Change.org: Save the WWI Heritage Building at 310 St Kilda Rd to help veterans.

Below is the Change.org petition run by ANVAM and regular updates on progress.

In early 2017 ANVAM conducted a Change.org petition to gather community support to save the old Repat Clinic. The original petition and updates are provided below.

The historic Repatriation Commission Outpatient Clinic at 310 St Kilda Road adjacent to the Shrine of Remembrance and Melbourne Arts Precinct is being prepared for sale by the Federal Government.

The Australian National Veterans Arts Museum (ANVAM) has been lobbying the Commonwealth Government to enable them to act as trustees or tenant of the vacant building, which would come at no cost to the Government and the public.

This building has a deep connection with the veteran community; opened in 1937, it has been central to rehabilitation of veterans from both World Wars, Korean and Vietnam Wars and has been vacant since 1995.

ANVAM’s vision is to transform the classic art deco building into a veterans art museum and centre dedicated to improving their health and wellbeing through art therapy programs. Making this a veterans community space will be a fitting tribute during the Centenary of WWI.

ANVAM provides creative arts therapy programs and support to veterans and their families in line with world’s best practice to help heal the mental scars of war, ANVAM is funded through public donations.

Updates to the petition:

(18) The Mirror

Apr 17, 2017 — I want to share this poem by Barham Ferguson on veterans identity with you…

Through the mirror of the past.

I see myself in memories vast.
A warrior, not once outclassed.
This was who I was.

From the dust of duty first.
The last hoorah of machine gun burst.
Wounds of war no longer nursed.
The world knew who I was.

Homeward bound with dreams anew.
Perceptions changed on what I do.
My useful skills seemed less than few.
I defended who I was.

Fighting family, fighting friends.
The war has changed, it never ends.
“Is my life pointless?” now depends,
On knowing who I am.

Where to start, and what to do?
What do I have that pleases you?
There’s things inside that still ring true.
They make me who I am.

Strength and honour. Discipline.
These soldier traits have not worn thin.
Unlike the uniform in the bin.
These traits are who I am.

There’s many more that made me me.
When I was in the military.
But in these threads I now can see.
That made me who I am.

Now its time to do what’s right.
To find a mission, and gain insight.
To be the me who can sleep at night,
‘Cause I do know who I am.

Barham J. R. Ferguson
13 February 2017

Together with the recent story by SBS it tells a compelling story of just how important this fight to save the old Repat Clinic is to help veterans find their identity and support families.

(17) Architectural & Historical Wonder

Apr 14, 2017 — Architect George Hallendal was responsible for a number of Commonwealth properties around Melbourne in the 30’s including the old Repat Clinic. In a recent report by Heritage Victoria his work on Military Drill hall’s around Melbourne was praised.

A departure from his series of Drill halls for the Army was the old Repat Clinic. The attached drawing provides a sense of his original vision for this place; a place that is unique in Australia and will turn 80 this November.


Heritage Victoria has received an application to list the old Repat Clinic on the State heritage register. Those task with the investigation could not be more highly qualified, which should give all passionate about this place a great deal of confidence. Their investigation is underway including a recent site visit. While a listing may complicate remediation efforts it will rightly recognize the significance of this place and the veteran community in shaping Victoria & Australia post WWI, WWII, Korean & Vietnam wars.

There is no doubt the old Repat Clinic, while sitting idle for over 20 years, has a very significant part in the history of Victoria’s & Australia’s veteran community; a part that will be honoured through the vision of transforming the old Repat Clinic into a cultural center to hold the memories and stories of the veteran community.

(16) We did it!

Apr 5, 2017 — With much gratitude to everyone who has put their name to this petition we are able to announce the Federal & State Governments have agreed on an arrangement that will result in the Australian National Veterans Arts Museum (ANVAM) having a permanent home at the old Repatriation Clinic, 310 St Kilda Rd, Melbourne.

Words cannot express how grateful we are on behalf of all in the veteran community for the many many supporters who have chipped in along the journey, including everyone involved in this petition.

The next phase of the journey begins now and we hope you’ll stay connected to ANVAM through the web site, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and newsletters.

