Sunbury residents fight for Jacksons Hill heritage buildings

Sunbury residents have called on the state’s leading heritage body to step in and save the heritage-listed buildings at the former Victorian University Sunbury campus.

Residents fear the buildings are “going to rack and ruin,” after being neglected by VU, making them an easy target for vandals.

Sunbury Residents Association president Peter Free said they feel Victoria University is not looking after the buildings.

“The buildings are sitting here decaying,” he said.

Despite guards being employed at the site 24/7, windows were being broken and people were breaking into the buildings.

Mr Free, who is also Sunbury Historical and Heritage Society president, said that many people he took on heritage tours could not believe the state of the buildings.

“People are astonished that nothing’s being done.”

According to the Victorian Heritage Register, the Jacksons Hill site, originally known as Caloola, began as an industrial school in 1864. It is one of only two of the original 12 industrial schools still standing in Victoria.

It served as a mental hospital from 1879 until it became a training centre for the intellectually disabled in 1962. Victoria University was given possession of part of Caloola in 1944, but stopped using the property as a campus at the end of 2009. Victoria University is still responsible for maintaining its part of the site, the remainder of the site is used by the Department of Education and Training.

Mr Free wrote to Victorian Heritage Council earlier this month on behalf of the residents association, “seeking immediate sanctions against Victoria University under the Heritage Act for wilful neglect of the Sunbury campus”.

A Victoria University spokesperson told

Star Weekly the university had continued to spend more than $400,000 each year on security and essential building maintenance and utilities since 2009.

“For the last two years Victoria University has employed external facility managers to maintain the upkeep of the site at Jackson’s Hill,” the spokesperson said.

“From June 1, VU will take responsibility for the upkeep of the site, including maintaining lawns and gardens, general repairs and maintenance, 24-hour, seven-days-a-week security presence.”

The spokesperson said the university had been in talks with the community and state government to find other parties interested in taking over the site.