Din l-Art Ħelwa has started restoration work on the Australian Bungalow in Ghammieri, a delicate project which is expected to take at least 12 months.
Similar wooden buildings are found in many areas of Australia where they were designed to make the most of the climate and environment. They were dispatched in ‘kit form’ to all Commonwealth countries – but there is only one in Malta.
It was sent here from Australia in the 1920s to give prospective migrants the opportunity to familiarise themselves with their future environment and to learn timber construction methods. The Bungalow was made of deal, with corrugated iron sheeting used for the roof*. It was re-assembled at the private Bugeja Technical Institute Istituto Tecnico Bugeja) in Ħamrun.
By June 1929, 137 trainees had passed through the training centre, 39 of whom went to Australia. Around 1930, the Bungalow was transferred to the experimental farm in Ghammieri, where it was used as a lecture room by the Agricultural Services and Rural Development Division Department.
The building fell into disrepair and its plight was first highlighted by the Australian High Commission during the mid-1980s. In early 2002, ICOMOS Australia made contact with ICOMOS Malta, but it was not until 2018 that Din l-Art Ħelwa confirmed that it would be taking over restoration of the site. It was finally granted guardianship of the site in 2022, for a 15-year period.
The painstaking restoration work involves dismantling the Bungalow, restoring and replacing any missing elements, and re-assembling them. The plans are to relocate the Bungalow to the Ta Qali Family Park where Government identified a site more easily accessible to the public. Work on the new location will be starting shortly. The work is being sponsored by the Melita Foundation and the Good Causes Fund, however, considerably more funds are required to complete the project.
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*Source: ICOMOS Australia