Lidcombe Hospital Site Preservation

About this Item
SpeakersNagle Mr Peter; Aquilina Mr John
BusinessPrivate Members Statements, PRIV


Mr NAGLE (Auburn) [4.40 p.m.]: In the year 2000 the Lidcombe hospital site will become the media centre for the Olympic Games. A permanent conservation order should be placed on the heritage buildings on the site. The information in this speech has resulted from the hard work put in my very good friend Mrs Lee Rossi, and Liz Roveen, the honorary secretary of the Auburn District Historical Society. The sources of the information include the Lidcombe State Hospital conservation plan of February 1995 by Noel Bell, Ridley Smith and Partners, "A Historical Tour of Lidcombe Hospital" by Gregory Marcar and John Ballard, the document entitled "Lidcombe Hospital - Its Early History and Development", the Lidcombe Heritage Group and the Auburn District Historical Society.

The hospital site is very old and it has a great deal of historical and social significance for the area. A boys reformatory was the first institution to be built at the site. It was known as the Rookwood Boys Reformatory and it was one of the first attempts to deal with the problem of youth delinquency and rehabilitation outside the general prison system. An asylum at Rookwood was built to house the homeless and destitute men associated with the influx of single men to Australia in the 1850s and 1860s and the severe economic depression of the 1890s. I still live in Regents Park and remember that in my early days the asylum was known as the old men’s home.

In 1879 the State Government purchased 1,340 acres of land in what was then known as the district of Rookwood. During 1884 a portion of the area was cleared under an unemployment relief scheme - it seems that things have not changed since those days - for a proposed reformatory for boys and a model farm. In 1885 plans were drawn up by James Barnet to build the Victorian mansion which became known as the superintendent’s cottage. It was constructed by 1887. A large orchard and vegetable garden became part of the old Lidcombe site. The
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dining hall and kitchen were built between 1885 and 1887, and they are fine examples of late Victorian Georgian design. Wards 8, 10 and 12 were built as the first stage of the institution in 1887. They are in early Australian colonial style. Ward 12 is a red brick building built in 1928 as an annex dining room to wards 9 and 11. Wards 10 and 12 were built in 1885 to 1887 as ablution blocks for men. Wards 14, 19, 4, 9 and 11 are all fine buildings. Nurses home No. 1 was built from 1910 to 1912. The sandstone gatehouse was erected in 1913.

At present there is a double cyclone wire fence around the buildings to protect them. When the land is developed it will have a village atmosphere. They are significant cultural buildings. The days of 1885, 1889, 1890, 1912 and 1920 may not seem long ago but the site is still significant: the oldest building in the area is the old Government House at Parramatta. Australia does not have a long history compared with the United Kingdom and Ireland. I commend the Auburn Historical Society and all those who were involved in putting together the submission for a permanent conservation order to be placed on the heritage buildings at the Lidcombe Hospital site. I commend its preservation to the Labor Government. When all the buildings have been renovated with modern amenities it will be a great step forward in the preservation of the history of western Sydney.

Mr AQUILINA (Riverstone - Minister for Education and Training, and Minister Assisting the Premier on Youth Affairs) [4.45 p.m.]: I am pleased to support the honourable member for Auburn in his request for a permanent conservation order on heritage buildings at the Lidcombe Hospital site. As a former teacher of history I made a study of a number of local historical areas and buildings, and as education Minister I am the guardian of probably the largest number of historical buildings in the nation. It is a privilege and an honour which I take very seriously, as I am sure the Minister for Health does: a large number of historical buildings also come within the ambit of his portfolio.

Local history is very important in ensuring that we maintain the link with our past and the vestiges of our identity. I am proud of the number of local history associations and committees set up not only in the Sydney metropolitan area but throughout rural New South Wales and around Australia. For 21 years I have been patron of the Blacktown and District Historical Society. That society - as with the Auburn District Historical Society - has been responsible for the preservation of much of our local history which otherwise would have been lost under the bulldozers of developers with little or no conscience.

The honourable member for Auburn should be congratulated on doing his bit to support the Auburn District Historical Society. Australia is a very young country. We have lost too much of our history. We should put a stop to its loss and maintain as much of it as we can. History shows the way to the future. We should not only preserve history but also make sure that historical buildings continue to have relevance, purpose and use into the future. I am sure the Lidcombe Hospital site will do this. I commend the matter raised by the honourable member for Auburn. [Time expired.]