only way to learn from past mistakes was not to erase them.
“The fact is we weren’t raised there, we were beaten down there, we were torn up there, we were enslaved there,”she said.
“To survive that institution is a miracle so for all of us survivors that is our home.”
A spokesperson for the developer said his client acknowledged the site evoked strong feelings, but only some elements warranted retaining.
Moving the council recommendation, Cr Joshua Morris said the site held memories for many members of the community.
“Given the significance of this site we must err on the side of caution,” he said.
Cr John Philips said the area had been “totally neglected” and the council was partly to blame.
The council’s statutory planning director Hamish Lampp said the site could not remain in its current state.
“The critical issue is striking a balance between competing interests,” he said.
The council will now test whether the additional six buildings should be formally protected.