18 December 2015
Mr Brian Barrett
PO Box 14
PETERSHAM NSW 2049
Dear Mr Barrett,
Former St Mary and St Mina Coptic Orthodox Church, 24A Railway Road, Sydenham As indicated in my earlier letter of 11 December, 2015 I am forwarding to Council a more detailed submission on the proposed demolition of the former St Mary and St Mina Coptic Orthodox Church at 24A Railway Road, Sydenham.
I thank you for your prompt response to my earlier letter and for including with your letter a copy of the address by His Grace, Bishop Daniel of the Coptic Church to Council’s Infrastructure Planning and Environment Committee Meeting on 4 August, 2015.
The Trust has now been able to acquaint itself in greater detail with the history of this church since its purchase by the Coptic Orthodox Congregation in 1968 and the involvement of Marrickville Council and the Federal Government.
In particular the Trust has examined the Heritage Impact Statement prepared by Ruth Daniell (October 2011) and the Heritage Assessments prepared by Graham Brooks and Associates (13 December, 2011) and NBRS+Partners (2 October 2015) and the 2008 Alternative Uses Report prepared by Clive Lucas Stapleton and Partners. These documents were viewed in the context of the report to Council’s Development Assessment Committee of 10 November, 2015.
The National Trust does understand and appreciate the range of difficult issues relating to the conservation options for this Heritage-listed building.
However, the common thread through all of this documentation is the extraordinarily high social heritage significance of this place to the Coptic Orthodox community and the efforts of that community to fund the retention of this building as a vital part of their history in Australia and their first emigration from the Nile Valley.
An equivalent example is the Broken Hill Mosque in Buck Street, Broken Hill listed in 2010 on the State Heritage Register for its rarity as the first mosque in NSW and for its social significance at a State level for its religious association for the Islamic community in NSW and Australia.
In the Trust’s view, being the church of the first Coptic Orthodox community in the world outside of the Nile Valley, makes this place rare and nationally significant.
The Trust can understand the reluctance of the community to be able to commit considerable funding when it has competing needs in other areas throughout Sydney. It is unfortunate that the building has degraded since the departure of the Coptic Orthodox Community.
Since the 1960s the National Trust has operated a tax-deductible restoration scheme to assist communities in restoring such buildings. Given the considerable and growing community concern it does appear reasonable that funding will become available to ensure the retention of this building and the Trust would be pleased to assist in such a fundraising effort through its tax-deductible appeal system.
In the 1970s the then owner of the Cremorne Orpheum Theatre referred to this building as a “millstone” around his neck. History has shown that a new owner with foresight and appropriate funding is able to give such buildings a new lease of life and their heritage significance is increased.
Again, the National Trust strongly urges Marrickville Council not to implement its decision to demolish this building.
Upper Fort Street, Observatory Hill
Millers Point, NSW 2000
GPO BOX 518
Sydney NSW 2001
T +61 2 9258 0123 F +61 2 9251 1110