Former Cockatoo Kindergarten 2-10 McBride Street, Cockatoo




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Former Cockatoo Kindergarten

2-10 McBride Street, Cockatoo



Heritage Council Registrations Committee

Hearing – 24 February 2012

Members – Ms Helen Martin (Chair), Dr Ursula de Jong, Ms Emma Russell

Decision of the Heritage Council


Inclusion in the Register - After considering a recommendation and the submissions and conducting a hearing into those submissions, pursuant to Section 42(1)(a) the Heritage Council has determined that the place is of cultural heritage significance to the State of Victoria and should be included in the Heritage Register.




Helen Martin (Chair)




Ursula de Jong




Emma Russell



Decision Date 4 April 2012

APPEARANCES

Executive Director, Heritage Victoria

Dr Kerry Jordan, Conservation Officer appeared for the Executive Director.



Ash Wednesday Project Memorial Committee

Ms Mary Farrow appeared for the Ash Wednesday Project Memorial Committee (‘the AWPMC’). Mr Graham Simpson, Ms Dot Griffin, Mr Owen Deppeler, Ms Donna Rattan and Ms Leticia Wilmot were available for questions from the Committee.



Written submissions

The AWPMC’s submissions included letters of support from:

Mr Brad Battin MP, Member for Gembrook

Mr David Nickell, President, Gembrook Township Committee

Mr Dudley McArdle, Emergency Management Consultant, Monash University

Mark and Jennifer Donald, former residents

Dr Dale Blair, historian

Emerald Community House

Mr Julian Burnside AO QC

Ms Leticia Wilmot

Mr Julian McMahon, Barrister

Mr Frank McGuire, Secretary, Emerald Village Committee



Introduction/background

The Place


  1. The Former Cockatoo Kindergarten is a 1976 steel-framed circular building at 2-10 McBride Street in the semi-rural township of Cockatoo. On the site is a flowering gum (Corymbia ficifolia) planted by HRH the Prince of Wales and HRH the Princess of Wales in March 1983.

  2. The place is not currently included in a heritage overlay; however, the Committee notes that Cardinia Shire Council has commenced the process to include the place in a heritage overlay to the Cardinia Planning Scheme.

Nomination


  1. In August 2011 a local resident nominated the place for inclusion in the Victorian Heritage Register.

Interim Protection Order


  1. The place was partially demolished by Cardinia Shire Council in early August 2011 with the removal of all external walls and some internal walls. On 12 August 2011 the Executive Director issued an Interim Protection Order, valid for four months, to protect the place during the assessment process.

Recommendation of the Executive Director


  1. On 16 September 2011 the Executive Director recommended that the place not be included in the Heritage Register but be referred to Cardinia Shire Council for inclusion in the Cardinia Planning Scheme.

  2. A submission objecting to this recommendation was received by the Heritage Council on 15 November 2011 and in accordance with s.40(2) of the Heritage Act 1995 (‘the Act’), a hearing was required.

    Site Inspection

  3. The Committee made an inspection of the site on 17 February 2012, accompanied by an officer of Cardinia Shire Council.

Issues

  1. This section is not intended to be a complete record of submissions that were made to the Committee. It is a summary of what the Committee considers to be the key issues, followed by an explanation of the position the Committee takes on each issue.

  2. Any reference to Criteria refers to the ‘Heritage Council Criteria for Assessment of Places of Cultural Heritage Significance’ (see Attachment 1 to this report).

    Summary of issues

  3. The AWPMC submitted that the place is of aesthetic, architectural, cultural, historic and social significance to the State of Victoria and satisfies criteria A, B, D, E and G.

