All posts by Judith Buchanan

State Government plan for the Civic Hall Site

The South West Corner of The Civic Hall

$47.8 Million GvtHub office:

On Friday May 5 the State Govenment revealed to the Courier Newspaper their plan for the Civic Hall site.   According to the Media Release of May 4…

“The GovHub funded in the Victoria Budget 2017/2018, will be home up to 1000 government employees, including 600 new positions to the city, and will help revitalise a major part of the Ballarat CBD.  This brand new office will include employees across:

  • Dept of Education and Training,
  • Dept of Justice and Regulation
  • Dept of Economic Development, jobs, Transport & resources (DEDJTR)
  • Dept of Economics, Dept of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP)
  • State Revenue Office
  • Vic Roads,
  • Service Victoria.

The site will be developed in partnership with the Ballarat Council.”

The Courier dated May 5, revealed the State Government’s  artist’s impression of the new office building that is proposed for the site.

It raises more questions than answers!

Firstly this is an artist’s impression what are the specifications?

The drawing indicates that it  is a massive building …will it really fit on the site or is it a Pie In the Sky?

If it was to go on the site it will certainly dwarf the Civic Hall and it will surely not be sympathetic to the heritage of the Civic Hall and surrounding buildings in the Heritage Overlay 171 Lydiard St.

Lower Civic Hall To Be Demolished:

The State Government wishes to demolish the Lower Civic Hall to make way for their enormous office building.  This will severely impact on the viability of the remaining Main Hall as the features which make it functional will be destroyed such as, dressing rooms and Assembly area for performing groups and bands.  Save Civic Hall will advocate for the Lower Civic Hall to be incorporated into any development on the eastern side of the Civic Hall site.

The Civic Hall is one structure not two,  and it was cleverly designed by Architect and Mayor Les Coburn for both halls to be integrated as one and make use of the undulating land to maximize the use of the current site.  It is not appropriate to remove any part of the building as advised by Council’s own Heritage adviser Brian Benson.  To do so would compromise the integrity of the building.

Library Expansion:

If Council continue with the current Master plan, the Main Hall will be given over to the Library Expansion and the opportunity to host large events will be lost forever.   The Library can still expand but not into the Main Hall.

1000 Jobs:

Save Civic Hall supports jobs coming to Ballarat and we also do not object to appropriate development on the Civic Hall site.   The jobs that will come to Ballarat may not be long term as 500 are construction jobs which will eventually end as the project ends.  The government jobs are existing jobs and relocation for employees from Melbourne .  There is no evidence of any long term local  job creation.

350 Carparks

We can not deny that we need more parking in the CBD.   The Council have just re-made the car park on the eastern side of the Civic Hall.   According to the State Government’s artist impression of the proposed development an office will be build on it.  So the Council have wasted how much?

If the State Government were not allocating  the land at the Railway Station to Developers there could be more parking available on that site.  The car parks that are planned will be for the serviced apartments and not for commuters.

Civic Hall Plaza:

The Civic Hall Plaza development is well under way with the area fenced off and will be for some time.  We are disappointed that there are only three  of the original trees left on the south west corner, far more trees were removed than what we initially understood would be the case.  Also disappointing is the removal of the two Silver Birch trees that stood tall and proud outside of the entrance.  The works are expected to be completed by the end of the year.


The Civic Hall Plaza S.H.E.A Plan

The Courier Front Page  May 5, 2017





Civic Hall is here to stay for the next generations

A word from our Save Civic Hall Secretary

“Dear SCH Committee and supporters,

We are at an interesting (& slightly nail-biting time) with the Civic Hall.

