“Why Skating Is Not Allowed Here”

Sacred Place

To most Hobartians, this scene is instantly recognizable as “The Cenotaph” – a monument erected to commemorate the Fallen of the First World War and the service of Australians in later conflicts.

009It is part of the sanctuary landscape of Hobart – a solemn place looking out over the Derwent Estuary – where people gather each year on ANZAC Day, and other battle anniversaries, for services of remembrance and wreath-layings.

It is a place of civic ritual – important to the shaping and assertion of a national identity.

Lest We Forget.

But it may be even more than that. Look carefully toward the base of the tree immediately to the left of the central monument. You might see what appears to be a small white rectangle.

008 (465x640)It is, in fact, a Hobart City Council notice, which claims the site as a “sacred site” and informs its readers that skating and blading are “not allowed”.

Not only might skating cause damage to the monument and its surrounds (certainly to be avoided); but it also seems, when viewed against the claim of sacrality, that skating is identified as an inherently desecrative art – its performance being akin to sacrilege.

And that stirs up the cup of ambivalence; because, at a time when we are challenged to reflect on the heritage of the War to End All Wars and to appreciate that its discourses and narratives might be contested, many may be left to ponder what sacred form stands behind the claim – and what kind of power promotes it into existence.

Perhaps we can never be quite certain. For whilst there are things that it is good to remember – there are things that it is good not to forget.

Lest we forget.


8 Hours Day – Part of a Proud Trade Union Heritage in Tasmania


Eight Hours Day, which is celebrated in Tasmania on the second Monday in March each year to commemorate the winning by Australian workers of fairer working hours, also falls near the anniversary of the free  pardon granted to Tolpuddle Martyr, George Loveless, on 10 March 1836.

George Loveless was a Methodist Lay Preacher and one of the first British Trade Union Organisers.

He was sentenced to transportation to Van Diemen’s Land in 1834 on account of his work in organising the Dorset agricultural workers in their quest for better pay and conditions.  He landed in Hobart, was granted a ticket of leave in recognition of his exemplary conduct and assigned to a master in New Town.

A free pardon was granted to George Loveless on 10 March 1836.  He learnt about it a few days later when he read of it in the local newspaper! He returned to England and later moved to Canada.

A plaque commemorating his achievement was unveiled jointly by the Methodist Conference and Unions Tasmania in 1970.  For some years it was affixed to the exterior of the Trades Hall building in Davey Street.  It is now preserved by Unions Tasmania at their North Hobart premises.



You’re Changing What!



Many of our older church buildings are listed on heritage registers kept by our State and Territory governments.  Not all of them have remained “places of worship” or have continued to be put to “liturgical use”. Wesley Hall, Hobart, Tasmania (pictured in the foreground above) is such a place.

Although it was the meeting place for the Wesleyan Methodist Congregation in Hobart from 1825, its primary role ceased, when the “Centenary Chapel” (then the largest Methodist building in the Southern Hemisphere with seating for 1,100 – pictured at rear) opened in 1840. Wesley Hall was put to use as a Mechanics Institute; and today, primarily provides accommodation for a range of office, dance, martial arts and community activities – only occasionally being put to liturgical use.


Increasingly, congregations are finding that the set up of their older worship places is less than satisfactory for contemporary forms of liturgy and worship.

Boxed wooden pews, crowded gallery overhangs, acoustic resonating pulpits and convict-era seating may be charming in their own way; but might not meet the needs of contemporary worship leaders or of the congregations participating in worship.

20130331_110710Eventually, someone suggests a change. “Pull out the pews; Install new sound and lighting; Throw out the pulpit; Clear a dance space!”  And the suggestions are met with howls of protest.

Now the problem is that not all the howling comes from the congregation.

Congregations, whose buildings are heritage-listed,  might find that their proposals meet with opposition from government heritage regulators or local planning authorities – some of whom might be miffed to find that they were not consulted or that their approval was not sought! Mention of “prosecution” and “penalty units” might leave Church Councils and Boards feeling … nervous.

The congregations, for their part, might be equally miffed to be told that approval of some State authority, was needed. After all, aren’t they entrusted with doing the work of the Kingdom? And didn’t they talk about it and reach consensus first? “It’s all in the minutes – somewhere. I don’t think that pulpit is ours anyway. And that boom gate is definitely going in. Don’t care what anybody says!”

Early siteNow the thing is, that we are rarely anything more than custodians of our public and cultural heritage. It is hard to own it or to exercise dominion as though it really belonged exclusively to us.

So if we’re talking about changing some part of the fabric of our heritage-listed places, then we need to know the rules – or at least to know that there are rules –  and that they work for everyone’s benefit.

In later posts, we’ll begin to set out some of the rules that apply in Australia. We’ll look at the “liturgical use” exemption (which sometimes means that congregations don’t need special heritage approval to make changes to their heritage-listed worship places); and we’ll point out why, even though we may be part of a national church, we have to operate under several different systems.