Sacred Heart Restoration
Sacred Heart Restoration
The restoration of the Abbotsford Convent’s Sacred Heart building marks the Convent’s biggest capital works program since the site’s original restorations commenced more than a decade ago, when the community campaigned to save the then-derelict site from commercial development.
As one of the largest and last remaining buildings to restore, this project marks an important milestone for the Abbotsford Convent Foundation (ACF) – the not for profit organisation managing the Convent on behalf of the community.
This project will create a fit-for-use space to grow our onsite arts and cultural community, and to contribute to the sustainability and growth of the Convent long-term.
The restoration of the Sacred Heart building is currently expected to commence in early July 2017, and is expected to be completed in late 2017/early 2018.
This restoration has been carefully planned with an expert team comprising heritage architects, builders and consultants, therefore delivering a low-impact project from both a heritage and site-impact perspective. As such, the ACF anticipates that for most of our visitors, venue hirers, neighbours and on-site community, it will be ‘business as usual’ throughout the project.
Please read on for an outline of key information. For more detailed information, please see our FAQs document.
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SACRED HEART RESTORATION PROJECT
Covering more than 3,000sqm, the Sacred Heart restoration will see one of the site’s largest buildings activated, creating new opportunities for arts and cultural professionals, organisations and businesses to join the Convent’s longstanding community of more than 100 artists, writers, creatives, creators, educators, community organisations and wellbeing practitioners. Calls for Expressions of Interest from individuals and organisations interested in leasing a Sacred Heart space have now closed, and Sacred Heart tenants are expected to take up their residencies in March 2018. If you would like to apply for other tenancies at the Convent, please register online or contact our tenancy team.
This project was made possible with government, philanthropic and community support. In May 2015 the ACF received a challenge grant of $2.681 million from the Federal Government to restore the Sacred Heart building. This significant support through the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development’s National Stronger Regions Fund (NSRF) matched an extremely generous donation of $2 million from the Dara Foundation, as well as funds raised by the ACF over the past decade.
Site Access and Impact
It is envisaged that for most of our visitors, neighbours, venue hirers and Convent-based community, it will be ‘business as usual’ throughout this project. Although access to the Sacred Heart building and the Sacred Heart courtyard will be closed during the restoration, access to the rest of the site, including the car park, remains open and functioning as usual.
Most building works will be undertaken during week days, and provision has been made for some parking spots near to Sacred Heart for the construction team, meaning minimal impact on the Convent car park and grounds.
As a pedestrianised site, and with safety at the forefront of our plans, the majority of construction vehicle access to the Sacred Heart building will be restricted to between 7.00 – 8.00am.
As the majority of works will restore the interior of the Sacred Heart building, it is anticipated that for most of the project, noise will not be a concern.
The ACF has made every effort to adopt a low-impact approach to minimise inconvenience to the Convent site and its community. However, as always, anyone who has concerns or questions during the restoration can contact the ACF team at any time.
Protecting the Building’s Heritage
The Sacred Heart building is heritage-listed, and therefore all restoration works have been approved by Heritage Victoria. Melbourne-based firm, Kerstin Thompson Architects (KTA), which has considerable experience in heritage architecture, has led the restoration designs.
Acknowledging the Convent’s history
The ACF recognises the Wurundjeri People as the traditional custodians of the land and water on which we work and live.
The ACF also acknowledges the history and stories of the women and girls who worked and resided at the Convent during its time as a working monastic site.
From 1863 until 1975, the Abbotsford Convent was run by the Order of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd. During this time, Sacred Heart was primarily used as a dormitory, with many young women spending periods of their adolescence residing in the building, also known as ‘the home’, due to family circumstances, poverty, or acting outside the law or social norms of the time.
The women and girls experienced regimented schedules and hard work, often in oppressive and harsh conditions.
Today the Abbotsford Convent is owned and operated by the ACF as a not for profit arts, cultural and learning precinct on behalf of the community. The ACF has no connection or affiliation with Good Shepherd or any other religious organisation.
Some women have chosen to share stories of their time at Sacred Heart with the ACF, and we hope that through a process of sharing stories and creating new stories at the Convent, a culture of healing is created, while never forgetting the Convent’s past and the impact it had for some.
There are equally many women who do not wish to, or are unable to, share or discuss their experiences, and the ACF also acknowledges these women.
The ACF is currently working on a heritage interpretation project which will acknowledge the history of the women and girls who resided in Sacred Heart. If you would like to keep updated on this project, please sign up to our monthly e-news, The Humbug.