Our years of lobbying and educating Council and the community has resulted in a Council commitment to saving at least most of the Civic Hall from demolition, and to reopening the Civic Hall as soon as possible. However, there is still some doubt about the future of the Lower Hall, and we are waiting to hear the details of the interior works to start soon. A few points – 
1.  Work has already begun on the landscaping. We are disappointed to see more trees removed than was suggested by the plan, but have been told that for every tree taken out 7 or more will be planted. Some of the removals were probably necessary to accommodate better access for everyone. The steps and ramp are to go, with the ground built up to the level of the foyer. 
2. Baumgart Clarke Architects have been appointed for the interior design and “connection” if any, to the Library. We will watch this carefully, and believe we will be consulted. Their brief is fairly broad and vague – to activate the site, make it available for large-scale events, opening asap (possibly by end of year or early next). Some of the additional material given to the architects was terrible – the worst ideas from the “community consultation” (eg. blocking off the stage and balcony) and building removable, but soundproof partitioning in the main space. So we keep pushing against these costly and silly notions which would seriously affect usage of the main hall.  The Lower Hall is not included in the designated works – so that’s a clear risk, especially if the east side of the site is developed. 
3. Visit Ballarat is keen to use the hall for major events and exhibitions, and wants to start programming for main and Lower Hall now. Hopefully their clout will help.
4. Songways is an new online mapping project to document Ballarat’s live music heritage, with photographs, memories, stories, ephemera. We’d like to ensure that Civic Hall is  particularly well documented. (Material will be photographed etc – you don’t have to donate). Contact Georgina Williams or Deborah Klein, 5320 5643, or email  Georgina Williams on ”         …………  Merle Hathaway

The Turning of the 1st sod on the Civic Hall Plaza
Mayor Samantha McIntosh turned the 1st sod on the Civic Hall Plaza Landscaping Development at the end of March.  The Tender was awarded to S.H.E.A. and work of the landscaping is progressing and is expected to be completed in August.
                                                        Turning the 1st sod
                                                             S.H.E.A. Won the Tender
Internal Works:
Although the interior restoration plans have yet to be released …..Design services – Council’s website notes that Wendy Jacobs heritage
advisory will be involved – “The next steps will include a comprehensive
internal survey and condition audit (including heritage), the
development of concept designs, and identify possible early works”.
Planned Event for Civic Hall:
Sunday 20TH August is Civic Hall’s 61st Anniversary and there is an event planned.  The details are currently being finalised and will be posted when they become available, so put this date into your diary!….We would love to see you there!  
Mechanics Institute Fund Raiser….Friday May 5th  7.00pm Trivia
Please join us for the fundraiser for the Ballarat Mechanics Institute .  A trivia quiz Trivia featuring the Heritage Photographs of Max Harris.  Entry is $10 .  We hope to be able to get enough people to form a table of Save Civic hall supporters.  if you would like to join us please phone Judith 5335 6290 before 1st May.  You can also purchase tickets at the Mechanics Institute Library.
Details are on the following link:
Hope to see you there to support this wonderful Ballarat iconic building!

Civic Hall could Enhance White Night projections

Photo by Judith Buchanan

White Night:

After experiencing the most incredible event to come to Ballarat it is now time to reflect on what it means for this amazing city.  White Night attracted 40+ thousand people to the city. Guest houses, hotels and motels were booked out.  Cafes and restaurants reported their best ever trade.  The projections and entertainment were magnificent.  We can be proud of our local artists and performers who really gave their best and put on outstanding shows and performances.  The enormous  crowd soaked up the  atmosphere of the massive street party and entertainment……we marveled at White Night.  Please come back next year!

The Civic Hall looked splendid with her facade and sides lit up as they do every night since the restoration of her facade.   People  admired her as they walked to and from their cars on route to  Lydiard St.   If  White Night should return, The Civic Hall could be lit up with projections and be a beacon of welcome from the Creswick Road entry to the city.  After all Civic Hall featured in the very first Laser Kinetics show in Victoria.  What a spectacle it would be!

In 1984 the Civic Hall was the canvas for the very first Laser Kinetics Supershow in Victoria by pioneer Joseph Stanislaus Ostoja-Kotkowski, known for his ground breaking works in Chromasonics, Laser Kinetics and sound and image productions.  His show formed part of the Begonia Festival celebrations.

