Background

Merle Hathaway

The Civic Hall opened in March 1955. It was built with funds raised by the community and designed by H.L Coburn and is an excellent example of Modernism with Art Deco influences. Built as a replacement for the vast Alfred Hall, which was destroyed in a fire, the community of Ballarat proudly celebrated its launch with concerts and even a large plantation of trees, which would deliver a future operating budget.

The building has a large, flat-floored hall and balcony, seating around 1,500 and a large fly tower and, unlike many public halls, plentiful dressing rooms. The smaller Lower Civic Hall is at the rear of the building.

Until 2002 it was used for balls and dances, large exhibitions, trade shows, musicals, Speech Nights, South Street Competitions and rock concerts. Trevor Gleeson told Council that sometimes 2,000 people attended these events, even in its last years of use when it had been allowed to run down.

The City of Ballarat Council closed it for public use in 2002, despite it being in excellent condition. (It still is!).

Last year the Council proposed to demolish it for a $40 million Council office block. After a public outcry, Council funded several community consultations and a Morgan Poll, all of which showed that most residents want to retain the Hall.

Now the Council has again proposed to demolish it, this time with no plans at all for what is to replace it. The only “vision” is for the site to incorporate a 3,000 person outdoor standing-only venue!

Once the building is demolished the Victorian Government can sell the land for private development; it has no obligation to retain the space for community use.

The Civic Hall is the largest, flat-floored events centre in Ballarat. There is no other venue now for rock concerts, trade shows and large exhibitions, dances and balls. Some of these events are held now in tents or huts!

Beautifully placed to form a central community hub, close to the Railway Station and shops, the site is large enough to create a restaurant, youth spaces, a Visitor Centre, additional parking etc as well as utilise its main hall for grand, large-scale events, just as it was originally designed to do.