In terms of details of the agreement, what we know at this stage is that the property will be transferred to the Victorian State Government. ANVAM will get the property for a peppercorn rent indefinitely. Details of the remediation project, timelines etc are yet to be determined.

Thanks again for all the comments and engagement along the way. We look forward to closing this petition as a victory in the coming days.

(15) Vision for the old Repat Clinic

Apr 2, 2017 — The question is often asked about making the old Repat Clinic sustainable and relevant. To deliver a sustainable institution that has its own distinct identity requires balance between veterans and community services.

The attached floor plan of the ground floor at the old Repat Clinic shows the uses for the various existing rooms in the context of a veterans cultural institution. It is necessary to provide a balance between the sorts of facilities typical of a cultural institution including public access areas; galleries, retail shop, artist in residence and café as well as the wellbeing areas for the use of veterans including art studio areas. These studios cover visual art, music, creative writing and drama.

All facilities contribute to the urban renewal of this area of Melbourne bringing creativity and a new vibrancy to a quiet area and providing amenity for the whole community

Through this approach the business case and modelling for the old Repat Clinic shows the site can be sustainable as a cultural institution for veterans thereby preserving an important part of Australia’s military/veteran heritage while delivery a valuable service to the wellbeing of veterans and families.

(14) Art of the possible

Mar 30, 2017 — The exhibition at Space@Collins gallery provides a terrific perspective of what is possible if veterans had their own permanent gallery. Add to this studio spaces for different media; 2D, 3D, creative writing, music, drama and more and you have a place that feels alive and makes those in it also feel alive; a cultural institution for wellbeing.

The number of positive comments about the exhibition is fantastic and often followed by a reflection on the potential benefits for veterans and families of a permanent home. If you haven’t dropped past yet please make some time to come in. If you’re in the veteran community we’d also love to see some of your creativity in action.

(13) Art is a shield to protect veterans

Mar 29, 2017 — News this morning of the growing tragedy of veterans suicide with a reported 21 suicides already in 2017. With love and thoughts to all families and friends caught in this growing tragedy it also signals a further tragic milestone. In 2016 one veteran suicided every FIVE days. So far in 2017 one veteran is suiciding every FOUR days.

This rate of suicide among veterans (incl. ADF members) now matches the rate Australian troops were killed in action during the Vietnam War.

This got us thinking about the investment made to ‘protect’ current servicing members vs the efforts to protect vulnerable veterans. The level of investment in (self) protection measures for ADF members is very high and targeted to the threat; training, helmets, ballistic vests, boots and other personal equipment. Beyond this inner layer of protection there is an outer layer too; counter IED measures, communications, unit members and other supporting units etc.

For veterans the levels of protections exist but the evidence is now clear they are ineffective for all the threats veterans face. The medical model works well for those who present as sick. But the stigma attached to seeking help for mental health concerns is a strong barrier.

A recent conversation with an organization that makes protective equipment for ADF members highlighted how ‘trendy’ it is for the troops to wear their helmets, body armour, metaphorical shield etc. Being trendy overcomes any stigma and results in a greater level of protection. How can we make the support mechanisms for veterans ‘trendy’? We have an idea…!

The arts feature in every culture that has ever existed. The arts are trendy. Art is for everyone, and everyone will be attracted to something in the arts. Facilitated in an arts in wellbeing framework the arts offers a layer of protection that overcomes stigma and could just well be the ‘shield’ our veterans need; that important layer of defence as part of the broader protection network to get the right help before it is too late.

Please listen to US Marine Corps Captain Jason Burner talk about art and his shield.

(12) Heavy heart & missed opportunity

Mar 26, 2017 — Dear friends,

It is with a heavy heart we learn about the recent passing of Max Angus in February. Max, we believe, was Australia’s oldest practicing veteran artist at 102. Born in October 1914 he lived through Australia’s centenary of service, including serving at Victoria Barracks, Melbourne, on General Blamey’s HQ and then in Brisbane where he worked with Japanese Prisoners of War preparing propaganda material to be dropped over Japanese occupied areas.

Very highly regarded in his home town of Hobart, and a Member of the Order of Australia, Max epitomized what it means to be a veteran artist and gentleman.