Photo by Judith Buchanan

The Future of Civic Hall:

Council now has to consider Tenders for the restoration of the interior of the main hall and landscaping of the Plaza and Western side.   Save Civic Hall supports the Council’s application for funding of $4 million to the Federal Government  for  the implementation of the necessary works.  However we do not support any loss of its heritage and functional  features such as  the stage, balcony, dress circle and flytower.  Nor do we support demolition of part of the Lower Civic Hall.  We support the restoration of the hall in its entirety and its original use as a venue for community events and performance.

With the amount of festivals and events growing the need for a large public hall has never been greater.   With 40,000+ people attending White Night it is a no brainer! 

Photo by Judith Buchanan

Historical Documents of events now available through FOI:

Documents have just become available through Freedom of Information,  giving us a picture of the type of community  events and attendance numbers for 1995-98.  a picture emerges indicating that it was a thriving venue.  

Civic Hall Lights up and Tenders are called


Things are a lot brighter for the Civic Hall in more ways than one!

Tenders for works on Civic Hall:

Council has called for Design Services Tenders for the redevelopment of the Civic Hall.  This Tender closes on February 22 2017.

Tenders were also called for the Landscaping on the Doveton St side.  This Tender has now closed on February 8 2017   A car park has now been established on the Armstrong St side of the Civic Hall


Mood Lighting:

On December 17 the Civic Hall lit up for the first time in more than 15 years with beautiful mood lighting on the newly restored front facade and east and west sides.  If you have not seen it yet, take a walk or drive to the Civic Hall Site as it gets dark and watch it light up.  It looks spectacular!  After years of debate and angst, Civic Hall is finally being given the face lift it needs  to bring it into the 21st Century.  The work has really just begun, the interior is next…. it is a great start!

CEO Justine Linley, Mayor Samantha McIntosh. Councillors Rinaldi and Coates and  also members of the Save Civic Hall Group were present  to witness this monumental event on Dec 17 2016.

Heritage Victoria Appeal Hearing February 10, 2017:

In 2015 The Art Deco and Modernism Society of Australia nominated the Civic Hall to be added to the State Heritage Register for protection.  The Save Civic Hall group appealed the decision by the Executive Director not to add the building to the Heritage Register for State Listing.

The appeal was heard in Ballarat yesterday February 10.  The Executive Director agreed that the building has great social and cultural significance .  They also agreed with some of our arguments to have the building listed.  The Civic Hall is unique as it is the only “Stand Alone” civic hall of the Post WW2 era  in the State of Victoria  (maybe Australia?….research is continuing).  The Executive Director agreed that its size was monumental and no others compare.

The Executive Director also  agreed that the Civic Hall is rare.   Our research revealed that the Ballarat Civic Hall is a precursor to the later 1980’s Performing Arts Centres.   We have not found another example of an early pre-1960’s Stand Alone, mult-purpose events and performing arts venue in Victoria.    All others had Municipal offices attached or were part of a complex of municipal buildings.  We will have to wait for around 8 weeks for the Results of the hearing .

Watch this space!


You could be the lucky owner of this amazing artwork….


A chance to make this artwork yours…

This wonderful artwork depicting the Ballarat Civic Hall is offered by  Silent Auction at the 60th Anniversary of the opening of the Civic Hall this Saturday 20th August at the Trades Hall and offered for sale by Silent auction on the day.  Bidding will commence shortly after 3pm at the Trades Hall and will close at 5pm when the winning bidder will be announced.

Artwork Details:

Artist:          By prize winning artist Brian Lawrence

Dimensions:    62 x 57 cm including the handcrafted  frame – Mounted with glass

Media:                Acrylic in Oil Style on Art Board

Please read terms and conditions before making a bid in Save Civic Hall messages on Facebook

Terms and Conditions:

We must be able to contact you on the day the event.  If there is no response by the winning bidder , the next highest bidder will be offered the opportunity to purchase the artwork at the price that he/she bid.

