Historical Society still waiting for new resource centre 12 years after demolition

Volunteers from the Historical Society outside the "temporary" resource centre, which has been in use for over a decade. Picture: PARKER MCKENZIE

By Parker McKenzie

12 years ago, Knox Historical Societies’ dilapidated resource centre at Ambleside Park was demolished by Knox City Council in preparation for a new facility being built.

The land at 1-3 Olivebank Road, Ferntree Gully — including the still-standing historic Ambleside Homestead — was donated to the council by Oliver David in the 1970s, under the proviso it wouldn’t be subdivided and was used for the preservation of Knox history under the auspice of the Historical Society.

Today, the Knox Historical Society is still functioning out of temporary facilities not fit for purpose, with inaccessible entrances to key historical documents and bathrooms.

Knox Historical Society President Lynn Brewster said it was frustrating to see little action by the council in ensuring the facilities were suitable for the public and the volunteers who run the society.

“It is very much an issue and you can’t have volunteers in wheelchairs, because at the moment we haven’t got the facilities to other facilities for them to use,” she said.

“We want to be inclusive, open up to anybody that wants to come up here and that can’t happen at the moment. Most of our volunteers are elderly.”

The Historical Society has now run out of room to store rows of bound and sorted documents in their climate-controlled temporary resource centre — which they call the TARDIS— with volunteers worrying they may become trapped inside the building because of a door that often doesn’t open from the inside, leaving them no choice but to leave it ajar at all times and threatening the integrity the historic information contained within.

Volunteers have also been forced to place bubble wrap on windows to protect themselves from the elements in the temporary office and the bathroom accessible for disabled people is difficult to navigate.

Mr David’s grandson Gary Fevreau, who still lives next door to the Ambleside Homestead, said his grandfather would be disappointed if he could see the facility’s condition.

“He’d be turning in his grave, thinking that he was doing the right thing when he donated it to the council,” he said.

“Knox Historical Society is doing such a great job maintaining the history of the area, we should expect better.”

The Historical Society made a submission to a council budget meeting on Thursday 16 June, asking for action and funding for the development and delivery of the resource centre.

Mr Fevreau supported the submission in person and wrote to the council about his family’s disappointment in the lack of progress after more than 10 years.

“The temporary arrangements are an insult to these hard-working volunteers and certainly not in keeping with the intent of the gift by my Grandfather.” he said in the letter.

In a statement in response to questions regarding when Knox City Council estimates when the resource centre would be built and why the facilities haven’t been delivered despite being demolished 12 years ago, Knox City Council said “the 2022-23 Budget is due for consideration to be adopted at the Council meeting on June 27.”

“This includes the consideration to include $45,000 to confirm the operational needs at Ambleside Resource Centre, including development of concept plans, associated feasibility report and cost plan.” the council said.

Ms Brewster said while she welcomes the potential commitment to the funding, there have been several false starts previously and she wants the council to commit to a three-year plan to ensure the facility is delivered.

“We want a proper area for volunteers to work in. We can’t have the general public come into the TARDIS for safety reasons,” she said.

“Will the resource centre ever happen? It hasn’t happened yet and we hoping it will soon.”

Knox City Council previously adopted an Ambleside Masterplan in May 2010 and in 2016 spent $20,000 designing a replacement resource centre without consulting the Knox Historical Society. Aside from the demolition of the previous resource centre, no further work has been completed to deliver the facility.