The alleged burial of children at the former Ballarat Orphanage has been referred to the Coroner and Victoria Police.
Former orphanage resident Edith Orr raised the issue at a Ballarat City Council meeting earlier this year, asking how the remains of children allegedly buried on the old orphanage site would be respected if it was redeveloped.
The issue comes after the council received a formal application to rezone the site, which has been sold for a residential subdivision with a medical centre and shopping complex.
Yesterday, a spokesperson for the Office of Aboriginal Affairs Victoria said the department had referred the concerns to Victoria Police and the Coroner for further investigation.
Ms Orr’s sister, Phyllis Read, laid a “blood claim” to the Victoria Street site last year, declaring at the September 14 Ballarat City Council meeting: “I say it’s our blood, so it’s our land”.
In April, City of Ballarat mayor John Burt said he was aware of ashes being spread on the site, but was unaware of any burials.
The council published a formal response this week to Ms Orr’s public question time inquiry.
In it, the council’s city strategy general manager Deon van Baalen said the council had written to the state government about the possibility of children being buried on-site.
“The department has since acknowledged council’s letter and are now taking the appropriate actions to deal with the matter,” he said.
The council would continue to manage the planning processes while the department’s investigation was under way, with a view to allowing public comment on the development proposal, Mr van Baalen said.
The former orphanage, which was later used by Damascus College as its junior school site, was built in Victoria Street in the mid-1860s and was a home for more than 4000 children during its tenure.
A developer bought the site in 2011.
The council’s statutory planning manager, Hamish Lampp, said the planning application would be considered at a council meeting “in due course”.