Payment must be made by cash or cheque only.   If paying by cheque, purchaser can not take delivery of the artwork until the cheque has cleared by the bank which is normally 3-5 working days after it has been deposited.  

The sale of this artwork  is a fund raiser and the proceeds of the auction will  benefit the Civic Hall into the future.

See You there!






You are invited to a free community event to celebrate the 60th Anniversary of the opening of the Civic Hall in 1956.  Commencing on Saturday 20th August at 2.00pm.

  • Assemble at the Town Hall at 1.45pm to take part in a re-enactment of the original 1956 parade with Beaufort City Brass Band to the Civic Hall for an address by Mayor of the day (1956) Nathaniel Callow and Mayor of today Des Hudson.  Parade is expected to leave the Town Hall at 2.00pm
  • Then proceed to the Trades Hall in Camp St  for an afternoon of celebration including some fabulous entertainment by innovative community groups, a talk on the Civic Hall by Historian Dr Anne Beggs Sunter and Brett Edgington, Secretary of The Ballarat Trades Hall, afternoon tea, and art auction of a fabulous Civic Hall artwork.

Those community members with mobility issues who feel they can not march  to the Civic Hall are encouraged to make their way to  the Trades Hall round 2.45pm to secure a seat.  

PHOTOGRAPH:  Clarendon College Debutante Ball is courtesy of Ball Organizer Gwendoline Blake

CH 60 poster




civic hall


At a Council meeting of April 27 2016,  councilors  voted to adopt the Civic Hall Masterplan, which includes the complete take over of the main hall by the library and the demolition of most of the Lower Hall.  Thank you  to those Councillors who voted against the recommendations and saw the folly in this plan.  The Masterplan only became available for public viewing on the previous Friday before the Wednesday meeting and was only available on the Council website in the form of an agenda item.  This was a long weekend so most of the community were unaware of the Masterplan.

Save Civic Hall had requested the Heritage Advisor’s Report over 12 months prior to this meeting through Freedom of Information,  and this secret  document was released on the same day as the Council Meeting.   Secret …..because decisions were made without some councilors claiming they had no knowledge of this document.

The Council’s own Heritage Adviser Brian Benson, warned Council about proceeding with the demolition of any part of the structure claiming that the demolition application of 2014 was a complete RED HERRING and Council breached many of their Planning Scheme in regards to Heritage Overlays.  He also went on to say that the Civic Hall’s significance had been overlooked and it does not matter if the significance is of Local or State level it can not be ignored.  No engineer’s assessment  was ever commissioned to prepare an Engineer’s Report on the overall condition of the building which according to the Heritage Adviser’s report is in good solid condition despite its neglect.

According to the report there were many anomalies quoting breaches of the Council’s own planning laws that must be considered and therefore Mr Benson would not support the demolition of any structure on the site.   Save Civic Hall will not support the Masterplan and will certainly not support the demolition of any part of the structure as outlined in the heritage adviser’s report.  Nor will it support the loss of the stage and its side rooms and dress circle.  Costings for the demolition of most of the Lower Hall are not available to date.

A community asset of this significance should not  be hijacked in favour of commercial development  so therefore it is totally inappropriate to consider the part of full demolition of any part of the Civic Hall.

The only way forward is for mediation with the council and Save Civic Hall will be seeking  further consultation to secure a more suitable outcome for the Civic Hall.   Should the Council pursue the demolition of the Lower Hall we will be collecting further objections to the destruction of this integral part of the Civic Hall as commercial development can still be achieved without demolition.



Plans are underway for a free community event on the 20th August to celebrate the 60th Anniversary of the opening of the Civic Hall in 1956.  The opening coincided with the 1956 Olympic Games and rowing events took place on Lake Wendouree.  This year of 2016 the Rio Olympic Games will also take place.  Watch this space for all the details which will be finalised over the coming two months.  Help us celebrate this amazing milestone in the history of the Ballarat Civic Hall.   We Hope to see you there!!