  4. The Executive Director submitted that the place does not satisfy any of the criteria.

Criterion A - Importance to the course, or pattern of Victoria’s cultural history


  1. The parties disagreed on the importance of the place in Victoria’s history.

    Submissions and evidence

  2. Dr Jordan, for the Executive Director, submitted that the Former Cockatoo Kindergarten is of local historical significance for its role as a refuge for 300 people, predominantly women and children, during the Ash Wednesday fires on 16 February 1983. She put to the Committee that during major bushfires in Victoria local communities have often needed to take shelter in any place that can offer protection. She argued that Cockatoo is but one of many places which have been severely affected by fire in Victoria’s history and that the kindergarten is also one of a number of places where people sought shelter.

  3. Dr Jordan recognised the importance of bushfires in Victoria’s history, but noted that there has been a succession of huge and destructive fires over the period of European settlement. She advised that to date, no places have been included in the Victorian Heritage Register that commemorate the losses and damage caused by any of these bushfires, (although there are at least 16 memorials to the Ash Wednesday fires in Victoria) and acknowledged that this is a gap in the coverage of the Register.

  4. On behalf of the AWPMC, Ms Farrow submitted that Victoria has a significant history of bushfires and noted ‘the indelible cultural link of bushfire, survival, recovery and resilience in Victorian history’.1 She argued that the Former Cockatoo Kindergarten is representative of Victorians’ courage and determination in the face of disaster and illustrates the story of survival during one of the country’s most catastrophic fires, despite the shortcomings of the design and materials of the structure when considered as a fire refuge.

  5. Ms Farrow submitted that the kindergarten building is a historical marker and monument known and recognised by Victorians, partly because of its distinctive shape, which featured widely in contemporary media accounts of the fire disaster in Cockatoo, and the role of the building as a refuge. She argued that although various memorials have been erected in Victoria in memory of catastrophic fires, the Former Kindergarten has more significance than these places as it is the actual building in which people sheltered, not just a memorial erected after the fact. She noted that Cockatoo was one of the places in Victoria worst affected by the Ash Wednesday fires – 6 people died and over 300 buildings were lost. She put to the Committee that Cockatoo is to the Ash Wednesday fires of 1983 what Strathewen or Marysville are to the Black Saturday fires of 2009.

  6. Ms Farrow argued that the Former Kindergarten’s high level of historical significance was evidenced by the visit of HRH the Prince of Wales and HRH the Princess of Wales in March 1983. Although she agreed with Dr Jordan that a royal visit does not, of itself, make a place historically significant, Ms Farrow put the view that the significance lies in the special reason for this visit. Cockatoo was the only fire-affected community the royal couple visited; it was suggested that the site was chosen because the Princess was a former kindergarten teacher.

    Discussion and conclusion

  7. In the Committee’s view, the bushfire phenomenon is of great significance to the course and pattern of Victoria’s cultural history. Victoria’s Framework of Historic Themes identifies ‘seeking refuge from fires’ as one sub-theme under ‘living with natural processes’ (Theme 1.5) and cites fire refuges as an example of the type of place that might be considered for listing under this theme.

  8. The Committee notes that there are no places included in the Victorian Heritage Register for their associations with bushfires or refuge from bushfires. However, under-representation of certain types of places on the Register is not a sufficient reason for inclusion. A place can only be included if it satisfies at least one of the criteria.

  9. The 1983 Ash Wednesday fires were one of the most destructive and deadly series of bushfires ever experienced by Victorians. The fires affected the Cockatoo community particularly badly, with the settlement being virtually wiped out and six people killed. The Former Kindergarten was fundamental to the survival of a very large proportion of the residents who remained in Cockatoo during the fires.

  10. It could be argued that the remaining fabric of the Former Kindergarten does not demonstrate its role in the history of Cockatoo and the Ash Wednesday fires. The Committee has noted that the Guidelines prepared for the Queensland Heritage Council2, in relation to Criterion A (historic value), point out that a place or object may possess historical significance that is not demonstrated fully in the fabric, for example, if the place is the site of an important historical event. In these cases other sources of historical information such as newspapers, published material, photographs and oral history may combine with the fabric to demonstrate the historical significance of the place. This is the case with the Former Kindergarten.

