19 June 2020

Gold Creek Homestead, is it worth saving?

| My Gungahlin
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We at the National Trust, guarantee that it is. We hope you will join us in our quest to ensure it’s survival.

Imagine for a moment how you would feel if all of the memories from your past and your father’s past and your grandparents past instantly disappear. Would you still have a place in the world, would you still have an identity, would you still feel pride in your country?

We believe that our heritage and the hard work of our pioneers should be celebrated and remembered by both old and new citizens.

The Gold Creek homestead is such an important reminder of our past for us, new generations and for recently arrived Australians.

Interestingly there is no gold or creek at Gold Creek, although plenty of gold has been mined in surrounding districts, such as Jeir Creek, Nanima and Murrumbateman. Gold was even discovered at Duntroon…but not at Gold Creek.

Gold Creek, rather, was named after a famous race horse that spelled on the site for a while.

Gold Creek has yet another claim to fame … that Gold Creek pioneers, the Rolfe family, were descended from the famous American indigenous princess, Pocahontas, through John Rolfe.

Gold Creek Homestead was, at one time, at the centre of ‘Gold Creek Station,’ a sprawling 1,594 hectare (3,940 acre) rural property, the largest in the district. It was originally built by Edmund Rolfe in 1861 and remained the home of the Rolfe family until the property was resumed by the Commonwealth as part of the Federal Capital Territory as a result of Federation. Although the original 1861 building has been replaced, the stone building, believed to have been built around 1883, is still in existence but has been significantly added to. Like all old buildings it has been adapted to suit the families that lived in it and its later uses. In my opinion, and that of many experts around the world, this adds to its character and patina. In other countries and states the evolution of a property is celebrated. In the ACT the fact that it has been altered over the years is a reason for it not being Heritage listed. Some of the outbuildings and trees existing on the property today are believed to date back to the days of the original settlement.

Anthony Rolfe financed the initial purchase of 60 acres (24 ha) of land which abuts the present-day Gold Creek Homestead Site and transferred the land title as part of a much larger 320-acre (130 ha) parcel to his son Edmund in 1872. During its first few decades Gold Creek was devoted to cropping predominantly wheat and later the Rolfes diversified into merino sheep and later still beef cattle.

Edmund Rolfe was active in local politics in the two decades prior to the Federation of the Commonwealth of Australia in 1901. He served for a number of years as the treasurer and later the vice-president of the Ginninderra Protection Union, the forerunner to the Protectionist party. He was also a committee member of the Ginninderra Agricultural Show, the forerunner to Canberra’s Royal National Capital Agricultural Show.

As well as bringing up 14 children, the Rolfes also hosted many balls dances and social events at Gold Creek in support of St Benedicts Catholic Girls School in Queanbeyan. Edmund Rolfe was a fundraiser for Ginninderra St Francis Church and its replacement, Hall’s St Xaviers Church.

The 3,940 acre ‘Gold Creek’ estate, accumulated and improved over some forty years by the Rolfes, was resumed by the government in 1915 for £13,500. Edmund Rolfe died soon after in Sydney in 1918. Since that time the property has been successfully used as a leading edge experimental cropping facility, tourism destination and a conference/wedding venue.

The Rolfe family still train race horses and are prominent Canberran business identities.

The ACT Government, over the years, has had many submissions and opportunities to work with interested community partners to preserve and effectively utilise Gold Creek but has chosen to do nothing or sell parts of it for commercial gain.

The National Trust has (unsuccessfully) attempted to have Gold Creek listed on the ACT Heritage Register several times in the past and still harbors ambitions of seeing a listing come to fruition. The arguments against listing seem to center around the homestead having been too heavily “compromised” over the years for it to now adequately reflect its original character as previously mentioned. While this may be the case there is no doubt that the cultural significance of the building to any Canberran is substantial. Hundreds of couples had their wedding reception there and attended many other functions at what was then a remote and charming venue. Now that the site has been consumed by Gungahlin it holds even more appeal as a place of community significance given its character and oasis like setting. It is evident that the Government now acknowledges this which has, in part, been reflected by the million dollar investment recently made in restoring the external fabric of the building. It has to be noted however that significant investment is still required in restoring the internals of the building and associated services. The building is, at the moment a costly drain on the community due to the high level of vandalism. With this in mind the intention of the Government is to sell Gold Creek this financial year and, as reported in a Canberra publication recently, it is then up to the purchaser whether to restore or demolish the property.

The National Trust firmly believe that the property is important enough to muster strong community support to ensure that it is preserved for future generations. The ACT Government has stated that they will be careful who they sell the property to, to ensure that their investment has been worthwhile. The National Trust is is concerned that the property could possibly be sold to the highest tender without any consideration for the future of the buildings.

Can you imagine the loss to future generations, not just local residents but also all Canberrans, if we fail to act now???

Due to the impending sale we would again like your assistance to ensure that Gold Creek is either protected through community action or support for reapplying for a heritage listing. We would appreciate it if residents register their interest with the Gungahlin Community Council and call on them to lobby the ACT Government to ensure the heritage value of this important site is preserved in any future transactions.

Chris Wain – National Trust

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Save it keep it going more people can have weddings and parties

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