Opening of the Ballarat Civic Hall 1956


2016…a milestone in the history of the Civic Hall


Save Civic Hall (SCH) is delighted that maintenance work has now begun on the Civic Hall. Since 2013, SCH has advocated for reopening the Civic Hall as Ballarat’s largest multi-purpose venue for flat floor events, such as festivals, balls, exhibitions and more.

On 9 December 2015, we applauded Council’s decision to abandon moves towards demolition, whilst opposing suggestions to make expensive, permanent alterations to the foyer, balcony and stage, which would seriously reduce its future viability. Despite these and other concerns with the process, we continued to encourage participation with the Here Studio-led studio in the foyer, until Council recently announced its cessation.

SCH thanks Here Studio for leading this process to its present state of two possible designs being offered for Council analysis, tweaking and decision. We hope Council will endeavour to have the Civic Hall repaired in time for its 60th Anniversary on 20 August 2016. Last year, SCH organised a small 59th celebration in the foyer with a cake adorned with a cartoon by The Courier’s Ditchy.

We also enjoyed a poem by a “ghost of past performers” and the Ballarat Ukulele Kollective. Imagine a grander re-opening of the main hall on 20 August this year with some of the original performers – Graeme Vendy and the Vibratones, and Trevor Gleason, as well as more contemporary local music, theatre and dance groups. That was how the original opening was celebrated. Let’s do it again and celebrate!

Merle Hathaway, Secretary, Save Civic Hall

This letter appeared in The Courier 16th March 2016


Where else could you see so many people dancing at any one time in Ballarat?  We need to save this amazing dance floor.   We don’t know what we’ve got till it’s gone!

dancing at ch                                                      photo courtesy of Brendan Britt

Maintenance Work has commenced on the Civic Hall


Replacement of  broken windows:

Work has commenced on the Civic Hall.  On Thursday Glaziers were spotted replacing the windows of the western side of the Main Hall.  After so many years of neglect this is a large undertaking that will take time.   Save Civic Hall believes that this work shows a genuine commitment by Council prepare the hall for future use by the community.


The Participatory Design Process has officially concluded:

As reported in today’s Courier Saturday 5th March, The Participatory Design Process has officially concluded in the Foyer of the Civic Hall.   We thank Here Studio and their staff for collecting and synthesizing all the information and data relating to  people’s memories, views on the future uses and expectations of the Civic Hall.

Here Studio did a wonderful job during their consultation and occupation of the hall’s foyer, encouraging all members of  the community to visit and share their thoughts and opinions.  Some valuable information was collected and can be used in any further development of the hall.  Thanks must also go the the public of Ballarat and District for embracing the Community Consultation and sharing their memories and aspirations.

The final five concepts were developed  by Here Studio and presented to Council who in turn accompanied Here Studio to the  Victorian Design Review Panel  (Victorian Architect).  In the below report from VDRP it was suggested that the final 5 design concepts were not viable and made further  recommendations to further explore  the 5 concepts..  Council have now moved  to the final stage are in the process of developing one design.

Save Civic Hall members of the Partnership Group will continue in an advisory capacity to achieve an appropriate outcome for the future use of the Ballarat Civic hall.

The January 2016 report from the Victorian Design Review Panel:

60th Anniversary of the Opening of The Civic Hall…20th August 2016

We now turn our attention to the Civic Hall’s forth coming 60th Anniversary of its opening on 20th August 1956.   The keys were turned and the door was locked on the Alfred Hall (now occupied by Big W)on the very same day for the very last time.  From the Alfred Hall a procession marched up Mair Street to the new Civic Hall and the crowd was addressed by Mayor Callow who declared that the new  Civic Hall gives  the people of Ballarat “New Hope” following the dark and dismal days of World War 2.  A huge celebration with concerts followed the official opening.

