Government join calls to protect Sunbury’s historic site

Victoria University’s former Jacksons Hill campus at Sunbury is a step closer to being saved, with all three levels of government joining calls to protect the historic site.

Presenting a community petition with more than 1200 signatures to Parliament, Sunbury MP Josh Bull urged the state government to establish a long-term plan for the 35-hectare precinct, which was built in the 19th century as a mental asylum.

“[I’ve asked] for a whole of government approach to deal with what is obviously a long-running and complex issue,’’ Mr Bull said.

“I’m very confident we will get a plan for this site that not only protects its heritage but creates … opportunities for the community and in the educational space as well.”

Residential development has been among possibilities floated for the site, which was handed over to VU in the 1990s.

The landmark buildings have largely been empty since the university closed its campus in 2009, in parts becoming a target for vandals.

The Sunbury Asylum Alliance, which hopes to turn the site into a community hub with jobs training, youth programs and artists, along with Sunbury Residents Association are among groups urging the government against selling the site.

Areas used by community groups, including radio station 3NRG and the Boilerhouse Theatre Company, have been earmarked by Hume council for an arts and cultural precinct.

Mr Bull visited the site with Hume councillor Ann Potter, federal McEwen MP Rob Mitchell and members of the asylum alliance last Friday.

He said he is confident planning minister Richard Wynne will have a favourable response within 30 days.

“It’s going to take some time to ensure that the proper community consultation takes place, understanding not just the arts and culture side of things, but the educational opportunities that are here,” he said.

“We want to get it right. We don’t want to rush it.

“But I’m certainly confident that, into 2017, this will be well under way,” Mr Bull said, adding there was “a great deal of frustration” with Victoria University’s stance on the site.

“[This will] enable Vic Uni to communicate directly with Mr Wynne,” he said.

“I believe they will come to the table on this and work with the government.”

Asylum alliance spokeswoman Alison Cunningham welcomed the announcement.

“The community certainly wants something done,” she said.

“What that is varies, but it’s not housing. That’s the consensus.”

Visiting Sunbury last month, Premier Daniel Andrews said the government remained steadfast in its belief that the site should be used for educational purposes.