Saving the Cerini

The abandoned Cerini Centre in Warburton

By Jed Lanyon

A Warburton resident is pushing to see the Cerini Centre restored to its former glory as an asset to the community.

Ivor Wolstencroft has made attempts to see the building receive a heritage listing to ensure its protection as vandals continue to desecrate the site. He had even made repairs to the building to help secure it from those attempting to break in.

“Given the continuing vandalism and graffiti it only seems a matter of time before the Cerini Centre is burnt down,” Mr Wolstencroft said. “If it does burn down it will mean a lost opportunity to do something special with this building and the bush that surrounds it.”

Mr Wolstencroft believes the centre has the potential to be a great community resource and has attempted to lease the building from the Department of Education to see it be utilised as an art gallery, but to no avail.

“I’d like to see it back in use for the community,” he said. “That really was a plan B. I’ve got an art interest and thought it’d be a great place to have an art gallery open on weekends and perhaps in the evenings in what is a strong tourist market in Warburton.

He says a complex issue surrounding the property’s title means the Cerini Centre is put in the “too hard basket”.

“Because it’s got problems with titles, it’s a difficult parcel of land and building to sell.”

The circular building has a unique history. It was built by Father Charles Cerini in 1952 to provide a Catholic school for Upper Yarra students but closed in 1992 when the new St Joseph’s school was built in Yarra Junction. It was then home to community programs for eight years leading up to its 2015 closure.

“The final death sentence for the building was when, for health and safety reasons, the toilets were deemed not to be up to standard,” Mr Wolstencroft said. “Over the years the building had been alive with community life – bush dances, annual celebrations for clubs such as the Warburton Football Club, a toy library and early childhood support.”

Mr Wolstencroft said Father Cerini would not have been daunted by the current obstacles faced by the centre, calling him a community builder and an activist.

“I think it’s a bit like Boinga Bob’s in Warburton, they represent something different and in terms of architectural style, I think it’s a pretty unique building.”

“I think it’s a jewel and I just see its potential and think only people really appreciating it are the vandals who see it as a good target for mischief they’re the only people appreciating it at the moment, but it’s got much more value than that.”