It is hoped that the Civic Hall would re-open on the 20th August 2016 marking this monumental event.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have a re-enactment of the procession up Mair Street to re-open the Civic Hall followed by celebrations and concerts?

Wouldn’t this be an amazing tribute to the forefathers of Ballarat?….. especially Herbert Leslie Coburn, former Councilor and Mayor of Ballarat 1945,  who was an Architect and Teacher of Architecture at the School of Mines.  He designed the Civic Hall but unfortunately died just prior to its official opening.

Opening of the Ballarat Civic Hall 1956







Concepts K & L to be considered by Council for Ballarat Civic Hall


Concepts K and L

According to Here Studio Director Concept L or K are indicative of the final design for consideration by the Council.

Save Civic Hall supports concept L as the Civic Hall is retained as a dedicated Entertainment and Events venue .

In Concept K  the Library moves into the Lower Hall with the possible loss of the Stage and Flytower to that development.   The ribbon of Library spaces (appears in red) is disjointed and disconnected.  The existing  Library building  becomes offices.  The  wonderful existing reading room would be lost as the windows in the Lower Hall would not provide sufficient natural light.

There are no costings or business plan available for public viewing for the Concept Developments at this stage.

Extracts from The latest Here Studio Newsletter #44..

Crunch times

The past fortnight has been hard work for our team, working to support our Council considering a recommendation from the Partnership Group that we should now select from the 5 Concepts just 1. This required a lot of back and forth, negotiation, developing arguments, pulling together narratives, briefing, new drawings, sketches, quick cost appraisals, report writing and a presentation to Council Assembly.
We did long days (early starts and late finishes) all hands on deck. It was important to provide our Councillors as much as possible to make an informed decision.
Last night Council Assembly determined not to advance to the Council Chamber on this decision – we hope to learn a bit more from the Councillors in the Partnership Group meeting next week and discuss together what we can do as a group to focus the project.

What we observed were divisions between Concept L and K, Library and Community Hub and definitions of Event Space, mixing and keeping things separate, making some last minute changes, and staying the course. Key issues for Stage 1 are still car parking and funding – and behind these, more specific determinations of use. As a Partnership Group we have discussed looking for understanding and agreement at high level of purpose and principles, before discussing further detail.

Meanwhile, the Architectural Team have been setting up and progressing the next Phase of formal design work, preparing technical consultants, briefs, and scoping design ideas and issues for different scenarios.
We have contracted an ‘As Existing’ surveyor AAM – a state of the art, highly experienced ‘Geospatial Services company specialising in the collection, analysis, presentation and delivery of geospatial information’. AAM will start on Monday using laser and photo technology to survey the Civic Hall in its existing state so we can build a ‘BIM’ model This will save our team time, lower risks, and improve the quality of collaboration between the technical consultants going forward.

Last week our team received a presentation from a researcher/architect in hands-on participation (particularly of young people) in projects in Malawi and the US – Jillian Hopkins. We have since been positively re-energised, refocussing on user groups, and are developing tangible ways for people to keep involved in the development of the site, even as we get into the detail of formal design work. Jillian came to visit us on Tuesday and we sketched out some early ideas. More to come!
We have also developed the Landscape Architecture Plan for Stage 1, and hope to share some new images and drawings next week!

Victorian Design Review Panel  (The Victorian Government Architect)

We (Here Studio) have now received the Report from the Victorian Design Review Panel of OVGA (the Office of the Victorian Government Architect) – which we discussed in the last Newsletter. It is now in the downloads section of the website here.

This Document is most interesting with recommendations from the Victorian Government Architect:

“There is a risk that by continuing with the current program of reducing the number of options for the site to the preferred five and then three, the outcome will be a compromised solution rather than the best possible outcome for the site and the Ballarat community.”   (From the VDRP report January 2016)