It has been a long held goal that, on behalf of our grateful nation, we would be able to share with our World War Two (WWII) veterans and veteran artists the news that the Government has seen fit to allow us to transform the old Repat Clinic into a unique cultural and healing arts centre for all veterans where their stories, told through their art, would be cherished along with all work by veterans. With each passing day that goal looks more and more distant.

An opportunity was created to encourage the Prime Minister to meet Max on his birthday in October last year. The PM was too busy to make himself, or even another member of his government, available for our oldest veteran artist.

Time is running out. The ranks of our WWII veteran artists are thinning with Max’s passing and the passing over the last few years of some extraordinary artists who served this country during the war.

If you are aware of other living WWII veteran artists please bring them to our attention. We would love to facilitate an exhibition of their work in their honour.

For those interested in learning more about Max please follow the links below:



(11) Exhibition now open

Mar 24, 2017 — ANVAM has put together an exhibition of veterans art. This is a fantastic opportunity to get a great sense of the possibilities for the old Repat Clinic.

There will, however, be much more for veterans, families and the community at the new home of the Australian National Veterans Arts Museum (ANVAM).

Please visit and continue the great support.

Please post your feedback on the exhibition too.

(10) Art for Heroes

Mar 17, 2017 — In the lead up to next weeks exhibition, ‘A March to Art: Identity’ by veteran artists, we invite you to spend some time watching this full BBC documentary ‘Art for Heroes‘. This will give you a great appreciation of the power of art and art therapy for veterans and the possibilities for the old Repat Clinic as a centre for veterans arts.

We look forward to your feedback & comments.

(9) Big week coming …

Mar 16, 2017 — Next week is a big week for veterans arts & the old Repat Clinic:

a. Parliament returns & is the time to ensure all MPs know the public want the Repat Clinc saved for veterans. Hinch will be on the job but we need all MPs onside …
Please reach out to your local MP to ensure they’re aware of the matter and are vocal in representing the publics wishes.

b. A March to Art: Identity (free) exhibition opens on Wednesday 22nd. If you’re in Melbourne up to ANZAC Day please visit & show your support for the artists. Please make yourself known to those at the gallery as a supporter of this petition so we can thank you in person.

(8) Thanks to you and the 22!

Mar 12, 2017 — 22 extraordinary supporters have felt strongly enough about the old Repat Clinic, its ultimate transformation into a veterans healing arts centre and in supporting veterans wellbeing to financially promote this petition. This support is a vital part of the success of this petition to date for which we, on behalf of all veterans and families, are especially grateful to you.

In addition over 100 pages of comments have also been made in strong support of this petition and cause. It is a real honour to read through each of these comments and feel the level of respect for this place, for veterans and for the arts.

Of course we welcome and respectfully request your further financial and word of mouth support. Now within reach of 13,000 signatories it is important to continue the momentum to send a clear message to the Government that this building is important, this place is important, the arts are important and, most importantly, veterans matter.

Having personally walked the halls and rooms of the old Repat Clinic, from the upper floor offices to the basement vaults, it is clear that THIS IS the place for veterans healing, wellness, creativity, identity and community. In the attached photo of the old Repat Clinic waiting hall just imagine the generations of WWI, WWII, Korean & Vietnam war veterans mingling together while waiting their appointment. Going forward imagine also the extraordinary artworks by veterans and families that will be exhibited here and the sense of pride we’ll all have in their achievements.

Call to Action: Please ask ‘the’ most influential person in your network to share this petition with their broader network so we can push on to 15,000 supporters.

Thank you

ANVAM team

(7) ALP maintains support

Mar 9, 2017 — Recent discussions with Federal ALP Ministers have confirmed Labor’s ongoing support for new thinking to old problems.

ALP, together with Derryn Hinch’s strong support, ‘should’ get a positive outcome with 310SKR. There are, however, many challenges to overcome for which community support is essential.

Learning this morning of another veteran suicide by a young 24yo this week reinforces we can do better for these vulnerable veterans. ANVAM & 310SKR are part of the fabric the veteran community needs to wrap around vulnerable veterans to keep them safe & return their quality of life. Where we can’t there is a family left to mourn. They too need our support.

