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Behind the Victoria Barracks gates

19 Sep 2014

Behind the Victoria Barracks gates Image

With the iconic Victoria Barracks currently receiving some major upgrades, the Department of Defence was kind enough to grant ‘Southbank Local News’ a tour, to get an insight into the project.

As part of a 2009 review of the national defence system’s protective security arrangements, the Federal Government ultimately established the Base Security Improvement Program (BSIP) to implement the review’s recommendations.

The Victoria Barracks was one of a number of bases across Australia to be identified as a site needing an upgrade through the Base Infrastructure Works (BIW) project.

Senior Defence Officer at Victoria Barracks, Air Commodore Christine Tolson, said careful consideration of the heritage status of other buildings at the barracks was one of the most challenging aspects of the project.

“As Victoria Barracks Melbourne has been part of the defence estate since the mid 19th century, the potential for historical archaeology has been documented at the site,” she said.

“The construction plan had to ensure that if any finds are uncovered during construction, they are managed in accordance with state and federal legislation.”

Air Commodore Tolson said Defence Australia had engaged a specialist environment and heritage consultant to prepare an initial review of all heritage sites at the base.

“This review also considered heritage issues and noted that a number of the sites to receive works under the BIW Project include nationally significant heritage values.”

“Specific attention was given in the design phase to avoid or minimise any heritage impacts on the site, with the process being informed by engagement with defence and local government heritage planners.”

Upgrade works at Wells St, Southbank will provide a new access control point facility with pass office, command and monitoring facility, guard house and mail-sorting room opposite Miles St.

And while whispers have circulated that the historic gates at the existing control point would be removed as part of the St Kilda Rd redevelopment, Air Commodore Tolson confirmed this is not the case.

“The historic gates on the St Kilda Rd entrance will not be removed, however this access control point will become a pedestrian-only entrance,” she said.

“The refurbishment will include a new pass office, security gate, vehicle barriers and landscaping.”

Air Commodore Tolson said increased CCTV coverage, a public alert system and duress alarm system would also be implemented, in an effort to modernise security within the base.

The Victoria Barracks was first established in 1856 for the purpose of providing accommodation for British Empire garrison troops, who were most notably renowned for dismantling the Eureka Stockade rebellion in Ballarat.

The base was also home to the Department of Defence between 1901 and 1958, the Australian War Cabinet during World War II and the first Air Force headquarters.

Today, the barracks is predominantly home to the Defence Materiel Organisation (DMO) and the ADF Joint Logistics Command, as well as a host of other smaller units.

The redevelopment is expected to be complete later this year.

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