Courthouse closed

Kilmore Historical Society president Liz Dillon-Hensby and vice-president Francis Payne outside the society’s home at Kilmore Courthouse, which they are unable to access.

By Jackson Russell

The Kilmore Historical Society has called for the doors to the Kilmore Courthouse to be opened so it can continue to collect and preserve the history of the town.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the associated restrictions, the society has been unable to access its collections, research, publications and materials for about six months.

With restrictions easing and people now allowed into restaurants and cafes with density limits, the society is hoping to get back to work soon but told the Review it had been denied access by the Kilmore Courthouse Reserve Committee of Management.

The society has been based at the Kilmore Courthouse, which is managed by the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, DELWP, for 36 of its 54 years.

In a letter sent to the Review, Kilmore Historical Society secretary Barbara Wilson said the Kilmore Courthouse Reserve Committee of Management had gone to the ‘extreme lengths’ of closing the courthouse and changing the locks.

“Even though DELWP… agreed we had the right to enter the building under the guidelines whilst following COVID-safe routines, we are still denied access and the ability to monitor the conditions of our historic collections which include textiles, photographs, documents, etc,” she said.

“The latest information we can obtain is that we ‘may have access in a few weeks’. This is at a time that regional Victoria is being opened up progressively by the State Government, including the reopening of libraries, cafes, hotels, and next week, activities such as dancing classes, gymnasiums, and higher numbers at churches, funerals.”

In a statement to the Review, Kilmore Courthouse Reserve Committee of Management chair Dianne Le Quiniat said the committee had closed the courthouse in accordance with COVID-19 restrictions set down by the State Government and Department of Health and Human Services.

“The Committee of Management, as managers of the building, have been correctly supporting the current regulations in this action to the best of its knowledge, as advised by DHHS and supported by DELWP,” she said.

“In the interest of public safety and until such time as the current COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, the courthouse will remain closed.”

DELWP Hume land and build environment regional manager John Downs said the Kilmore Courthouse Committee of Management was appointed under the Crown Land Reserves Act (1978) to manage the Kilmore Courthouse for the benefit of the local community.

“The Committee of Management has put measures in place to protect user groups and the wider community from coronavirus (COVID-19) by implementing guidelines, which includes restricting access to the building,” he said.

“Once user groups of the facility can develop and demonstrate that coronavirus guidelines are being followed, access to the building may be granted.

“DELWP’s priority during this time is to protect the community and we will continue to work with Committees of Management to ensure that all coronavirus guidelines are being followed.”