SAVE THE ROKEWOOD CHURCH
SAVE THE ROKEWOOD CHURCH
This historic former Presbyterian church (c1865) in rural Rokewood, Victoria, is being offered for sale on the open market by the Uniting Church in Australia. It is in danger of becoming a private residence. The architecturally significant interior might never again be open for public enjoyment. The selling agent is marketing it as being the most beautiful country church in the entire state. Selling a public building of this quality and rarity into private ownership is contrary to the public interest and must be stopped. It has recently been nominated for heritage listing.
For this particular petition, only residents enrolled to vote in the Golden Plains Shire are eligible to sign. Another petition for the greater public is currently being prepared. Please include your name, address and signature. We thank you for your support.
To the Mayor and Councillors of the Golden Plains Shire Council.
• The petition of residents and ratepayers in the Golden Plains Shire brings to the attention of the Council:
• That the Presbyterian Church of Victoria is a creature of the Parliament of Victoria by virtue of the Presbyterian Synod of Victoria Act 1859, the Presbyterian Trusts Act 1890 and other acts.
• That the Uniting Church in Australia and its Property Trust are creatures of the Parliament of Victoria by virtue of the Uniting Church in Australia Act 1977.
• That among thousands of properties entrusted to the Uniting Church in Australia – at no cost in 1977 – was the former Presbyterian church at Rokewood (the first stage of which was built in 1865-66 at a cost of more than £1,200 on a 4047 square-metre site which had been purchased for £8 on 11 March 1865).
• That the stated purpose of the Uniting Church in Australia is to “inspire people, enliven communities and confront injustice.”
• That on 18 March 2021, Rural Press Limited (trading as Australian Community Media) newspapers nationally syndicated a story reporting the Uniting Church in Australia had permanently closed the Rokewood church due to “falling” church attendances following “steady population loss” in the town.
• That on 26 March 2021, realestate.com.au reported that the Uniting Church in Australia had offered the closed Rokewood church for sale, inviting expressions of interest by 2pm Monday 19 April 2021.
• That an estimated 300 people live in Rokewood township with some 500 more populating the surrounding district, with population growth overtaking population decline in recent years.
• That Rokewood viably sustains and justifies a state school and kindergarten, football club, fire brigade, police station, rural health clinic, RSL sub-branch, hotel, post office, mixed retail shop, regular art show and annual fishing day, and should also be able to justify and sustain a church.
• That the failure of the Uniting Church in Australia to “inspire,” “enliven” or in any way engage with the wider Rokewood community represents failings in polity and stewardship that should not be overlooked, excused or unjustly rewarded, and
• That the leadership of the Uniting Church should have recognised and addressed such failings in the aftermath of a Christian Research Association, June 2009, Roundtable on Rural Church Life at the Salvation Army’s conference centre in Geelong: on which RMIT Professor Desmond Cahill OAM based his infamous, alarming and prophetic “They couldn’t give a damn about us” report of February 2010.
Your petitioners therefore request that the Golden Plains Shire Council either (a) immediately serve The Uniting Church in Australia Property Trust (Victoria) with a ‘Notice of Intention to Acquire’ by compulsion the former Presbyterian church at Rokewood – in accordance with the Land Acquisition and Compensation Act 1986 and other acts – and re-entrust it to the Presbyterian Church of Victoria, so that our much-loved local church can be returned to its historic use as a place of Christian worship, OR, if necessary, (b) formally request that the Minister for Regional Development, The Hon. Mary-Anne Thomas MLA, urgently take all necessary steps to do so.