Fears for drill hall future

The drill hall has been home to the 430 Squadron Air Cadets for more than 40 years.

Fear is mounting in the Kyneton community that the historic Mont St Quentin Barracks is being left to rot.

The drill hall has been home to the 430 Squadron Air Cadets for more than 40 years but the squadron was forced to move out in 2020 when the hall was found to be in disrepair.

Cadets temporarily relocated to share the Kyneton Scout Hall and have now been meeting at Gisborne Secondary College since February, but no works to repair the drill hall have begun.

A Defence spokesperson said future use of the hall would be assessed against the outcomes of a recent Defence Estate Audit, which was currently with government for consideration.

“An enterprise-wide audit of the Defence estate and infrastructure was conducted in response to the recommendations of the Defence Strategic Review, to assess whether the estate meets Defence’s contemporary requirements,” the spokesperson said.

“Funding determinations for remediation of the Kyneton Drill Hall will be based on broader Defence priorities.”

The Mont St Quentin Barracks is of historic significance to Kyneton.

The Victorian Heritage Database Report states, “Of the remaining examples of Victorian Drill Halls, Colac and Kyneton are the most stylistically interesting. Kyneton has no other building that is similar to this structure”.

Locals now fear the hall will continue to be neglected.

Former cadet at Kyneton, Michael Jerman, said the hall was originally home to the 4th/19th Light Horse Regiment, and when the Army Reserve pulled out of Kyneton, it was left to the Air Force Cadets.

“This organisation in Kyneton has inspired and encouraged hundreds of teenagers over the years,” Mr Jerman said.

“The squadron was the first to enrol female cadets in Australia in 1981 and encouraged leadership and discipline in a way that was a benefit to the whole community.

“The drill hall is an ideal location for the Air Cadets having their own location to parade on Friday nights.

“As a former long-term member of the Cadets, I am disappointed in the squadron relocation.”

A cadet parent, Louisa Denton, said the future of the hall was uncertain and information from the Department of Defence was lacking.

“We don’t know how long it will take for the work to be completed, or if anything is to be done at all,” Ms Denton said.

“As a community, we can’t allow this building to be lost or to continue to deteriorate, it is a historic landmark.

“We need to draw attention to its plight because it seems it has been forgotten, and so have our young people of 430 Squadron.”