The Old Bega Hospital - Heritage

The Old Bega Hospital (main building and outbuildings) is listed as item number I009 in Schedule 5, environmental heritage, in the Bega Valley Local Environment Plan 2013.

The Hospital is included in the NSW heritage database maintained by the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage.

The Old Bega Hospital entry in the database includes a formal statement of heritage significance (as at 20 Nov 2012):

Historically significant for its initial construction in the late 19th century and subsequent development over many decades. Aesthetically significant for its architectural design, proportions and rich details. Socially significant for the long role it played in the community's health when operating as a hospital and for its role as a focus for community activities over many decades. The main building suffered extensive fire damage in about 2005, however many of its important values have survived.

The Burra Charter: The Australia ICOMOS Charter for Places of Cultural Significance, 2013 (Burra Charter) provides guidance for the conservation and management of places of cultural significance (cultural heritage places), such as the Old Bega Hospital. The Burra Charter defines cultural significance:

Cultural significance means aesthetic, historic, scientific, social or spiritual value for past, present or future generations.

While the Burra Charter emphasises that 'conservation of a place should identify and take into consideration all aspects of cultural and natural significance without unwarranted emphasis on any one value at the expense of others', it is notable that the formal statement of significance for the Old Bega Hospital is silent on scientific and spiritual values at the Old Bega Hospital.

An alternative statement of significance is included in Kaylie Beasley's 2012 proposals for a conservation managment plan (1MB pdf) for the Old Bega Hospital

Old Bega Hospital has cultural heritage significance at a State level because it was the first public hospital in Bega and provided healthcare for residents of Bega and surrounding districts for 68 years. Socially Old Bega Hospital is significant because many community members share a personal connection with the hospital. Community members may have been born there, visited people there, worked there or been involved in hospital fundraising efforts. The repurposing of Old Bega Hospital into a community centre has maintained community involvement with the site and ensured that community members continue to share a personal connection with the hospital. The association of Old Bega Hospital with Sir Robert Lucas Tooth, a notable figure in NSW’s history, also contributes to its significance. Old Bega Hospital is also the only extant hospital from the late 19th century located in the Far South Coast region.

The Burra Charter explains:

Places of cultural significance enrich people’s lives, often providing a deep and inspirational sense of connection to community and landscape, to the past and to lived experiences. They are historical records, that are important expressions of Australian identity and experience. Places of cultural significance reflect the diversity of our communities, telling us about who we are and the past that has formed us and the Australian landscape. They are irreplaceable and precious.

These places of cultural significance must be conserved for present and future generations in accordance with the principle of inter-generational equity.

The Burra Charter advocates a cautious approach to change: do as much as necessary to care for the place and to make it usable, but otherwise change it as little as possible so that its cultural significance is retained.

The Reserve Land Manager's approach to heritage conservation for the site is set out in its draft management plan. In terms of the Burra Charter, the approach is one of adaptive re-use of the buildings and site as a regional community and cultural centre, rather than restoration to their former use as a hospital. The Burra Charter defines adaptation: 'adaptation means changing a place to suit the existing use or a proposed use'. Article 7 says 'a place should have a compatible use' and explains 'the [management] policy should identify a use or combination of uses or constraints on uses that retain the cultural significance of the place. New use of a place should involve minimal change to significant fabric and use; should respect associations and meanings; and where appropriate should provide for continuation of activities and practices which contribute to the cultural significance of the place.' Article 21 states, 'Adaptation is acceptable only where the adaptation has minimal impact on the cultural significance of the place. Adaptation should involve minimal change to significant fabric, achieved only after considering alternatives.' and explains 'Adaptation may involve additions to the place, the introduction of new services, or a  new use, or changes to safeguard the place. Adaptation of a place for a new use is often referred to as adaptive re-use.'