The Australian Government is proud to announce that Abbotsford Convent in Melbourne will be assessed for inclusion on the National Heritage List.
Abbotsford Convent will be included on the Australian Heritage Council's work plan. This is an important first step towards national heritage recognition of this remarkable site.
Abbotsford Convent was established by the Sisters of the Good Shepherd in 1863. It was used to provide accommodation, schooling and work for female orphans, wards of the state and girls considered to be in ‘moral danger’.
At its peak Abbotsford housed 1000 residents. The site was sold by the Sisters of the Good Shepherd in 1975.
After a long community campaign to save the site from demolition, in 2004 Abbotsford was transformed into an arts, cultural, educational and tourist precinct for the community.
Abbotsford is now one of Melbourne’s cultural icons, with close to a million annual visitors.
Notable for its scale and extent, the convent buildings are of medieval French ecclesiastic style. The buildings reflect the characteristics of large-scale religious-based institutional care as practised throughout the nineteenth and the first two-thirds of the twentieth century throughout Australia.
As the former ‘Mother House’ for one of the oldest religious orders in Australia, Abbotsford Convent is considered one of the Australian Catholic Church’s most important benevolent institutions. It was possibly the largest charitable institution in the southern hemisphere.
Abbotsford contains intact examples of the now-notorious Magdalene Laundries, where thousands of girls and young women worked in the large scale commercial enterprises.
The physical layout of the complex reflects the former practice of the physical segregation of so-called ‘fallen’ women or ‘wayward’ girls from the rest of the community.
The Australian Heritage Council will consider whether the Abbotsford Convent’s heritage values are of outstanding significance to the nation.
The assessment is expected to be completed by June 2017.