Please share this petition so we can get positive action.

(6) Govt missing suicide reduction opportunity

Mar 9, 2017 — Suicide by veterans is at unprecedented levels; 1 every 5 days. Van Badham’s article draws further attention to Ruth Lampert’s story in the Herald Sun last year; nothing has changed.

Despite the lack of progress the Government continues to ignore this positive & proactive approach that uses a range of levers to engage veterans. An essential element is the sense of belonging & place.

Nowhere does the veteran community as a whole have a cultural place where each veteran & family member can creatively explore their identity within the broader context of a proud veteran history & heritage.

310 St Kilda Rd is, or could be, that place. We implore Government to use all levers at their disposal, including this uniquely place building, in a united & collaborative front to overcome suicide & deliver better quality of life to those suffering.

(5) Veterans Identity

Mar 6, 2017 — ANVAM is about to open its inaugural exhibition of veterans art. Titled ‘A March to Art: Identity’ it explores the theme and importance of individual and collective identity for veterans & families.

During this time; Centenary of WWI, peak suicide rates by veterans, battle to save veterans heritage (310 St Kilda Rd), the idea of Identity comes through as a central theme, issue and opportunity all in one.

310 St Kilda Rd represents the one best opportunity we have to allow veterans to understand and shape individual and collective identity. Where else do we have a place run by veterans for ‘all’ veterans with a focus on healing, culture, stories, history and community? This would be an extraordinary legacy from this generation to the next but also to those generations who have gone before; recognition of the role art has had in their lives and, as a result, in ours.

Please find time to visit the exhibition in Melbourne and learn something of veterans identity from a veterans perspective. This will also give you a glimps of the possibility of what could be at 310 St Kilda Rd.

(4) Credible proposal to Government

Mar 2, 2017 — In Senate Estimates on 1 March we heard ANVAM had not ‘yet’ provided a credible proposal for 310 St Kilda Rd.

The credible proposal that was provided to Government in May 2016 was to leverage the LANDS ACQUISITION ACT 1989 – SECT 122. That is:
(2) Land set apart for, or dedicated to, a public purpose under subsection (1) may be vested in trustees upon trust to carry out the purpose for which it is set apart or dedicated.

An LAA s.122 decision is for Government alone. It would see 310 St Kilda Rd remain with the Commonwealth but no longer part of the Defence estate; entrusted to veterans through ANVAM for the wellbeing and benefit of all veterans and families.

(3) Hinch fights for ANVAM in the Senate

Mar 1, 2017 — During the Senate Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Legislation Committee today Derryn Hinch, a fierce supporter of ANVAM, fought the Department of Defence on the sale of 310 St Kilda road.

His amazing presentation, which highlighted ANVAM’s three year fight for the building, lead to Steve Grzeskowiak, The Deputy Secretary for Estate and Infrastructure Group to state that “the nature of the discussion we are having right now [with the Victorian Government] could lead to an off market sale”.

This is positive news in ANVAM’s fight for 310 St Kilda Road and puts us all one step closer to securing a home for veterans arts in the old repatriation clinic.

(2) Origin of the vision for a veterans arts centre & museum

Feb 27, 2017 — Thank you to all who have supported the petition for 310SKR to be preserved as a veterans arts centre & museum. Over 12,000 in under a week is a stunning outcome & each voice counts. I have attempted to read every comment & am very grateful for the very personal reflections. They all help to give voice to all veterans who currently have none, but for whom ANVAM & 310SKR may prove the catalyst.

A key input into ANVAM’s vision for 310SKR is based on the “NVAM” in the US. See the attached short video and how stunning, therapeutic & emotional veterans arts is & can be.

Please continue to share with your network & encourage them to support as this is future of 310SKR is still in a very tenuous position

(1) The Age article

Feb 20, 2017 — Great support from Clay Lucas at The Age to share this important message with the public.

