I am pleased to speak on the Heritage Bill 2016.
This is a bill that reviews the previous legislation, and indeed there was a discussion paper released in 2015 on it.
It constitutes a rewrite and modernisation of the previous bill, which has not really been looked at in the last 20 years.
What we keep and do not keep has long been a matter for discussion in our society as the landscape of our towns and cities changes. This was brought to the fore recently with the demolition of the Corkman hotel in Carlton. There was great outrage that the demolition had been undertaken in the manner it had and, of course, without any permits.
We have got some fabulous buildings on our heritage register, and I took the time to look through the lists as I was preparing to speak today. There are amazing buildings throughout Melbourne, Ballarat, Bendigo and many of our other cities and towns. I was very pleased to see that even a humble little flour mill at Murchison, which is close to my electorate, was just recently provided with funding to maintain it. It is Day’s steam-powered flour mill, named after the original owners and considered to be the best-preserved 19th century flour mill in Victoria and possibly Australia. It is so good to see funding provided to save various buildings of particular historical interest in our regions.
I am one of the lucky people in Victoria who had the opportunity to sit through 115 days of the Yorta Yorta case when it took place during the 1990s. The first, probably, 50 days were actually spent out in the bush. Each day the court convened — court reporters, witnesses and court staff — and each day we heard from Aboriginal elders about the sites we were visiting. We would look at middens on the banks of the Murray River, scarred trees and so many things that up until that time probably most of us — certainly myself — had not been exposed to or taken on board any real knowledge about. It was a great privilege to be a part of that and to understand what Aboriginal heritage we have in our country and the value that is placed on that.
When we talk about our heritage, we also place great value on it. I think it is very interesting to consider the fact that we have 30 000 or 40 000 years of Aboriginal heritage. We now have our European heritage, and we are moving into a stage where we should seriously look to the future, because what we do now is the heritage of the future. We bemoan the fact that an elm tree was blown over in Mildura, but the tree that is planted to replace that will be the tree in 100 years time that we will honour and think of as great. While the buildings of the past are so important, it is what we do now that will be so important for the future. We have to consider what we are building, because I dare say that many of the buildings that are going up quickly around our cities and towns will not be buildings that will be honoured if they are not built in a way that reflects who we are now and what we think is of real value rather than just chasing a quick dollar. We can look at Federation Square and newer buildings that have been built. Whether you like them or not, they are outstanding buildings. They will last, and they will be treasures for the future.
I would like to talk about a few heritage sites in my electorate, but before I do so I think members need to understand that Shepparton was not built in the goldmining era, so it never enjoyed the great wealth that Bendigo, Ballarat and many other towns and cities did, which really enabled all these buildings in Melbourne to be built. It was the wealth of the 1850s and 1860s that enabled so many of our beautiful buildings to be built. Shepparton was built on agriculture. It was a service town, and it therefore did not have that injection of sudden wealth that enabled many beautiful buildings to be built. We in Shepparton always bemoan the fact that the Shepparton post office was demolished in 1974. It was our oldest and most valued heritage building. Everyone in Shepparton still says, ‘What a loss. Wasn’t it a shame that we knocked down that icon in the main street of Shepparton’, because we just don’t have very many’.
Those of us who travel understand the value of heritage buildings. When we travel throughout Europe we visit cathedrals, churches and museums, and I love doing that. It is just amazing to see how far back in history the buildings date in those countries. We are a young country in a lot of ways, and I think it is important that we take the long-term view in relation to preserving our buildings and that we take a lesson from Europe in that regard.
In Shepparton, because its young, its heritage sites are much more recent. We have the German War Cemetery at Tatura. It was the first foreign war cemetery to be established in Australia by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. It provided for the reburial of German internees and prisoners of war who died while they were detained in Australia during World War I and World War II. Bodies were exhumed from cemeteries all over Australia and reinterred in that cemetery.
We have the Bangerang Cultural Centre, which is located in a place called the International Village, which was intended to be an ideal and a place in Shepparton where all cultures would be represented, but unfortunately it did not take off. Now the Bangerang centre sits there, a bit alone, by a lake, and someone is going to have to look after it. There are not many Bangerang elders left. Sandy Atkinson was one of our very senior elders who died only this year. I would like to acknowledge Uncle Sandy Atkinson, who was born on Cumeragunja mission in 1932. He was just an amazing contributor to Victoria and to Australia. It was so lucky for our community to have him there. Shortly after I got elected he took me through the Bangerang centre and showed me the building which was constructed by a partner of Robin Boyd, the great Victorian architect. It is a wonderful building that contains photos. It goes back a long way in that it has old canoes and old artefacts, but it also has a very rich photographic history of the time of the people of Cumeragunja and some of the history of the walk-off from Cumeragunja to Mooroopna, when the Aboriginal people then lived on the flats. So it is a really important piece of our history, and fortunately it is on the Victorian Heritage Register. Like a lot of building that are on that, though, maintaining them will be very difficult in the future.
The other historical and heritage site I would like to talk about is the Calder Woodburn Memorial Avenue, which has 9.5 kilometres of trees alongside the Goulburn Valley Highway heading into Shepparton. There are eucalyptus trees down both sides of the main highway, and it was planted between 1945 and 1949 by Mr Woodburn as a living memorial to his son Calder, who lost his life while serving with the Royal Australian Air Force. Calder, who had been a student at Dookie Agricultural College, enrolled to go to war, and of course did not come home. So his father planted these eucalyptus trees that go down both sides of the highway.
It is an avenue that goes all the way into Shepparton. There are now 100 plaques on various trees going into Shepparton which recognise soldiers from our local district who died both during World War I and World War II. Each plaque is situated on a tree that is the closest to and faces the home of the soldier who died. It is very poignant and a very important tribute to our community.
I am very pleased to see that this bill is being updated and also to see the funding that is going in to preserve many of our heritage sites. I would like to say once more how important it is to recognise that what we do now will be our heritage of the future and that we should really take stock of what that means to us. I therefore support the bill.