images: Luke David
Bent Street spoke with Jude Munro, Chair of the Pride Centre, located in the Melbourne beachside suburb of St Kilda. The Centre is scheduled to open at the end of 2020.
Jude—thanks for taking the time to speak with Bent Street. A Pride Centre could mean a lot of things to many, but what does this Pride Centre mean for you?
For me, the Pride Centre is a visible and tangible ‘Coming Out’ of the whole LGBTI+ community. The wider community can’t ignore its presence and what it signifies. And the Centre will be a beacon of hope for LGBTI+ people who live in countries quite close to Australia, who don’t enjoy the same rights as us.
The Centre is also a capital investment, which, over time will give us a base to raise funds to make other investments on behalf of the LGBTI+ community. So, I can imagine supported accommodation for young, homeless LGBTI + community members, and the Pride Centre might be able to assist in kicking off the capital required to get that happening. There is potential for a transformation of this section of Fitzroy Street St Kilda into a San Francisco-esque Castro quarter for Melbourne’s LGBTI + community.
So the Centre is about possibilities—we have a desire to make the Pride Centre greater than the parts of our community taken individually, through the opportunities to collaborate through their physical presence in the one building.
Tell us about some of the groups and organisations that will be located within the Pride Centre.
We will have a number of organisations permanently tenanted at the Pride Centre. So, Hares and Hyenas bookshop who network widely across the rainbow community and run interesting discussion evenings and workshops, they will be based on the Ground Floor. There is the internationally significant Australian Lesbian and Gay Archives, and the Pride Centre administration will be housed on the Mezzanine floor.
JOY 94.9 FM radio which has about 300 volunteers a week and broadcasts to Melbourne, and digitally has a worldwide audience. JOY 94.9 FM broadcasts selected programs to 75 community radio stations across Australia giving them access to LGBTI programming. JOY will be based on the first floor of the Pride Centre.
Melbourne Queer Film Festival, Australian Multicultural GLBTI Council, Koorie Pride Network, Transgender Victoria, Switchboard and Star Health (rainbow-ticked local primary health) will all have their administration based at the Pride Centre on the first, second and third floors.
Then there is Minus18 which runs formals for young people in Adelaide, Sydney and Melbourne, who will be based on the first floor.
Monash Gender Clinic and Thorne Harbour Health will offer a variety of counselling, allied health and medical services from the third floor of the Centre. In addition, we expect to run everything from Pilates in the morning to live theatre and performances in the evenings at the Theatrette.
The Centre will be jumping.
Jude, how did you come to be involved with the Pride Centre?
I was asked to chair the board back in July 2016. When I was asked by Ro Allen, on behalf of the State Government back in July 2016, it was a request I jumped at, and I couldn’t refuse because for me it was 44 years on from co-founding Gay Lib back in 1972, and there are awesome things you get asked to do that you just have to say yes to.
Tell us a little bit about the architectural competition for the Centre.
Professor Dimity Reed prepared the architectural brief after extensive consultation with our future tenants. We then ran a national architectural competition from September 2017 supported by the Royal Australian Institute of Architects. This led to a blind shortlisting of four top entries and the Architectural Competition was won by a combined entry from Grant Amon, and James Brierly both St Kilda based architects, with James’ firm also having a Shanghai base.
Pride Centre | image: Luke David
What are some of the architectural characteristics of the new building?
The building is inspired by a number of themes and motifs, with no one theme dominating. The first is the striking use of the beehive, and the honeycomb of light that runs from the front to the rear of the building. The second is the use of the motif of the eggshell and the breaking through of the egg to allow new life to emerge and ‘come out’. This eggshell gives the shape of the Central atrium. It will end up being inscribed by local Aboriginal people in the tradition of ancient emu egg etchings. The third influence is the St Kilda neo-Moorish influence, derived from Spain (La Mezquita, Cordoba) and Morocco. The fourth motif that plays into the building is the tradition of Melbourne’s laneways and arcades evident in the first floor shopfronts. The building has a magnificent double height portico and is awe-inspiring in its design.
What have been some of the challenges or concerns in creating the Centre?
There have been stacks of challenges. Almost everything has been difficult, but nonetheless a solution has always emerged from the difficulties. We have had a skill-based board that has thought through every difficulty and, in my words, ‘kept marching on’. We have managed to persuade others to contribute the finances, we’ve run fundraisers, we have had lots of pro bono support—it must now be close to $2M in pro bono or low bono support. We’ve raised $1M through the founders fund and close to $1M in philanthropic fund raising.
Practical completion of the Pride Centre is now the 18 December 2020 and we are expecting the first of our resident organisations to move in the New Year. Hansen Yuncken have paid attention to the detailing and high finish required in the building. The Pride Centre is iconic and will be an international beacon of hope.
Jude Munro AO was one of the founding members of the Gay Lib movement in Melbourne in the early 1970s and was awarded the Order of Australia in 2010 for distinguished service to local government.