The iconic Broken Hill Trades Hall took a step closer towards a prestigious UNESCO World Heritage listing on Tuesday when a group of delegates from Commonwealth and state heritage agencies got together with heritage experts and historians to fully evaluate the heritage significance of the landmark building.
The move is part of a global UNESCO World Heritage List nomination of Workers’ Assembly Halls, in an international effort led by the Danish government.
The Trade Hall is Broken Hill’s most historically significant building. Built between 1898 and 1905, it has housed the home of the union movement in Broken Hill since its official opening on January 12, 1899.
Designed by Broken Hill architect Tom Jackson, it is Victorian in style and stands largely untouched from its original design and is hugely prominent near the centre of town.
Interestingly, it was the first building south of the equator to be built and owned entirely by unions.
With deep family ties to the Trades Hall, local solicitor, Diana Ferry, Advisor, Broken Hill Trades Hall Trust, volunteers her time to assist in the process of having the building listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site as, alongside Simon Molesworth AO KC – a man with many hats but who on Tuesday represented the Broken Hill Heritage Advisory Committee.
“One of our relatives on the Woodman’s side of the family was instrumental in fundraising for the building and opened the building, so we feel a strong family connection,” Ms Ferry said.
“It’s such an iconic building for Broken Hill and Australia that we really want to succeed in this heritage listing because we think it’s so important for the city as much as for Australia and for the building’s preservation that it be recognised internationally.”
Tuesday saw face-to-face meetings of key players from Canberra, Sydney and Melbourne meeting with Broken Hill heritage and City Council people.
Mr Molesworth, who also serves on the Victorian Heritage Council, explained that the Trades Hall Council building in Melbourne and the Broken Hill Trades Hall Council building are the two best examples in Australia of most intact and historic buildings associated with the social reform movement of the union movement and the labour movement, including the eight-hour day and female suffrage campaigns.
“We discussed how Broken Hill can facilitate this nomination going forward, as it can only go forward with a partnership of local, state and federal government, but the federal government has the final say,” he said.
“I was the global head of the National Trust movement for 10 years based out of London that enabled me, over that decade, to visit literally hundreds of World Heritage sites around the world and participate in the meetings of the World Heritage Committee,” said Mr Molesworth, “including the 25th anniversary in Venice, so I know that once a place is listed on the UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) World Heritage list, it gives them an enormous boost as far as its identity for tourism, for economic health, for social pride in every aspect.
“It’s probably the most important heritage delegation in a decade that’s come to this town since the National Heritage listing in 2015, and what is being proposed is probably the most significant move in the Heritage field since the nomination for National Heritage listing in 2005,” said Mr Molesworth who spearheaded the original campaign.
Mr Molesworth said it’s a slow process, taking five to six years for the UN’s World Heritage Committee to meet, having had reports from around the world as to whether this building will join with the Victorian Trades Hall Council to be part of this serial listing of all the world.
“The reason it’s [the building] so significant is that the union movement really led to a modern society of occupational health and safety, the organisation of workers worldwide.
“Australia was in the vanguard and as far as Australia is concerned, Broken Hill was in the absolute vanguard.”