Key hall to remain in use

Victorian Railways Institute state president Richard Gilbert says the historic Ballarat hall remains a vital structure for various community groups as the state government confirms its continued use.

The building is one of three identical structures in the state and is located on the Ballarat railway precinct site, on the corner of Nolan and Lydiard streets, which is set for upcoming massive redevelopment works.

However, a government spokesperson confirmed the current lease arrangement with the VRI on the VicTrack-owned site is set to continue.

“The land is leased to the VRI under an ongoing and discounted community lease and the land and the building continue to be used for community activities,” the spokesperson said

“The land and buildings are located outside the area to be developed under the Ballarat Station Precinct development.

“The VRI has been regularly informed about the project and updated on its progress and it is expected that there will be minimal impacts from the project on the neighboring VRI tenants.

“The VRI will be advised on any impacts once the construction program and methodology is confirmed.”

Mr Gilbert said the hall, which was built in 1924 is used most days of the week for a range of activities and features a social hall, billiards room, sports hall and kitchen.

“Ballarat and Bendigo and Geelong halls are our primary business,” Mr Gilbert said.

“Ballarat one is very prominent, gets a amount of use and has ongoing support (from government level).

Mr Gilbert said more than $12,000 has been spent on the painting the interior of the hall to ensure it remains in good condition – $6000 of which was raised by members through hiring the hall out.

In a letter to The Courier earlier in January, Ballarat VRI secretary John Wakeling said 15 community organisations use the facility for karate, bias bowls, snooker and billiards and more, with an average of 120-140 people passing through its doors weekly.

“Over the past 10 years with the support of the federal government through local member Catherine King and local VRI finances the Institute has refurbished the main hall, messenger hall (gym) kitchen, ladies toilet and main entrance, with the men’s toilet and billiard room next on the agenda pending finance and support,” he wrote.