Fawkner Park is a trapezoidal shaped public park of 41 hectares (101 acres) established in the southern part of the City of Melbourne. It contains a wide range of landscape design elements and features including lawns, tree plantings, pathways, playing fields, structures, such as a circular seat, as well as a number of buildings such as the Caretaker's Cottage and Fence (1885), Substation (1925), Southern Pavilion (1936), Southern Toilet Block now store (1937), Northern Pavilion (1937), Tennis Club and Community Centre (interwar), shelter and playgrounds.
In 1862 Fawkner Park was temporarily reserved and named after the co-founder of Melbourne, John Pascoe Fawkner, although it was not developed until 1875 when formal pathways, avenues (many based on the 'desire line' pathways of original pedestrians) and lawns were established. Fawkner Park is one of Melbourne's 'outer ring' parks and was integral to the vision of Charles La Trobe (Superintendent of the Port Phillip District and later Lieutenant-Governor of Victoria) from the mid-1840s, to develop Melbourne as a city surrounded by extensive public parklands. It demonstrates the Government's desire to provide outdoor recreational spaces for passive and active recreation and to beautify the city. Fawkner Park has a long history as the location of sporting activities, such as cricket, football and tennis, back to the late 1850s. During World War II an area of Fawkner Park was compulsorily acquired by the Defence Department. The 33 Australian Womens Army Service (AWAS) Barracks and the Land Headquarters (LHQ) of the Australian Corps of Signals were constructed on the area which is now the Cordner Oval and its immediate surrounds. Between 1947 and 1955, the huts at the camp were converted to a transit camp for British migrants and also used for emergency accommodation for families. In 1955 Fawkner Park was restored to parkland and since then has been used for passive recreational and sporting activities. A childcare centre opened on the eastern side in 1989. Today Fawkner Park remains relatively unchanged from its original design and is a popular place for sport, leisure, picnics and fitness activities.
Fawkner Park is characterised by straight, tree-lined pathways many of which link pedestrian entry points. The pathway system divides the park into a number of larger lawn areas that contain playing fields for a variety of sports, and smaller lawn areas that feature plantings of specimen trees. There are a number of buildings and structures ranging from sporting pavilions, shelters, tennis courts and playgrounds. The earliest structure remaining on site is the nineteenth century Caretaker's Cottage, located to the western boundary of Fawkner Park on Slater Street. The dominant vegetative element of Fawkner Park are the established treed avenues that criss-cross the site along the primary path system, most notable amongst these being mature avenues of Elm and Moreton Bay Fig. Formal boundary plantations are also located on the northern (Canary Island Palm and Pin Oak), eastern (Canary Island Palm, English Oak, Himalayan Cedar) and southern boundaries (Elm avenue), with a mixed plantation of exotic and Australian native trees to the western boundary. Specimen trees, often grouped into stands or circle plantings, are located in lawn areas between the avenues. A number of the main avenues have been replanted with new species since 2010, including Willow-leaved Oak and Gingko, replacing Golden Poplar avenues, and rejuvenation of the Pin Oak avenue, all located in the north of the park. Due to the lack of ground disturbance since 1955, Fawkner Park has the potential to contain subsurface archaeological material related to the occupation and use as an AWAS and LHQ Signals camp, specifically within the area of Cordner Oval.
This site is part of the traditional land of the Kulin nation.
How is it significant?
Fawkner Park is of historical, archaeological aesthetic significance to the State of Victoria. It satisfies the following criterion for inclusion in the Victorian Heritage Register:
Importance to the course, or pattern, of Victoria's cultural history.
Potential to yield information that will contribute to an understanding of Victoria's cultural history.
Importance in exhibiting particular aesthetic characteristics.
Why is it significant?
Fawkner Park is significant at the State level for the following reasons:
Fawkner Park is historically significant as part of the vision of Charles La Trobe (Superintendent of the Port Phillip District and later Lieutenant-Governor of Victoria) from the mid-1840s, to develop Melbourne as a city surrounded by extensive public parklands. Fawkner Park was permanently reserved in 1862 and became one of Melbourne's 'outer ring' parks, along with Yarra Park (VHR H2251) and Royal Park (VHR H2337). Formally developed from 1875 by curator Nicholas Bickford, Fawkner Park is a fine example of an 'outer ring' park. While the 'inner ring' of parks reflect more formal planting and symmetrical pathway arrangements, the 'outer ring' of parks and reserves were typically developed for recreation and organised sporting activity. Fawkner Park largely retains its early form, diagonal pathway plantings (established on the 'desire lines' of early pedestrians), impressive avenues, plantings, lawns and playing fields in conjunction with pavilion, caretakers and amenities buildings. Fawkner Park is also of historical significance for its use as an accommodation base for the Australian Women's Army Service (AWAS) and as a camp for British migrants between 1947 and 1955. [Criterion A]
Fawkner Park is archaeologically significant at the State level for its high likelihood to contain subsurface artefacts and deposits related to the Australian Women's Army Service (AWAS) and the Australian Corps of Signals Land Headquarters, located in the southern portion of the park from 1941 to 1947. There is a high potential for Fawkner Park to contain physical evidence relating to the mobilisation of women in the Australian Women's Army Service (AWAS) during WWII and the experiences of post-WWII British migrants in Victoria's transit camps, that is not currently visible or understood. The knowledge that might be obtained through archaeological investigation of Fawkner Park is likely to meaningfully contribute to an understanding of Victoria's cultural history. The particular information likely to be yielded from the archaeology of the place is not already well documented nor readily available from other sources. [Criterion C].
Fawkner Park is aesthetically significant as an outstanding example of a metropolitan park in Victoria. It is particularly notable for fine, mature avenues of English and Dutch Elm, White Poplar, English Oak and Moreton Bay Fig that criss-cross the site, forming over-arching canopies above the pathway system, that afford enclosed, focused views of considerable visual appeal. Other aesthetically impressive plantings include individual specimen trees and stands of Canary Island Pine, Pin Oaks, Hoop Pine, Bunya Bunya Pine, Lemon-scented Gum, Sugar Gum, Lilly Pilly, Monterey Pine and Stone Pine. The number of avenues within the park and individual scale of many of the original row plantings is incomparable to any of Melbourne's 'inner ring' or 'outer ring' parks established in the nineteenth century. The treed avenues have matured to form the dominant landscape component of the site, providing over-arching, umbrageous walks counterpointed with expanses of lawn between the avenue alignments. [Criterion E]
Fawkner Park is also significant for the following reasons, but not at the State level:
Fawkner Park is of historical significance because it was named after John Pascoe Fawkner, one of Victoria's earliest settlers and a co-founder of Melbourne.