THE developers of the former Ballarat orphanage site have been warned to tread carefully, after several passionate pleas to Ballarat City Council last night.
Councillor Des Hudson said the Victoria Street site had enormous sensitivity about it.
“I hope the developers don’t think it’s just a windfall that’s going to be built in a short time,” Cr Hudson said.
“My words to the developers would be prepare to listen, to amend, to respond and to work with.”
The council last night voted to put on public exhibition a rezoning application and a heritage overlay on the site.
A private consortium plans to turn the former orphanage and Damascus College junior school site into a residential subdivision with a medical centre and shopping complex.
Heritage aspects, including the ashes of former orphans, would also be protected.
But two former orphans pleaded with the developers and the council not to forget the blood that had been spilt on the site and that it had a “powerful history of true life stories”.
Ballarat Trades and Labor Council president Brett Edgington said the orphans’ stories were ones of great courage and hope.
“It’s also a very cautionary tale of a system and a place and a time in history which should never be repeated,” Mr Edgington said.
He asked that the former Stawell Street School building, attended by the orphans, be retained as the “perfect place to interpret their stories, both the triumphs and the tragedies”.
Ballarat East Network spokeswoman Erin McCuskey, who has also made several Forgotten Australians documentaries, said history was also about people and stories and places, not buildings alone.
“We are building over people and their dreams,” Ms McCuskey said.
“Let’s not forget what happened here. They deserve a better place, not just a few plaques in the wrong places.
Councillor Judy Verlin said the consultation process needed to be done delicately.
“It’s a very difficult situation. For some, it’s celebrating the start of their life, for others it dealing with the start of pain in their lives,” Cr Verlin said.