Volunteers across Australia are pushing to preserve historic landmarks in their towns.
- Communities are preserving about 100 historic landmark buildings each year
- Everyday volunteers are keeping their heritage buildings standing through advocacy campaigns
- Not-for-profit organisations like the National Trust are helping to convince councils to apply protections over historic buildings
Community members in regional and urban areas are fundraising, petitioning and enlisting advocacy groups like the National Trusts of Australia to persuade councils to save historic buildings.
Felicity Watson, the executive manager of the Victorian branch of the National Trust, says communities in her state are preserving about 100 historic buildings every year.
“What we find is there are so many competing demands for ratepayers’ funds in council areas that it’s really up to the community to have a strong voice to put their heritage first,” she said.
“We petition to councils to amend local planning schemes to apply heritage overlays over significant buildings.”
Set up in each state, the trusts are strong voices that have successfully helped volunteers protect and preserve their treasured landmarks through advocacy efforts.
A face from the past
In Castlemaine, regional Victoria, the Castlemaine Market Hall, a 158-year-old building that sits in the heart of town, has almost been demolished twice.
It fell into disrepair in the last century, but through the efforts of residents and the National Trust of Victoria, the building was saved and restored in 1974.
The great granddaughters of William Downe, Marion Downe, from Castlemaine, and Margaret Benady, from England, donated their ancestor’s portrait and antique desk. (ABC Central Victoria: Tyrone Dalton)
The historic hall, built in 1862 was originally home to 22 market stalls, selling fresh produce and poultry while also hosting live animal auctions.
It is now the town’s tourist information centre and exhibition space.
The great granddaughters of William Downe, the architect who designed the market hall, have donated their ancestor’s portrait and antique desk to the building’s exhibition space.
Marion Downe, from Castlemaine, and Margaret Benady, from England, returned the heirloom to commemorate Mr Downe’s contribution to the town’s streetscape.
“It’s lovely to have William recognised this way, but it’s really due to the efforts of the local people who did a lot of fundraising and worked in conjunction with the National Trust to save it,” Ms Downe said.
Castlemaine Historical Society’s Alleyne Hockley said linking personalities and real people to heritage buildings allow community members feel more attached to their history.
“It’s important to link communities with the personalities of their history,” she said.
“He was an important gentleman in Castlemaine.”
Ms Watson said many councils in regional Victoria were listening to the National Trust and prioritising their heritage buildings as they are “real draw cards for tourism and economic development.”
In the same year, there were 34.6 million visitors to cultural heritage places across Australia and visitors spent $32.2 billion on cultural heritage tourism.
Jane Alexander from Queensland’s National Trust said there were several factors that contributed to a historic building being saved.
“These include effective legislation, willing owners, community sentiment and advocacy from organisations like ourselves,” she said.Ms Alexander said their branch acquired a rare and remote 19th Century brick convent building in Cooktown in the late 1960s, which is now the James Cook Museum.
Brick by brick
The National Trusts of Australia are also acquiring buildings to save them from disrepair.
Ms Alexander said their branch acquired a rare and remote 19th Century brick convent building in Cooktown in the late 1960s, which is now the James Cook Museum.
Constructed in 1888, the convent housed the Sisters of Mercy who provided education to day students and boarders from the Cooktown region.
“During World War II, the sisters and their students moved inland to Herberton and did not return, leaving the convent to gradually fall into disrepair,” Ms Alexander said.
The National Trust in Queensland restored the convent and it reopened as the James Cook Historical Museum in 1969.
In Western Australia, Karl Haynes from the state’s National Trust said their branch operates over 50 heritage appeals a year to fundraise and help prevent the loss of heritage places.
“A successful heritage appeal has been the Holy Trinity Church in Roebourne, located 1,600 kilometres north of Perth,” Mr Haynes said.
“The 1890 church was damaged by Cyclone Christine in 2013, but with the support of community, and grants from the Heritage Council of Western Australia, the National Trust in Western Australia raised
over $400,000 and the church’s restoration is nearing completion.”