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  • Writer's pictureJon Ruwolt

Save Deakin's Ballara !

The 1.68 hectare bush garden and historic home of Australia’s second Prime Minister Alfred Deakin is on the lands of the Wadawurrung People, in the middle of “old Lonnie” (Point Lonsdale, VIC). Ballara is under threat of auction and development.

Ballara on Victoria’s Bellarine peninsula, remains in the hands of Deakin’s descendants. However, it is now under threat.

Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) is likely to issue an order for the property to be auctioned. The risk of subdivision and development will lead to a substantial loss of important Australian heritage and the destruction of a significant natural space.


Race to save Ballara, the Point Lonsdale home of ex-Prime Minister Alfred Deakin


Herald Sun Story by Jon Kaila and Jade Gailberger, January 19, 2024 - 5:00AM

Relatives of former Prime Minister Alfred Deakin are frantically racing to save the politician’s private Point Lonsdale retreat from being auctioned off — and are calling for government support.

PM Alfred Deakin and wife Pattie

Tom Harley, great-grandson of former Prime Minister Alfred Deakin, wants to preserve the politician’s private retreat in Point Lonsdale.

“The house, its contents and gardens are unique and the most intact house of an early Prime Minister,” he said.

“There is nothing else like it and we are now near a point of no return. It is critical - we either keep it for future generations or it’s gone forever.”

Mr Harley wants to preserve the house, as well as some of the original furniture like the desk and chair the PM sat at

"At the peak of his power, in charge of a high-performance Federal government, Deakin gave serious thought to quitting politics altogether.

He didn’t, instead buying six acres of land at Point Lonsdale on the Victorian coast where, in 1907, he had a two-storeyed, timbered (Federation Style) holiday cottage built to his wife Pattie’s design.

He named it ‘Ballara’, the Aboriginal spelling of Ballarat (his federal electorate), said to mean ‘a resting place’."

The house retains original furnishings, books, papers, artworks and photographs and milestone documents in Australia’s nationhood.

The Bellarine community, national political figures from all sides are strongly supporting the campaign.

“If the property is auctioned off, the collection will be broken up, the land will be subdivided, and it will all be lost forever.”

Tom Harley wants to hand the sprawling property over to a trust for it to be preserved for future generations. Picture: Jason Edwards

Alfred Deakin's great-grandson launches public campaign to preserve former PM's home

ABC Story Posted Fri 19 Jan 2024 at 3:20pm, updated Sat 20 Jan 2024 at 10:50am

  • In short: The descendants of Australia's second prime minister, Alfred Deakin (the Father of Federation), are split on the future of his 1.6-hectare coastal retreat.

  • More than half of the current owners of the home have petitioned for the property to be auctioned, but one of Deakin's great-grandchildren has launched a bid to buy the property and hand over management to a trust.

  • What's next? The matter will be heard in the Victorian Civil and Administrative Appeals Tribunal in March 2024.

One of Alfred Deakin's great-grandchildren has launched a campaign to stop the coastal retreat of Australia's second prime minister from being auctioned off.

Tom Harley, one of Deakin's 24 great-grandchildren, is aiming to raise millions of dollars through both donations and federal government support to preserve its history.

Tom Harley is one of seven great grandchildren of former Australian Prime Minister Alfred Deakin.  (ABC News: Harrison Tippet)

"It was more than a holiday house, it was really a retreat," Mr Harley told ABC Radio Melbourne.

  • "He [was] a very private guy and he'd come down here with his wife and they designed the house when he was prime minister, and built it in this beautiful bush garden.

  • "He was different from many of the people of the era in that he wanted a native garden, rather than a European garden. And he built the place overlooking Port Phillip Heads.

  • "And so his spirit is in this house."

Other part-owners, "for perfectly reasonable reasons", wanted to sell — and had petitioned for Ballara to be auctioned.

"They all want to see the place preserved. But some of them live interstate, have had little to do with the place over the years," he said.

"It's a valuable asset. And they have different priorities. "And so it's a problem for having too many relatives."

Statement of Significance (Victorian Heritage)

Ballara, erected in 1907 by Alfred Deakin as a family seaside retreat is of statewide (and possibly national) cultural significance:

  • for its integral link with Alfred Deakin, influential advocate of Federation and second Prime Minister of Australia;

  • this was not merely a fleeting association: Deakin developed his property Ballara at a seaside location in which he had previously holidayed, he spent much time at Ballara, he used the property for both work and relaxation and this use coincided with an extremely important phase in his career;

  • as an unusually intact example of a Federation attic storeyed bungalow; in its formal characteristics it is more closely aligned with contemporary Federation villa architecture than with the emergent bungalow modes such as the Craftsman bungalow or the Californian bungalow, which started to appear in Victoria from around 1908.

  • The house remains a relatively rare building type in terms of its role as a seaside holiday house of the first decade of the twentieth century and its use of the lightweight structure, materials and detailing commonly associated with the bungalow architecture of the following decade;

  • as one of the earliest surviving bungalow retreats of the Port Philip coasts, as distinct from the larger Victorian mansions which dot the Bellarine and Mornington peninsulas;

  • for its retention of a generous setting, reduced to half of its original size but large enough to still permit an appreciation of the qualities which the Deakin family so valued, including the retention of much native bush as a landscaped setting for the house; qualities now shared (in Point Lonsdale) only with its northern neighbour Arilpa (built by Deakin's daughter and son-in-law);

  • for its retention of a landscaped setting composed on remnant indigenous vegetation, Australian flora, exotic plants typifying seaside gardens, original stone garden bed edgings and limestone driveway paving;

  • Garden: this combination forms a very early example of a garden composed primarily of Australian plants and its appreciation by the family was an integral part of the use of the property;

    • for its considerable aesthetic value, derived from mature trees and plants,

    • the predominantely Australian vegetation,

    • the ability to appreciate the garden without intrusions, views within the property, distant vistas to the heads and hinterland; and complementary relationship between the informal garden and unpretentious residence with its generous verandah designed to permit the landscaped setting to become an extension of the informality of the house.

    • for its scientific significance through retention of a diverse range of indigenous plant species characteristic of a coastal heathland in an area otherwise almost totally occupied by suburban development and exotic plants; the appreciation of this attribute is enhanced by documentation of Pattie Deakin (paintings of orchids - 1913).

    • for the war memorial located on land donated by the Deakin family, which commemmorates both the Fitrst and Second World Wars.

  • The possible national significance of this property has (not yet) been assessed.

The National Museum of Australia:

Alfred Deakin was

24 September 1903 to 27 April 1904, 5 July 1905 to 13 November 1908, 2 June 1909 to 29 April 1910

Alfred Deakin was Australia’s second prime minister.

He was one of two prime ministers who held the position three times.

Deakin was a founding father of Federation, along with Edmund Barton.

Deakin was a lawyer who had another string to his bow – journalism. He wrote anonymous (The Age) newspaper articles about federal politics for many years – even while prime minister.

Alfred Deakin: The Man behind the Mask 15:55

Historian David Headon on the life of Alfred Deakin.

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