23rd November 2004

Kew Cottages Coalition Media Release No. 20041123.


Click here for current and historical views of the Cottages and grounds.
Photos Tony Michael, Kew Historical Society.

Kew Cottages Coalition warmly welcomes the Heritage Council of Victoria's decision today to include Kew Cottages in the Victorian Heritage Register (More..)

The Coalition's President, Mr. Brian Walsh, said that the Coalition had first nominated the Cottages for the Register in January this year, and he called again on Steve Bracks to please explain why as Premier, he had failed to properly inform himself of the Heritage Significance of the Cottages before deciding it was appropriate to sell this historic site to private developers back in May 2001 ?

Mr. Walsh, said  that it was obvious now that the Melbourne 2030  "Plan" for the sale and destruction of Kew Cottages by the Bracks Government had proceeded on a number of  false and misleading assumptions including:

1. That only a small number of the Cottages' intellectually disabled residents had a right to remain at Kew Cottages;

2. That the Cottages was NOT a Heritage site;

3. That it was legitimate under Melbourne 2030 to replace the Cottages' 27 hectares of Yarra Valley green space and single storey buildings with a whole new suburb of high density housing.

Mr. Walsh said, "Those assumptions were simply wrong. The Cottages are NOT a Melbourne 2030 Activity Centre, they ARE a Heritage site of State significance, and natural justice demands that all - not just a small number - of the Cottages' current residents who wish to stay, should be allowed to stay. The current plan and secret tender process to bulldoze the site must be stopped immediately."

Mr. Walsh said, " Steve Bracks and Sherryl Garbutt have only got themselves to blame for the current mess. They inherited the Cottages on behalf of all Victorians when they came into Government, and they should have consulted properly with bodies such as the Parents Association and with Heritage Victoria."

"It would have been the natural thing to do for any responsible Government.." Mr. Walsh said. "The adjoining Willsmere site is already on the Victorian Heritage Register, and for over a hundred years  Kew Cottages were actually a part of Willsmere. "

Mr. Walsh said," The Bracks 'Dash for cash'  from the Cottages has ended up squarely putting the "'Developers' Cart before the Heritage Horse. They have not only wasted a lot of public time and public money over the past three years, they have also caused a lot of grief and anxiety to some of Victoria's most disadvantaged citizens - the intellectually disabled residents and their families."

Mr. Walsh said,"  Bracks should have properly dealt with the Public Heritage value of Kew Cottages  before he even contemplated what  Private Developers might be prepared to pay to cover this historic Yarra Valley hillside with concrete. Now the whole question of whether medium and high density housing is even remotely appropriate on this Heritage site will have to be looked at afresh."

"The Government has got a lot of explaining to do", Mr. Walsh said, "At face value the Cottages Affair appears to have been totally driven by greed since 2001. It seems to me that someone, or somebody in Government just wanted to maximise the amount of cash they could get out of a private developer, no matter what the social cost to the people, the culture, or the heritage issues at the Cottages. How else can you explain why such a such a crucial piece of information has been delayed for so long ? The only honourable body in the whole affair appears to me to be the Heritage Council itself - they are the only Government agency that I am aware of  that appears to have simply kept its eye on the ball, and done its job to the best of its ability, for all the people of Victoria."

The Kew Cottages Coalition believes that the Government tender to sell the site should be recalled immediately, and a properly constituted independent inquiry appointed to make recommendations on:

a) The failure of the Kew Cottages planning process to date to adequately take account of the Cottages historic  usage and Heritage values;

b) An appropriate future for Kew Cottages, including the nature and form of intellectual disability services and accommodation choices to be developed.

Mr. Walsh said he would like to put on record the Coalition's thanks to all those groups and individuals who had assisted in developing and supporting the Kew Cottages nominations to Heritage Victoria, and in helping with the Coalition's continuing search for the original cast iron Main Gates. The Gates were removed from the Princess Street Entrance to the Cottages in 1940, and are now believed to be located somewhere in the Shepparton region.

For more information please contact:

Brian Walsh,
Kew Cottages Coalition

M. 0414 979 300
E. brianwalsh@kew.org.au

Ref: KCCMR20041123