Plans to turn Mount Helen home into city’s first Buddhist temple

Mount Helen could soon be home to Ballarat’s first Buddhist temple after an application was lodged by members of the city’s Thai community late last month. 

Temple: This Mt Helen property could soon house a Buddhist meditation facility.

Temple: This Mt Helen property could soon house a Buddhist meditation facility.

The four-hectare block at 19 Griffeys Lane is owned by the Wat Thai Bhavana Ballarat group.

Situated on the outskirts of Mount Helen, the application to the City of Ballarat Council proposes to transform a space at the rear of the property into a public meditation room, capable of holding up to 20 people as well as four teachers. 

Meditation sessions would be run up to five times a week and would provide a space for Ballarat Buddhist community as well as guests from across the state. 

The planning application states “the rural setting provides an ideal locale for meditation as proposed”. 

“For those wishing to understand how to meditate, classes will be held that teaches the pillars of Noble Eightfold Path, that is the practice of developing generosity and kindness, morality and mediation, leading to the unfolding of wisdom”, the application said. 

Monk Tommy Jitrsawand said the organisation hoped to begin operating from its new site “as soon as possible”, subject to planning approval. 

While they currently gather in a small residential space in Mount Clear, most Thai Buddhists based in Ballarat travel to Box Hill for weekly temple. 

“We accept everyone and welcome anyone who wants to come and practice meditation,” Mr Jitrsawand said. 

Nantharat Boonrawd performs at the 2016 Songkran Festival.

Nantharat Boonrawd performs at the 2016 Songkran Festival.

While unassuming from the outside, the property boasts a Buddhist shrine at the rear of the property. 

Given the proposal requires little to no construction work at the existing residential address, the application is unlikely to appear in the council chamber. 

The Wat Thai Bhavana Ballarat organisation has gained prominence in recent years through its annual Songkran Festival, which is held in April to celebrate Thai New Year. 

Speaking to The Courier during the 2016 event, Songkran Festival organiser Dip Yuanjit outlined the organisation’s long-term goal to establish a temple in Ballarat. 

At the 2016 national census, 759 Ballarat residents identified as Buddhists. 

Mr Yuanjit said the Mount Helen site would provide a place for education and meditation to people of all faiths, not just practicing Buddhists. 

“We want all people to benefit from this temple as much as possible,’ Mr Yuanjit said. 

“We want to combine meditation and education and provide a place where people can come and practice, so it’s not just about Buddhism. 

The application comes four years after Ballarat’s first permanent mosque was opened on Elsworth Street in Mount Clear by the Ballarat Islamic Society.