Thursday, June 28, 2012

Irish community in Australia campaigns to save famous church

captionCampaigners in Melbourne in Australia are battling to save an historic Catholic Church building from destruction.

Residents of Collingwood in Melbourne are battling to save the historic Saint Joseph's Church that is set to be demolished in the coming months.  

The historic church was an important element of the community for many Irish settlers who arrived in Victoria in the 19th century.   

Now, however, the Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne wants to demolish the church following their receipt of a report they commissioned that stated the church is unstable and that much of the former church's heritage significance was lost in a fire in 2007. 

They had hoped to demolish the church, but leave the tower and a small adjoining section of wall to build a playground for students at Saint Joseph's primary school.

However conservation expert Nigel Lewis, who has Irish connections, is set to present a case to save the church on July 19 to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal.  

Lewis, who was commissioned by the Save St Joseph's group, which is aiming to keep the church, said that the church is of huge historical value, particularly to the Irish community. 

Speaking to the Irish Echo in Melbourne he said, “This humble church is significant as one of the most historically important expressions of the Irish diaspora in Victoria.  Collingwood was one of the most important 19th century communities of the post-gold rush and post-famine Irish communities in Victoria.”

The gothic-style church was built in the 1880s and is still in use.  Save St Joseph's spokesperson Mary Fenelon said she is confident that the Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne will not win their appeal. 

“I've always been positive.  I think we'll win because we've got two engineers who gave reports to say the walls are safe.  We've got the council backing us.  We have an historian, our legal person and an architect.  It's fully insured so we can use the money left to restore it.” 

A decision on the church's future is expected before the end of August.

No comments: