Abbotsford Convent

Conservation Management Plan

Abbotsford Convent Foundation (ACF)

Abbotsford, Victoria

The former Convent of the Good Shepherd, Abbotsford, is a place of outstanding heritage value.

GML Heritage Victoria (formerly Context) led a team of heritage specialists, conservation architects and engineers to develop a Conservation Management Plan (CMP) and Existing Conditions Report (ECR) for the Abbotsford Convent precinct. Our collaborators included Nigel Lewis, Andronas Conservation Architecture, Heritage Alliance, Landmark Heritage, BRT Consulting Engineers and pitt&sherry.

Sited on a deep bend of the Yarra River, it occupies the traditional Country of the East Kulin. The Convent is now a thriving arts and cultural precinct as well as a historic complex and cultural landscape. The place presents an extraordinary record of social change and reform in the provision of welfare in Australia, especially demonstrating the role that religious and charitable institutions performed in this history. The landscape of the former Convent of the Good Shepherd retains traces of this history and of the pre-settlement natural landscape.

The CMP, commissioned by the Abbotsford Convent Foundation (ACF), built on an earlier conservation management plan prepared for the Abbotsford Convent by Nigel Lewis and for the Abbotsford Convent gardens and grounds by Nigel Lewis with Lee Andrews & Associates (2005). A revised CMP was required by the client to broaden the understanding of the Convent’s heritage significance through more detailed investigation into its social history and through connections and associations with the place for Aboriginal people. The CMP provided a framework to support informed decision-making by the ACF in its management of the cultural heritage values of the place in the context of their management of the Abbotsford Convent as an arts and cultural precinct.

The ECR comprised a database that captured the existing conditions of the heritage building assets and heritage gardens and grounds of the Abbotsford Convent. Recommendations were provided for each building and each structure within the gardens and grounds to enable the ACF to appropriately manage its heritage assets for future generations.

Continuing our association with the Abbotsford Convent, we were commissioned in 2020 to provide heritage advice for rejuvenating and replanting the 1920s fernery that encloses the courtyard of the main Convent building. The work included provision of specialist advice on historically appropriate plant selections and planting design, and materials conservation of the original fabric of the fernery pergola and the centrally placed tempietto.

The Abbotsford Convent precinct is run by the ACF, a not-for-profit organisation that manages and operates the site on behalf of the public in accordance with the site’s outstanding heritage values, sustainability goals, and the ACF’s future vision for the unique arts, cultural, and learning precinct.