The Substation is a not for profit association whose aims are to transform the Newport Substation building and create a community arts centre which will provide a venue for the cultural development of the local community.


“We have finally achieved our goal of creating a unique venue for the visual and performing arts.” Darren Williams, President of Hobsons

How was the space first identified and who was contacted to secure it?

A local glazier, Darren Williams, used to drive past The Substation every day and lament at how this beautiful old building was falling into disrepair. In 1996 Darren and Nigel Edwards, another local resident, decided to save the building and contacted VicTrack, the owners, to inquire about leasing it from them with a view to redevelop the property into a new community arts centre for the west.

What was required to secure the space?

Over the years that followed an Incorporated Association the "Hobsons Bay Community Arts Centre" was established and the association secured a twenty-five year lease on the building and the land surrounding it. The association now has a committee of local residents and many hundreds of members.

What needed to be provided by you as hirer or user of the space?

Everything! Since the building ceased operating in 1967, vandals and thieves entered the building and damaged or removed almost all of the remaining electrical equipment and fittings. Almost every window pane was broken, ceramic insulators were smashed for the copper rods inside, lead flashing was removed from the roof, decorative tiling removed from walls, original signs and anything of value were stolen from the site. At various times between 1969-1996 people were known to use the building as a squat.

By the 1990's the building had become derelict. The roof structure had deteriorated and the downpipes blocked with asphalt. When it rained it seeped through cracks in the roof and overflowed from the blocked drains, flowing into the building. Water also penetrated through the broken glass, rusting the steel window frames and causing damage to the footings of the Newport Substation. With broken glass, damaged fittings, rubbish and rubble everywhere, many pigeons using the building and vandals constantly gaining access and spraying graffiti everywhere, the Newport Substation had become an eyesore both inside and out.

The Hobsons Bay Community Arts Centre Inc. embarked on its restoration program in March 2001 with a "Work for the Dole" program in partnership with Victoria University and supported by the Federal Government. This program ran for nine months on a part-time basis. During that time the site was cleaned and fall protection was installed around the building.

In early 2002 the association was successful in securing funding from the State Government to conduct a Community Jobs Program. Hobsons Bay City Council also provided financial and administrative support. The grant allowed the association to employ twenty workers on a full time basis for sixteen weeks and was conducted from May-September 2002.

Many restoration tasks were completed during this time. Power, water and plumbing were reconnected and installed throughout the building. The roof surface was cleaned and restored and included the application of a waterproof membrane. Downpipes were cleaned of debris and restored to working order. Glass was removed from all windows, the steel frame removed, repaired, repainted and reinstalled. New glass was installed to all window frames and mesh screens fabricated and installed to protect the new glazing. All graffiti was removed from the external brick and rendered surfaces.

The works program was a huge undertaking for a community organisation and was managed and supervised solely by volunteer staff. The outcomes achieved for both the participants and the completion of restoration activities were substantial.

What were the costs?

$1.35 million from the State Government $500,000 from Hobsons Bay City Council In excess of $1 million worth of materials, equipment and labour donated by business sponsors. Tens of thousands of hours contibuted by the committee, membership and wider community.

What were the resources available to you?

State and Federal government, Hobsons Bay City Council, volunteers and business sponsors.

Who helped you to fit it out?

Sandy Richardson builders, many small businesses, sponsors and volunteers.

What were/are the obstacles?

Obtaining the lease. Getting financial support from all levels of Government. Waiting for funding applications to be approved before moving on to each stage of the redevelopment. Managing the four Community Jobs Programs employing over ninety jobseekers over four years. Keeping the wider community and membership engaged and enthused during the construction and redevelopment. There is still a need for exhibition lighting, heating & cooling, theatrical lighting, staging, seating, for which specific funding grants will be applied.

What were/are the risks?

Not getting funding or support from local community and business partners. Not being supported by all levels of Government. Not having the human and financial resources to undertake such a massive project. Burnout of key project members.