Union Hall

15 Sep 2010 archivespeech

This speech is in relation to the decision to delist Union Hall. A decision that the Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK disagrees with.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (15:29): I rise today to grieve about the appalling decision to delist Union Hall. The minister for conservation—not particularly aptly named in this case—chose to delist Union Hall from the state heritage register against the independent advice of his own heritage council. I note that, in his media performance with his release of 3 September, he focused on the aspects of what it could be replaced with rather than on the heritage issues upon which the council determined it should be listed in the first place.

The Heritage Places Act lists in section 16 seven criteria, and any item or building or other thing which meets only one of those criteria should be listed, according to the act. When the council assessed it earlier this year, it determined that it met three of the seven criteria and, indeed, the minister's predecessor lauded the heritage council's decision to place Union Hall on the interim list as one of the government's achievements in terms of heritage, which was to be another broken promise by this government.

Union Hall, unfortunately for its own situation, is inconveniently located in a place where the University of Adelaide would like to replace it with its photonics laboratory, something which we would support in principle, but I believe it is a shortsighted decision and that it is attempting to utilise stimulus money for some short-term financial gain.

I would like to refer quite heavily to the National Trust's submission to the council to outline some of Union Hall's credentials, and this follows the items in the act that I referred to before. In reference to section 16(1)(a) in the Heritage Places Act, Union Hall meets the criteria according to the National Trust, because it is inextricably linked with the evolution of South Australia's history. In particular, the Adelaide Festival of Arts was founded in 1960, some two years after Union Hall had been built and is the state's highest profile cultural event.

The play The Ham Funeral was refused to be performed at other theatres, and the arts community of the day was able to have it performed at Union Hall, and that became a cause célèbre and a national issue about artistic freedom. It is also the theatre where the first play by Australia's only Nobel Laureate for literature was performed. Further, Union Hall nurtured the development of the State Opera of South Australia, and a number of works composed by Benjamin Britten were performed there.

In relation to the second criterion, it is the only example of a purpose-built live theatre in the functionalist style in South Australia, and it is perhaps the best example of such a theatre in Australia. The third criterion relates to creative aesthetic or technical accomplishment. Union Hall is a rare example of this form of architecture, and it was described in The Advertiser on 5 August 1958 as follows:

The striking new building, strongly reminiscent of the Shakespeare Memorial theatre at Stratford-upon-Avon, England will be a perfect venue for debates, films, music, public addresses and—above all—student theatrical performances.

In regard to the fourth criterion, Union Hall has strong cultural associations for Australia and the South Australian performing arts community. There is a very long list of people who are connected with Union Hall: directors and actors, writers, designers and playwrights including Wal Cherry, George Whaley, Myk Mykyta, Gordon Chater, Keith Conlon, Khamal, Peter Goers, Dennis Olsen, Zoe Caldwell, Barbara West, Don Barker, Leslie Dayman, Joan Bruce, Don Dunstan, Sean Micallef, Robyn Archer, Wayne Anthony, Alex Buzo, Bob Ellis and so on, and it was the home for many years of the Adelaide University Theatre Guild, which is the second oldest dramatic society in Australia.

In relation to the fifth criterion, special association with the life or work of a person or organisation, Union Hall is intimately connected with Patrick White.

Time expired.