Anger rises over Kenmore neglect, vandalism

John Thistleton 1 September 2020 30
Exterior of the former Kenmore Hospital's main administrative building in Goulburn.

The main administration building at the former Kenmore Hospital in Goulburn. Photo: Supplied by Leone Morgan.

Four years ago, the new owner of Kenmore Hospital in Goulburn, Australia China International, pledged to revive the place, involve the community and be transparent.

Member for Hume Angus Taylor stood alongside company representatives for a photograph in the Goulburn Post newspaper in 2016 and said: “Everyone here would love to see Kenmore developed and it is my job to see what the government can do to support that.”

Today, frustration and anger is boiling over in Goulburn at the rampant vandalism and neglect of the historic former psychiatric hospital, now known as Kenmore Gardens.

People touring the 70 hectares of gardens, buildings and sporting fields have been appalled. Member for Goulburn Wendy Tuckerman came away “shocked, saddened and angered” at the state of the site.

“The buildings have been subject to serious and continuing vandalism – reparation and maintenance have been ignored and the dilapidation of the buildings is a dishonour to Goulburn’s history,” she said.

A government spokesperson said Mr Taylor has not been approached by the owners to seek Federal Government assistance and he has had no contact with them since 2016.

Region Media has asked the owners’ representatives in Australia for comment and is awaiting a reply.

The 1890s buildings are the largest example of work by Australia’s first government architect, Walter Vernon.

Region Media has been told a fire was started in the old chapel, and that rare Australian cedar doors and stain-glass windows are smashed, and slate tiles on the roofs are broken, cracked and letting in rainfall. Marble fireplace surrounds have either been stolen or taken away.

“We don’t want to see another St John’s Orphanage incident at Kenmore,” said a local resident, referring to another one of Goulburn’s significant buildings. A huge fire, one of three blazes at the site in the space of 12 months, all but destroyed St John’s in 2016.

Ms Tuckerman has raised grave concerns about Kenmore Gardens with the Heritage Council of NSW and to Don Harwin, NSW Special Minister of State and the Arts. Several constituents and stakeholders have contacted her with concerns about the lack of care and maintenance of this historical site.

“Kenmore is much more than structures on soil,” she said. “Many people hold fond memories of careers, service to the community, sport and recreation on the grounds of Kenmore or the Wollondilly River.”

A vacant building on the Kenmore Gardens site.

A vacant building on the Kenmore Gardens site. Photo: Supplied by Leone Morgan.

Ms Tuckerman said the owners were seeking interest from anyone who may have a purpose to use the site.

“The owners currently employ a caretaker to undertake general maintenance and gardening,” she said. “Owners of state heritage listed sites have an obligation to conserve the history of the site. I await a response from the minister.”

Members of the Goulburn community are upset the stately buildings at Kenmore Gardens, in which Australian soldiers were nursed during World War II, are being ravaged inside and outside.

Many people believe a live-in caretaker would better safeguard the site. Peter Trama, who runs restoration and maintenance business Goulburn Outdoor Services, lived as caretaker on the former Marian College campus in the CBD and helped restore the historic chapel. He said once he and his wife moved in, vandalism stopped.

Mr Trama estimates repairs and restoration of older buildings would cost millions of dollars, and unless roofs and windows are sealed, the damage bill would run into many more millions.

Aerial view of Kenmore Hospital site.

An aerial view of the Kenmore Hospital site, including its sporting fields. Photo: Supplied by Leone Morgan.

The early ‘core’ Vernon buildings are among the finest corporate architectural expression of the Edwardian (later Federation) Free style in Australia, according to NSW Heritage.

Kenmore’s buildings include the three-story, 101-room nurses accommodation, and 19 wards. In November 2016, Chinese investor company Australia China International announced Kenmore Gardens as the new name of the old psychiatric care hospital and grounds.

In 2016, Australia Chinese International’s chief executive Eddie Yau said the new owners, Xiao Liang Wen and his children, believed in involving the community to find a way to revive the site.

