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Victoria Barracks
Victoria Barracks, Melbourne.jpg
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General information
Architectural style Renaissance Revival
Town or city Melbourne
Country Australia
Construction started 1856
Completed 1872

Located on St Kilda Road in Melbourne, Australia, Victoria Barracks Melbourne is architecturally and historically significant. It is one of the most impressive 19th century government buildings in Victoria, Australia.

Pre-World War II

Originally built, as accommodation for British Imperial Garrison troops, including the 12th and 40th Regiment of Foot who were involved in putting down the armed Eureka Stockade rebellion in Ballarat, Victoria, and later the Colony of Victoria's colonial forces. The Barracks housed the Department of Defence from the creation of the Commonwealth of Australia (Federation) in 1901 until 1958 when the Department of Defence moved to the new Russell Offices in Canberra. The earliest building (G Block) at Victoria Barracks was built by soldiers on the 40th Regiment, under the supervision of a Royal Engineer officer, from 1856 to 1858, while the remaining buildings were built by civil contractors with the original bluestone buildings being constructed between 1856 and 1872. A large extension (A Block New Wing) was added to accommodate HQ Department of Defence in 1917 and while it looked like the original A Block building the construction method and interior was completely modern for the time.

In 1936 the Repatriation Commission took control of a parcel of land on the corner of St Kilda Rd and Coventry St to establish the Repatriation Commission Outpatient Clinic, which opened on 15 November 1937. The day clinic was designed by Commonwealth architect George Hallendal in an Art Deco style for World War I veterans.

Another modern, for the time, art deco building (M Block) was added in 1939 and the floor was the first continuous concrete pour in Australia. The Barracks were named in honour of Queen Victoria. There are also Victoria Barracks in Sydney and Brisbane.

World War II

During World War II, Victoria Barracks Melbourne housed the Australian War Cabinet. The War Cabinet comprised senior MP's from the Government and Opposition parties. The Defence Secretariat occupied the second floor of 'A Block New Wing' which also contained the office of senior military staff, the Secretary of the Department Defence (Sir Frederick Shedden), visiting Ministers of State and their secretaries and support staff, and the War Cabinet room. The wartime Prime Ministers (Robert Menzies and later John Curtin) also had offices near the War Cabinet Room throughout the War.

Eric Nave's Navy cryptographic unit was at Victoria Barracks until it moved to FRUMEL.

Myth has it that the US General Douglas MacArthur had an office at the barracks however this is not true as his HQ was at the Hotel Australia in the Melbourne CBD. It was in fact General Sir Thomas Blamey who had his HQ at the Barracks while serving as Commander-in-Chief, Australian Military Forces, and simultaneously in international command as Commander-in-Chief Allied Land Forces in the South-West Pacific Area under MacArthur.

Post-World War II

Victoria Barracks Melbourne currently accommodates:

  • Land Systems Division (LSD) of the Capability Acquisition and Sustainment Group
  • The ten Systems Program Offices (SPO) (business units) of LSD
  • Elements of Joint Logistics Command (JLC)
  • Elements of Estate and Infrastructure Group (E&IG)
  • Senior Naval Officer - Victoria (SNO-Vic)

Non-Defence organisations within Victoria Barracks include:

  • Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) library in B-Block
  • Defence Force Welfare Association (DFWA) in H-Block
  • Broadspectrum Defence contractors providing support services to Defence
  • Australian Military Bank in H-Block
  • Defence Bank in H-Block
  • Australian Federal Police detachment

A number of facilities within Victoria Barracks are named after notable military events, people or places. These include:

  • The Shedden Auditorium (after Sir Frederick Shedden)
  • The War Cabinet Room (used as the main conference room for the World War II War Cabinet)
  • The Blamey Room (after Field Marshal Sir Thomas Blamey GBE, KCB, CMG, DSO, ED)
  • The Tresco Room (after the Tresco Estate, the Royal Australian Navy's premier residence in Sydney)

The former Repatriation Commission Outpatient Clinic built prior to World War II was handed back to Defence in 1975 and was used as the Maintenance Engineering Agency (MEA) until December 1995. The former Repatriation Clinic has been empty since 1995. In 2016 the Australian Labor Party (ALP) released a policy to turn the clinic into an Australian National Veterans Arts Centre (ANVAC) following lobbying by the Australian National Veterans Arts Museum (ANVAM). The Department of Defence indicated in 2016 the former Repatriation Clinic would be sold and later indicated negotiations where underway to transfer the property to the State Government of Victoria. When the State Government indicated it was not interested in acquiring the site in 2019 a new line of enquiry was opened with the City of Melbourne to acquire the site.

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