Healing Arts Program (Shrine Article)

Remembrance (The Official Shrine Magazine)

April Vol 6 No1
Healing Arts

Art has long been associated with the military. Within Australia’s military tradition the arts have played multiple roles: in recording Australia’s involvement in war, as the musical accompaniment to ceremonies and in the, lesser known, rehabilitation and recovery of the wounded, injured and ill.

The Australian National Veterans Arts Museum (ANVAM) is a charity established in Melbourne by art teacher and art therapist, Tanja Johnston, and her husband Mark, himself a veteran, to help restore the healing role of the arts for veterans. Through her work over the past 15 years, art therapy and arts engagement are gaining prominence in the serving and veteran community by addressing and supporting mental, social and physical health for veterans and families.

Tanja explains ‘Veterans are supported by ANVAM through art therapy and arts engagement. Art therapy is a recognised psychotherapeutic allied health profession that emerged in Australia, the United Kingdom and United States, largely from the military repatriation use of arts for recovery during the First and Second World Wars. Art therapy involves art-making in a therapeutic relationship witnessed by a qualified art therapist, with emphasis on the process rather than the product. A unique yet rewarding challenge is the way each generation of veterans has differing needs, from Second Word War veterans in their 90’s to recent veterans in their early 20’s.’

Afghanistan veteran, Michael Williams shares his story.

When I returned home from active service overseas, I was diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder and a number of Anxiety disorders. This was on top of numerous physical injuries, some of which required surgery and ongoing physiotherapy to this day. My mental health deteriorated to such a degree I found myself hospitalised in a psychiatric ward for veterans and civilians alike. It was here I met art therapists Tanja Johnston and Jandy Paramanathan from ANVAM who conduct the art therapy program for inpatients.

At first I was hesitant and reluctant, unaware and oblivious to the rewards that their program and art itself possessed. My personal lack of experience in art caused me to feel uncertain in participating in any art therapy, uncertainty which manifested into fear and avoidance because of the unknown. Then ANVAM opened up my world to a new and different form of treatment to my mental health problems, art. Art therapy allowed me to limit the stimulus I was over exposed to due to my severe anxiety and heightened state of alertness. They really accommodated me by providing a relaxing atmosphere, in turn allowing me to channel my concentration on the creative process of art. No longer was I bound by any formal policies and procedures; a rigid way of life controlled by rules and guidelines long engrained and instilled in me by serving as a Defence member.

With art I could paint wherever, whenever, whatever and however I chose. The freedom and creativity was a new and exhilarating experience that reduced unhelpful thoughts and allowed me to express myself freely. Art takes time and I was unaware that brush stroke by brush stroke, I was not only being expressive and creative, but I was also processing that which I couldn’t do using words. Different types of art and techniques allowed me to express emotions and feelings and put me on a path of healing. The more I get involved in art the better I feel mentally, emotionally and sometimes even physically.

Art, to me, is truly an amazing ingredient to recovery and by expressing myself creatively my quality of life has improved dramatically. My stress has reduced, self-esteem and insight has increased and my emotions and behaviour are far more stable, comfortable and pleasant to live with than ever before.

I was a soldier but now I call myself an artist.

Iraq veteran Gordon Traill has also turned to the arts.

Iraq 2004, with what little down time I had, I found ‘a happy place’ by taking pictures of the ‘Diggers, dust storms, urban decay and the local population’. Viewing those images now evokes a bond and mateship with those Diggers that will never be broken. Capturing a time in your life when you know that life and death can come at any time. I didn’t know it at the time, photography provided a form of release for me in the deadliest city on earth at that time, Baghdad.

A few years later I was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and was lost. I lost my job, identity, and my will to live and was struggling with family life. I had no focus except to get through each day. I wasn’t contributing to anything; family, society and became isolated in my own little word of nothing.

My wife suggested that I take up a hobby and she remembered the joy that photography gave me during my time in Iraq. It started with a trip to Hawaii with a small camera which then progressed to a larger camera. I felt I was contributing something and had a reason to live again. Photography has taken me to places that I never thought possible after being diagnosed with PTSD. It has taken me to third-world countries and soup kitchens, to documenting veteran issues and telling stories through the lens of my camera. Photography became my therapy to combat PTSD, I am now in a better place.