  11. It is probable that there are many other places in Victoria that acted as fire refuges on 16 February 1983 (as well as in other major fires before and since). In the absence of a typological study of ‘places of refuge’ to provide comparative examples, the Committee has had to make a judgement on the level of significance of the Former Cockatoo Kindergarten on the basis of the information before it.

  12. The Committee has concluded that the Former Cockatoo Kindergarten is an outstanding representative example of places of refuge during natural disasters, and is therefore of State significance under Criterion A. Our reasons are: the Ash Wednesday fires were a major historical event in Victoria; the township of Cockatoo was one of those most severely affected by the fires; the Kindergarten building sheltered a very large number of people and enabled them to survive the fire; the role of the building during the fires received extensive media coverage at the time; and the fundamental structure and character of the building are still intact (despite the removal of walls and windows).

Criterion B - Possession of uncommon, rare or endangered aspects of Victoria’s cultural history


  1. The parties disagreed on the rarity of the place.

    Submissions and evidence

  2. Ms Farrow submitted that the kindergarten building is ‘unique and symbolic’. She submitted that the site has an uncommon bushfire story as it was a place of happiness (a carousel-shaped kindergarten) that provided shelter during a disaster. She argued that this makes it unique among refuges.

    Discussion and conclusion

  3. The Committee finds that while the Former Kindergarten may be the only, or one of a very few, purpose-built kindergartens used subsequently as a bushfire refuge, this fact is a matter of interest rather than indicating a sufficient level of significance to warrant registration under this criterion.

Criterion D - Importance in demonstrating the principal characteristics of a class of cultural places and objects


  1. The parties disagreed about whether the place is an important example of a kindergarten building.

    Submissions and evidence

  2. The AWPMC submitted that the kindergarten is of architectural significance to the State of Victoria.

  3. Dr Jordan submitted that although an in-depth comparative study of kindergartens in Victoria has not been undertaken, the Former Cockatoo Kindergarten is not considered to have architectural significance at a state level. It has never been identified as an outstanding example of a kindergarten building or architectural design of its period and did not act as an inspiration for the design of other kindergartens.

    Discussion and conclusion

  4. The Committee finds that the Former Kindergarten is not an important example of kindergarten building or architectural design in Victoria.

  5. The Committee has already stated that it considers the Former Kindergarten is an outstanding representative example of a place of refuge from natural disasters. However, we believe that ‘places of refuge’ do not qualify as a class of places under this criterion, as they are not sufficiently homogenous to be able to identify ‘principal characteristics’ – which are generally taken to mean a relatively narrow range of physical features demonstrated by places within a class. Other potentially relevant ‘classes’ might be kindergartens or 1970s community buildings, but the Committee does not believe that a case has been made that the Former Kindergarten is of State significance as an example of either of these classes of places. We do note, however, that no typological study of kindergartens has been carried out – a lack also identified by the Heritage Council Committee that considered the nomination of the Lady Forster Kindergarten in Port Melbourne in October 2011.

Criterion E - Importance in exhibiting particular aesthetic characteristics.


  1. The parties disagreed on the importance of the place’s aesthetic characteristics.

    Submissions and evidence

  2. Ms Farrow submitted that the former kindergarten is of aesthetic significance to the State of Victoria. She argued that the aesthetic value of the place lies in the contrast between its playful design and its past as a refuge during bushfire. She submitted that the building, with its distinctive carousel shape, is a well-known landmark which has become a symbol for survival.

  3. Dr Jordan argued that the aesthetic significance of the place has been diminished by the removal of external walls and some of the internal walls. In the AWMPC’s view the shape and silhouette of the building is iconic, and as that is still intact the significance has not been compromised.

  4. Dr Jordan stated that the Former Cockatoo Kindergarten was a fine building that suited its situation and was very functional, but she considered it was not of State significance for its aesthetic values.

    Discussion and conclusion

  5. The Committee considers that in this case, the significant values of the place have not been substantially reduced by the removal of external and internal walls. However, the Committee finds that the place is not of sufficient aesthetic or architectural significance to Victoria to satisfy this Criterion.

