Committee formed to preserve iconic art-deco school building gaining momentum

Preserving history: A committee formed to protect the former Benalla College/P-12 College building on Barkly St is gaining momentum. Photo by Simon Ruppert

After deciding to form a committee with the aim of preserving the old Benalla High School building on Barkly St former student Bill Willett was not sure how many would want to join.

It is fair to say he was pleasantly surprised.

“We’ve got our committee together already,” Mr Willett said.

“A lot of people put their hands up to be on the committee and we’ve had three meetings so far.”

That committee is made up of a number of former students including Howard Bartlett, Tom Crocker, Michael Hedderman, Mary Lou Keogh, Brian Lang, Bill Willett, Lorraine Crawford, Jenny Wapling and Jo McKean.

Mr Willett said with so many in the Rose City having passed through the school’s doors during the years finding passionate people was no issue.

“Whilst the committee is now full we are certainly looking for more supporters,” he said.

The committee has set up a Facebook group, which has gone from strength to strength with many using it to show support to the cause.

Other are simply reminiscing with old friends.

It has quickly become a popular online meeting place for former students.

“We have Meredith Tolliday doing the Facebook page and she is doing a fantastic job,” Mr Willett said.

“You can find that on Facebook by searching ‘Benalla High School Action Group’.

“We’ve also been in touch with the President of the The Art Deco... Society of Australia.

“Its president Robin Grow has sent us some info on other significant buildings in Victoria, which were also designed by noted designer Percy Everett.”

Those include several building at Melbourne and La Trobe Universities; the Wangaratta Court House; the entrance to Melbourne Zoo; Geelong Law Courts; the Royal Victorian Institute for the blind; and many more.

“Percy has designed some very significant buildings and Mr Grow said at one stage Benalla High School was one of the most significant building in the state.”

Mr Willett said the committee was still in its early stages and once it had met a few more times it would look to contact the State Education Department to discuss the former school site.

If you would like to get involved with the action group you can contact them via Facebook or phone Bill Willett on 0429 947 696.