Former orphanage school house saved

THE former Ballarat Orphanage’s school house has been saved.

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File image

Ballarat City Council voted seven to one at its Wednesday night meeting to retain both the school building and the entire Stawell Street wall.

It contradicts an independent planning panel report which recommended a large part of the building be demolished to make way for a residential subdivision with medical centre and shopping complex, along with partial demolition of the wall.

However, developers warned the vote could mean a supermarket and activity centre would no longer be built on the Victoria Street site.

Councillor Belinda Coates, in moving an amendment to reject the panel’s recommendations about the school and wall, said they needed to remove the “ambiguity around the whole school house”.

“We’ve heard many stories about the social significance of the site,” Cr Coates said.

Cr Des Hudson said the school house was “part of the blueprint or the fabric of the people growing up in that institution”.

Cr Peter Innes said panels and council officers make recommendations “but councillors make decisions”.

“This is a part of Ballarat’s history, a part of Ballarat’s heritage,” Cr Innes said.

Cr Vicki Coltman said she hoped the developers could still find a solution by going around the school building.

“We wanted to go to panel so we could make a decision, not some faceless person in Melbourne, not VCAT,” Cr Coltman said.

But Cr Amy Johnson said it would be “foolish” to go against the panel’s recommendations.

“This is a sensitive planning matter that needs to be treated respectfully,” Cr Johnson said.

Earlier, the council heard submissions from nine submitters, including 12-year orphanage resident Aunty Phyllis Reid who placed a black teddy bear on the council table.

“This little teddy represents the dead and buried children on the site,” Ms Reid said.

“They didn’t die in the burial grounds, they died in their beds, in the buildings, they died cowering, they died from torture, died from rape, died from starvation.

“You might find it strange we’re fighting so hard for this site but that’s where the school came in – it was our sanctuary.

“I survived that to fight for the site and to fight for the children.”

Following the vote, Cr Johnson asked for a division, with councillors Coates, Coltman, Hudson, Innes, John Philips, Joshua Morris and Glen Crompton voting for the amendment and Cr Johnson against. Cr Samantha McIntosh excused herself from the vote due to a conflict of interest.

fiona.henderson@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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