Criterion G - Strong or special association with a particular community or cultural group for social, cultural or spiritual reasons. This includes the significance of a place to Indigenous peoples as part of their continuing and developing cultural traditions


  1. The parties agreed that the Former Cockatoo Kindergarten is of social significance. The parties disagreed on the place’s level of social significance.

    Submissions and evidence

  2. Ms Farrow submitted that the kindergarten is of social significance to the State of Victoria. She argued that all bushfire affected communities share in the Former Kindergarten, as the bushfire story is common to all Victorian communities who have withstood natural disasters. She submitted that the building ‘[has] a soul that is enmeshed in the fabric of [the] community, representing courage, defiance and community engagement’3.

  3. Ms Farrow submitted that the significance of the place to the Victorian community is evidenced by the high volume of media coverage past and present, letters of support from a broad range of Victorians and the Victorian Bushfire Collection at Museum Victoria.

  4. Ms Farrow described the threat and history of bushfire as a common thread that ties the Dandenong Ranges’ communities together. Therefore, the building is of immense symbolic importance to these communities, who are likely to face similar battles in the future.

  5. Ms Farrow also argued that the kindergarten is an ‘emotional’ and significant building to the residents of Cockatoo. This significance derives partly from the history of local fundraising to pay for construction of the Former Kindergarten and two other community buildings and also from associations deriving from its use as community amenity. However, the major feature in the community’s current attachment to the building is due to its role in the 1983 fires. Mr Simpson encapsulated the continuing relevance of this role in his comment to the Hearing that had the Kindergarten building not provided refuge for his wife and children during the fires, he would not now have grandchildren. Posts on social media sites and recent media coverage were cited as evidence of the significance of the place to the present-day community of Cockatoo and to former residents who had moved away.

  6. Dr Jordan submitted that the place has great importance to the local community for its role as a shelter for many residents during the 1983 fires and as such, has high social significance at a local level. However, in the Executive Director’s view, the place does not have social significance at a state level.

    Discussion and conclusion

  7. The Committee notes that this Criterion is directed at current social value, as distinct from historical social associations. Attachments to a place must be actively held, and held by an identifiable present community.

  8. The Criterion requires a place to have a strong and special association with a particular community or cultural group [the Committee’s emphasis].

  9. Communities can be defined in a variety of ways and at a variety of scales: geographical communities, ethnic communities, communities of interest, or ‘the Victorian community’ as a whole. The issue in relation to the Victorian Heritage Register is: what elevates a place that is important to a particular community to being of State significance?

  10. The Committee believes that State significance is likely to derive from the degree to which the place connects to a theme that is important to the State and the extent to which it embodies that theme. Places important to local communities because of their association with particular events may have the ability to resonate with other communities that have experienced the same or similar events or with a wider public that can empathise with the effects of such events.

  11. We have already noted in relation to Criterion A that ‘seeking refuge from fires’ is identified as a sub-theme under ‘Living with natural processes’ in Victoria’s framework of historic themes. In addition, the guidelines for applying the criteria in the Queensland Heritage Act4 list one of the significance indicators for the equivalent criterion as: ‘Associated with events having a profound effect on a particular community’. They cite ‘Places associated with natural disasters or tragedies’ as examples of places likely to be of social significance.

  12. The Committee accepts that the Cockatoo community, including many former residents, has a continuing strong and special association with the Former Kindergarten and that the building has a symbolic meaning for them as a place that reminds them of an event – the Ash Wednesday bushfires – that helped to define and unify their community.

  13. The Committee considers that the material supplied in support of the application for registration demonstrates that the wider ‘Hills’ community and many other Victorian citizens also recognise the social significance of the Former Kindergarten in relation to the Ash Wednesday bushfires.

