Faded black and white photo of a federation house with a woman and child standing in its front yard, with bushes on each side.

Chinese leaders to seek protection for Ballarat’s Victory House as council rejects heritage advice

Leaders of Ballarat’s Chinese community say they will continue to fight to protect a house significant to Chinese and Ballarat history after a council vote opened the path for its demolition.

Chinese Australian Cultural Society Ballarat president Charles Zhang says he will seek an interim protection order from Heritage Victoria for the site known as Victory House in the suburb of Canadian.

“We won’t let this go. This is very important to us,” he said.

“We will find a solution to save this house.”

Victory House, named after the 1902 Melbourne Cup winner The Victory, was built in 1906 near goldmines and was home to a family of Chinese goldmine manager James Wong Chung.

The Chung family lived in the Geelong Road home until 2008, when it was sold.

The Chung family. (Supplied)

The home was widely known as a welcoming place that hosted large gatherings of Chinese people to celebrate culture and heritage.

It is recognized for its strong links to Ballarat’s goldrush history and Chinese history in Ballarat.

But four Ballarat councilors believe it is not significant enough to warrant protection in a city where countless old homes could be argued to have historical and social significance.

A historic photo in black in white of a man sitting on a chair.
James Wong Chung was the manager of Chinese mine You Sing. (Supplied)

Their vote, four against three, at a planning meeting on Wednesday night, defeated a council officer’s recommendation to seek interim and permanent heritage protection for the site.

Landowners want to demolish Victory House and other outbuildings sites to construct four new dwellings.

Not worth protecting

Councilor Mark Harris led the vote against protection, and told the ABC council must draw a line on interference with privately owned property and this house did not make the cut to be saved.

A weatherboard home in a big grassy yard with the blue sky and clouds.
Four Ballarat councilors have voted against protecting the house.(ABC News: Lexie Jeuniewic)

“It is not a good example of that turn of the century federation house. And, in and of itself, I didn’t think it had the merit to preserve it,” he said.

“At some stage, you ask the question, how much do the owners have rights on it?

“Can any house fall victim to the fact council may decide it to be preserved for historical values ​​they might not have known about?”

The City of Ballarat received a request to demolish the home and outbuildings on July 7 this year.

The land is currently not subject to precinct or heritage controls under the planning scheme.

Heritage consultant Robyn Ballinger prepared a report on the history of the site upon council request.

Dr Ballinger determined it was of local significance.

‘Very bad decision for Ballarat’

Ballarat historian Anne Beggs-Sunter said it was a “bad look” and “very concerning” for councilors to vote against the advice of heritage and planning experts.

“If the council is not seeking heritage protection, there is nothing to stop the demolition of the buildings on the site,” she said.

“It is a very bad decision for Ballarat, particularly with this heritage push to get world listing for the Goldfields.

“Here is a site that is so rich in its association with the very early goldrush in the Canadian area, and the association with the Chinese is so important.”

An old black and white photo of a house.
Victory House in Ballarat is considered a significant part of Chinese history in Ballarat. (Supplied)

City of Ballarat’s heritage advisor told the statutory planning department they would not support the demolition of the home.

The council’s Development and Growth director Natalie Robertson has already written to the Planning Minister Lizzie Blandthorn advising of plans to seek interim heritage protection.

Heritage Victoria can put an interim protection order on a place that is under threat if it is likely to be of state heritage significance and there is an immediate threat to it.