A Rutherglen resident has made a pitch to have the Rutherglen Common School included on the Victorian Heritage Register.
Dave Valentine made a presentation to a three-person independent panel on Friday.
The executive director of Heritage Victoria recommended the Rutherglen Common School not be included on the register, but panel members who took part in Friday's hearing will submit their own report in the next few months.
Mr Valentine argued that Rutherglen had the first free, secular and compulsory school in not only Victoria, but also Australia, when it opened on January 13, 1873.
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"This was the biggest change in education ... this building was actually the first to implement it," he said.
Claire Chandler, representing the executive director, said the building was already heritage protected by Indigo Council.
"The executive director does not dispute it is an important heritage building or that it should be protected," she said.
But she said the school did not meet the criteria of being a "notable" example of changes in the education system.
"Being first doesn't necessarily allow the phase to be understood better," Ms Chandler said.
There are other common schools from the time already on the heritage register, but Mr Valentine has argued they were built years later and did not represent the transition to a new education system.
A LETTER FROM DAVID VALENTINE
A previous version of the above article stated that I had compared The Heritage Council of Victoria to 'Yes Minister', a famous BBC TV show that exposed the public service language used to discredit inconvenient research, during a Heritage Council of Victoria Hearing on February 28 in Rutherglen.
This did not occur and was misleading.
The council's hearing was to consider if the research, I had provided, was sufficiently compelling to have the Rutherglen Common School No. 522 (RCS) recognised for being the first state school to open in Victoria under the Education Act 1872. This Act introduced free, secular and compulsory education for children between the ages of six to 15; with a parliamentary-stated goal of producing an educated society.
The initial recommendation by the Executive Director of Heritage Victoria was to not include our school on the heritage register for this reason. I objected to his recommendation and requested a Heritage Council hearing and supplied detailed submissions.
I did point out in my presentation that there were various comments made in the Executive Director's submission that matched those used in the 'Yes Minister' BBC TV show:
"1873 onwards most other places in Victoria with substantially the same association." This appears reasonable, but it's an impossible claim; what is the limit to 'onwards? Is the first the same as the most recent, irrespective of time.
"A place requires the application of too many qualifiers." Appears plausible, it is seriously fallacious logic; how many is too many? The Executive Director had identified RCS as meeting the six requirements to be a specific class of school building. Now he was reversing this identification, as it had become inconvenient.
"Most established towns and suburbs in Victoria have at least one historic school building which is likely valued in a similar way." Appears to be a reasonable assumption, however, it's most unlikely, as many schools were burned down, destroyed by storms, collapsed, condemned by the Department, closed and sold, closed and relocated or significantly altered.
The schools that were cited as comparable by the Executive Director were from 19 years before 1873 and between one-and-a-half and five-and-a-half years after. This does not show what occurred in 1873 and how much the new education system impacted RCS which was built for 100 students and had 350 enrolled some 12 months later forcing two new rooms to be built.
Equally important, was that the New Education Department, which came in to existence on January 1, 1873, demanded possession of RCS before it opened on January 13, 1873. Currently, no evidence has been found to show that this occurred to any other school in Victoria, particularly, during the first 13 days of 1873.
A final point, RCS is already on the Victorian Heritage Register and if you would like to have a look here is the link, https://vhd.heritagecouncil.vic.gov.au/places/68727. It just requires its statement of significance updated to include this lost history and heritage of Rutherglen, the North East and all of Victoria.