  14. The Committee has concluded that the Former Cockatoo Kindergarten is of social significance at the State level, due to its ability to resonate with other fire-affected communities and the broader Victorian public and to interpret to them the experience of ‘seeking refuge from fires’.



Conclusion

  1. The Committee finds that the Former Cockatoo Kindergarten is of historical and social significance to the State of Victoria. It meets the significance threshold for inclusion in the Victoria Heritage Register according to the Heritage Council's criteria A and G.

  2. The Committee recommends that a typological study should be carried out on places associated with natural disasters, such as bushfires and floods, with particular attention to places of refuge.




ATTACHMENT 1
HERITAGE COUNCIL CRITERIA FOR ASSESSMENT OF PLACES OF CULTURAL HERITAGE SIGIFICANCE









CRITERION A

Importance to the course, or pattern, of Victoria’s cultural history.


CRITERION B

Possession of uncommon, rare or endangered aspects of Victoria’s cultural history.


CRITERION C

Potential to yield information that will contribute to an understanding of Victoria’s cultural history.


CRITERION D

Importance in demonstrating the principal characteristics of a class of cultural places or objects.


CRITERION E

Importance in exhibiting particular aesthetic characteristics.


CRITERION F

Importance in demonstrating a high degree of creative or technical achievement at a particular period.


CRITERION G

Strong or special association with a particular community or cultural group for social, cultural or spiritual reasons. This includes the significance of a place to Indigenous peoples as part of their continuing and developing cultural traditions.


CRITERION H

Special association with the life or works of a person, or group of persons, of importance in Victoria’s history.




These were adopted by the Heritage Council at its meeting on 7 August 2008, and replace the previous criteria adopted by the Heritage Council on 6 March 1997.

ATTACHMENT 2
Statement of Significance

What is significant?

The former Cockatoo Kindergarten is a 1976 kindergarten building in a semi-rural setting in the township of Cockatoo, about 50 km east of Melbourne. The site is part of the traditional land of the Kulin Nation.

The former Cockatoo Kindergarten is located in the Alma Trelour Reserve. It is a steel-framed circular building with a low pyramidal roof tapering up to a central lantern, which provides light and ventilation, and has a surrounding verandah. Internally it had a large play room, office and toilet facilities. The exterior walls of the building, originally of asbestos sheeting with large areas of glass, have been removed, and some of the internal walls have also been destroyed.

The kindergarten was built to provide facilities for the then rapidly growing population, on land provided by the local Council, using money raised by the Cockatoo Community Co-operative. The circular-plan building was designed by the Melbourne architect Richard Allen to resemble a merry-go-round.

Much of the township of Cockatoo was destroyed in the catastrophic Ash Wednesday bushfires of 16 February 1983, which devastated large areas of Victoria and South Australia. The fire that affected Cockatoo started late in the day and changed direction after the wind went around to the south-west. Many local firefighters and appliances were away fighting fires elsewhere, so the township was exposed. The fire burned 1,800 hectares of land and destroyed 307 buildings. Six people lost their lives in and around Cockatoo.

During the fires the kindergarten building became a refuge for about 300 local people, almost half of whom were children. In the days after the fires the Red Cross used the building as a registration centre.

During the Australian tour of HRH the Prince of Wales and HRH the Princess of Wales in March 1983 the couple visited Cockatoo, and planted a Flowering Gum (Corymbia ficifolia, formerly Eucalyptus ficifolia) at the entrance to the kindergarten to mark the occasion.

The roof of the building was badly affected by the fires, and deteriorated further in the following years, resulting in 2005 in the kindergarten moving to another site. The building remained unused for several years and during this time suffered from vandalism. Council's decision to demolish the building in 2011 met with opposition from the local community, which wanted it kept as a memorial.



How is it significant?

The Former Cockatoo Kindergarten is of historical and social significance to the State of Victoria.



Why is it significant?

Victoria’s Framework of Historic Themes identifies ‘seeking refuge from fires’ as one sub-theme under ‘living with natural processes’ (Theme 1.5) and lists ‘fire refuges’ as an example of places representing this theme.