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30 Responses to Anger rises over Kenmore neglect, vandalism
Karan Campbell-Davis Karan Campbell-Davis 2:14 am 02 Sep 20

Yet another treasure being slowly demolished by neglect. This is a bloody disgrace. These historical icons should never be sold to money hungry investors, particularly the Chinese, who have no respect for our history and heritage. Shame on you, Goulburn Mulwaree Council and NSW Government, for allowing this disgraceful state of affairs to occur... 😡😡😡

    Sam Davies Sam Davies 4:59 am 02 Sep 20

    the goverment decided that people with mental illness shouldn't live the life of Reilly on the state purse so they kicked them all out into the community for there own and your own good

Sam Davies Sam Davies 8:35 pm 01 Sep 20

There are no laws to prevent owners from allowing properties to be vandalized;its the vandals one has to educate so they find something constructive to do to pass time

Rainer Busacker Rainer Busacker 7:39 pm 01 Sep 20

Take action against the owners for breach of promise and resume the property.

Jojo Kavcic Jojo Kavcic 7:29 pm 01 Sep 20

Why not use it for the homeless as a safe place to sleep.

Jojo Kavcic Jojo Kavcic 7:28 pm 01 Sep 20

Shy not use it for the homeless

Juanita Dawson Juanita Dawson 6:47 pm 01 Sep 20

Such a stunning building

Margaret Freemantle Margaret Freemantle 2:00 pm 01 Sep 20

Or use it again for mental health rehab - total upgrade, a workable garden. And modern day rehab methods rather than a lock up

Julia Ross Julia Ross 1:20 pm 01 Sep 20

It's a beautiful old building. Have visited on an open day. The NSW government must step in. The Chinese owners will just let it go to wrack and ruin so the building will be condemned, then they'll build something Goulburn doesn't want or need

Amanda Evans Amanda Evans 12:29 pm 01 Sep 20

So where's NSW Heritage on this?

Brad Mann Brad Mann 11:21 am 01 Sep 20

Maybe if you don’t leave that abandon won’t happen And if the police get more stricter with vandalism and young kids we wouldn’t have had this issue

Dawn Bowra Dawn Bowra 11:12 am 01 Sep 20

Would make a faboulous aged care

Myrene Hickey Myrene Hickey 10:52 am 01 Sep 20

We are loosing too many of our historic buildings to modern developments. I hope this one can be saved in its present Archtectural glory.

Helen Mackenzie Helen Mackenzie 10:48 am 01 Sep 20

Haunted much

Rob Long Rob Long 10:33 am 01 Sep 20

This should be on the National Trust and preserved

    Valmai Pinney Valmai Pinney 8:50 pm 01 Sep 20

    I beleive the facade is protected but suggest asking Leone Morgan who along with many staff members and locals fought to keep the history of Kenmore!

Ian Jeffrey Ian Jeffrey 10:11 am 01 Sep 20

It should been never sold it should be Mental Hospital it. Has many owners with many sayings pump money to restore the many buildings but nothing has happened

It is now Chained up and left to deteriorate.

Teresa Layton Teresa Layton 9:02 am 01 Sep 20

What a disgusting situation to let happen. We have to preserve our history. The owners don’t care 😡😡😡

Margaret Lay Margaret Lay 8:54 am 01 Sep 20

Restore it. Make a guest house or retirement home?

Fiona Lovegrove Fiona Lovegrove 8:34 am 01 Sep 20

Has it been heritage listed? If not, perhaps there could be a push in that direction. It's a beautiful building and a part of the region's history which deserves preservation.

Lyn Kemp Lyn Kemp 8:31 am 01 Sep 20

Angus Taylor again!!!! He's as bad as the Chinese owners of this historic old place with lovely old buildings. There's so much this place has to about some vision!!! 😖😖😖😖

Mick Beemer Mick Beemer 8:11 am 01 Sep 20

all the psychiatric institutions of NSW deserve better than being left to rot.

In many cases I believe they could be done up as affordable housing and community-based fruit and vegetable gardens etc

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