Gordon now proudly supports ANVAM as an Arts mentor. The Shrine of Remembrance aims to hold an exhibition of his work in 2017.

#310SKR Will Have A New Home

IMG_6191-2Kevin McLeod of Grand Designs said, Buildings have a powerful potential to heal. This is a rare place of healing, built in 1937 for WWI veterans, where over 1,000 survivors per week of all conflicts and battles from Gallipoli to Long Tan have come for rehabilitation support.

Quiet efforts over the past few years by a dedicated team to preserve this WWI related site from sale to developers, during this Centenary of WWI period, have been to provide a sustainable world’s best practice, Arts and health response to the growing challenges faced by veterans, for whom this place was built. We aim to make 310 SKR, once again, a place of supported healing for veterans with a shared lived experience of war and service.
Government currently spends $180 million on mental health; that clinicians themselves admit is only partially effective. Our political leaders and ex-service organisations have all called for more to be done. The Chief of Defence recently said more needs to be done outside the medical system to support veteran’s mental health. Frankly, something different needs to be done. At ANVAM, a unique charity dedicated to the Arts for the ADF and veterans, we emphasise innovation in service delivery; to change the paradigm while working collaboratively with Government, DVA and veteran communities for a common goal; the wellbeing and quality of life of our veteran survivors. Part of our approach to innovation is to learn from the first Australian’s, including our local Wurundjeri people, about the role of the Arts in creating community and their proud culture and identity. Thanks to this place the possibilities for learning and innovation are enormous; Books will be written, doctorates awarded and lives changed.

Applying the Arts to veteran’s mental and social health is not new. Our highly professional and qualified creative Arts facilitators have worked in clinical and community settings with survivors in their 90s through to family members in their early teens for over a decade now. Our person centred approach tailors facilitated Arts engagement that can and has been, for many, transformative. One young veteran, for example, wrote that he was a soldier and now calls himself an artist.

By providing hope, purpose, dignity and validation of service through facilitated Arts we are indirectly addressing social issues like homelessness and unemployment, particularly during times of transition. We are, in effect, putting into practice the words of one surgeon and elite sportsman, military leader and prisoner of war; Weary Dunlop when he said “give the troop’s access to the Arts so that they may have an interest in life”! Weary would have travelled past here on a daily basis after the war; and I can imagine how he would have wondered through those doors to check on the wellbeing of the survivors inside.

There are also many veterans whose experience of service has been extremely positive. Through the Arts we are able to celebrate their experiences and pay tribute to them too. Some of Australia’s most celebrated artists who have contributed enormously to Australia’s culture and identity, are also veterans or family members; Banjo Paterson, Sidney Nolan, Clifton Pugh, Bud Tingwell, Jack Thompson, Judith Durum, Anthony Field and Richard Flanagan to name a few. It was a veteran, Gordon Darling, who founded the National Portrait Gallery and eight veterans share 23 Archibald prizes for portraiture between them. Decorated naval veteran Ken Myer led the NGV for many years and our current Federal Arts Minister is a veteran. The Prime Minister’s recent public reflections on his veteran grandfather includes references to the Arts and the Defence Minister has said she was “Particularly encouraged to pursue her own interest in the Arts by her father, a veteran of WWII”; which is an opportunity we aspire to for all veterans. The last veteran to serve as Prime Minister, Gough Whitlam, established our peak Arts body, the Australia Council; with whom we aim to establish a positive relationship.

While only slightly out of context, when Winston Churchill asked, “for so much what shall we repay?”, perhaps the answer is that we, as a nation, owe it to our veterans to given them a cultural place of their own. It is also, in part, an answer to the call of one young veteran, James Brown, in his book ANZAC’s Long Shadow, for a place for younger veterans to tell their stories. To achieve this ANVAM aims to create, here at 310SKR, that place for all veterans to feel that they can come and leave their mark; to tell their own story, authentically, on canvas or clay, in song or film, on stage or a page. We invite all veterans, young and old, to be involved and feel a part of this place that has already heard so many stories of survival, and will honour and hold dearly all of those yet to be told. And we ask for the generous help of all Australian’s in creating this place of healing, and celebration of survival, for our veteran community.