Leanne Howard

For over 50 years the Daylesford Museum Reserve has been home to two important and highly-valued cultural community organisations—the Daylesford & District Historical Society and its accredited Museum, and the Daylesford Community Brass Band who for over three generations have inhabited their space for rehearsals, with storage for their music and archives. These two cultural organisations are well-connected with extensive community networks throughout the Hepburn Shire.

After many years of waiting, in June 2021 the Daylesford Museum Reserve Committee of Management (DMRCoM) was gratified to receive a grant of $338,000 from the Victorian Government through the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP). The grant was for urgent replacement of the original galvanised iron and slate roofs of the 130-year old Museum heritage building, formerly known as the School of Mines. In addition to reroofing, work was to include external timber repairs and painting as well as essential stormwater management to secure the leaking building and make it watertight. Additionally, ‘Towards Zero’ funding for the appropriate placement of solar panels on this heritage building and money to assist in painting some internal areas of the Museum in heritage colours was approved by Hepburn Shire Council.

While these grants have been a significant help and are much appreciated, due to the unprecedented increase in material costs and labour shortages, the DELWP funding based on 2018 cost estimates was insufficient to cover all essential works. Although the shiny new iron roof has made an immense improvement to the building’s condition, other essential works remain. Replacement of the slate roof and its structural support, addressing significant damp issues including inadequate ventilation, decaying floor structures and rising damp in the Band room, installing additional stormwater drainage, replacing rotted timbers, and removal of the inappropriate adjacent iron shed are all still urgently needed. Failure to address these maintenance issues could threaten and undermine the existing completed work.

The building’s tenants require a well-maintained, secure and safe community facility. By working closely and productively with the building’s tenants and DELWP, DMRCoM have determined Daylesford Museum Reserve’s priorities and a funding proposal to complete essential works. Expanding the potential of the Reserve as a vibrant community cultural centre is an exciting vision for the future but one that, in addition to community effort, necessitates both government support and philanthropy.

The Reserve has survived with minimal government investment over the last 130 years. It largely endures due to the care, commitment and the thousands of volunteer hours contributed each year by the Historical Society, the Brass Band and the DMRCoM. Institutions including the Bendigo Community Bank Daylesford District have also at times provided grant assistance.

Advocating for an additional $400,000 will allow long-standing problems to be rectified and improve the management, operation and safety of the building for the community’s long-term benefit. Then with a maintenance plan, the building will be kept in a sound condition for the coming years.

In the lead up to the upcoming State Election, DMRCoM is approaching Ministers and the Opposition, highlighting the government support needed to make these building priorities for the community a reality. DMRCoM chair, Mr Gary Carter, said “This is an important heritage building and community asset that has been significantly underfunded for too long, and it is time to make this right. In the lead up to this election we hope to be able to secure and communicate a positive message of support from the next government to our community users of the Museum Reserve, the building tenants, and their extensive community networks throughout the Hepburn Shire.”

Leanne Howard is a member of the Daylesford Museum Reserve Committee of Management.