The former Cockatoo Kindergarten is historically significant for its role as a refuge for about three hundred residents of Cockatoo during the devastating Ash Wednesday bushfires of 16 February 1983. The Ash Wednesday fires were a highly significant event in the course and pattern of Victoria’s cultural history and the former Kindergarten is an outstanding representative example of a place of refuge during that event.

The former Cockatoo Kindergarten is of social significance for its ability to resonate with other fire-affected communities and the wider Victorian public and interpret to them the experience of ‘seeking refuge from fires’.




ATTACHMENT 3

PERMIT POLICY


Future conservation and management of the Former Cockatoo Kindergarten should retain the main structure and form of the building, including its steel frame, circular shape, roof slope, central lantern windows and verandah.

Management of the garden should seek to retain the Corymbia ficifolia (Flowering Gum) planted by the Prince and Princess of Wales in 1983.

PERMIT EXEMPTIONS

The purpose of the permit exemptions is to allow works that do not impact on the heritage significance of the place to occur without the need for a permit. Works which impact on the significance of the place are subject to permit applications.

General Conditions: 1. All exempted works are to be planned and carried out in a manner which prevents damage to the fabric of the registered place or object.

General Conditions: 2. Should it become apparent during further inspection or the carrying out of works that original or previously hidden or inaccessible details of the place or object are revealed which relate to the significance of the place or object, then the exemption covering such alterations shall cease and the Executive Director shall be notified.

Note: All heritage places have the potential to contain significant sub-surface artefacts and other remains. In most cases it will be necessary to obtain approval from Heritage Victoria before the undertaking any works that have a significant sub-surface component.

General Conditions: 3. If there is a conservation policy and plan approved by the Executive Director, all works shall be in accordance with it.

Note: The existence of a Conservation Management Plan or a Heritage Action Plan provides guidance for the management of the heritage values associated with the site. It may not be necessary to obtain a heritage permit for certain works specified in the management plan.

Minor Works

Note: Any Minor Works that in the opinion of the Executive Director will not adversely affect the heritage significance of the place may be exempt from the permit requirements of the Heritage Act. A person proposing to undertake minor works may submit a proposal to the Executive Director. If the Executive Director is satisfied that the proposed works will not adversely affect the heritage values of the site, the applicant may not be required to obtain a heritage permit.
Landscape
* The process of gardening, hedge clipping, removal of dead plants, emergency and safety works and landscaping in accordance with the original concept.
* The replanting of plant species to conserve the landscape character.
* Plant labelling and interpretive signage.
* Management of trees in accordance with Australian Standard, Pruning of amenity trees AS 4373
* Removal of plants listed as State Prohibited and Regionally Controlled Weeds in the Catchment and Land Protection Act 1994
* Repairs, conservation and maintenance to hard landscape elements, gravel paths and roadway, edging, fences and gates and gravel driveway.

* Removal of any part of the Kindergarten demolished prior to 17 February 2012 and no longer physically attached to the building’s structure will be considered exempt.

* Installation, removal or replacement of garden watering and drainage systems
* Removal of Car Parks and treated pine barriers.

* Removal and/or replacement of the sandpit and children’s play equipment.




ATTACHMENT 4
1. All of the land marked L1 on Diagram 1951 held by the Executive Director being part of Lot 1 on Title Plan 172448
2. All of the building marked B1and the Corymbia ficifolia marked F1 on Diagram 1951 held by the Executive Director.

EXTENT OF REGISTRATION






1 AWMPC submission dated 24 February 2012, p1

2 Queensland Heritage Council (2006) Using the Criteria: a methodology. Note: the Queensland criteria are equivalent to those by the Heritage Council of Victoria/Heritage Victoria, with the substitution of ‘Queensland’ for ‘Victoria’.

3 AWPMC submission received 27 January 2012.

4 Queensland Heritage Council (2006) Using the Criteria: a methodology

April 2012




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