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Gallery, Studios, Cafe Redevelopment 2019-2020

     For Frequently Asked
     Questions click here


Over the past two decades, Burrinja Cultural Centre has developed into an iconic cultural facility in the Hills Region of the Yarra Ranges. Burrinja is one of a suite of cultural facilities Yarra Ranges developed to build social connection through creativity, arts and heritage.


The aim of the project is to complete works in areas of the complex untouched during the performing arts redevelopment of 2011. The project seeks to transform functionally distinct yet interdependent creative spaces at Burrinja. It will reconfigure many currently ‘ad hoc’, tired and disconnected areas into a flowing active and more usable space. 

The redevelopment will transform Burrinja galleries; artist studios and making spaces; café, hospitality and music performance space; the first floor ‘black box’ multi-purpose space, along with the main entranceway to the building.


Council has successfully applied for $1.25m from the Victorian State Government’s Growing Suburbs Fund and will contribute $1.25m to the project. Some further Asset Refurbishment and Environmental Sustainability funding will also contribute funds to a $3m total project. 

Approximately 14 jobs will be generated by Council’s investment in the construction of the facility.

Read Funding Announcement Media Release HERE - December 2017


Burrinja as both a regional cultural hub and venue has distinct, activated ‘villages’ of creativity – the galleries, studios, café and music venue – but lacks the internal pathways that connect these villages. This redevelopment will remove the existing roadblocks, opening up the inherent creative connections between them, transforming cul-de-sacs into intuitive pathways that provide vastly improved accessibility to these activities and their social benefits for all members of our community.

Existing conditions

See below for examples of current internal building conditions that we are seeking to improve.

The new development will create an improved capability for social and cultural change through creative engagement – with positive social impact. It will prioritise shared social experiences, enabling connections to be made where now barriers exist.



With the exception of the potential to remodel the entrance slightly and provide some extended outdoor cover for patrons arriving and leaving, all of the works proposed are internal only.

This project does not seek to extend the building or to increase its capacity for patron numbers on site, or to increase the number of events.

Rather it seeks to greatly improve existing spaces and utilisation to enhance the experience of all patrons, visitors and users of this cultural facility.

New Design Principals

To see proposed New Design Principals to open up and connect spaces click here


Creativity is the common thread that runs through Burrinja’s spaces. Whilst each space is carefully developed to effectively deliver a specific service, all spaces are integrated to deliver the collective creative vision. This vision extends to creative making, presenting, performing, exploring, working and playing. The Burrinja environment attracts and encourages social connection, enabling us to ‘build community through arts’.

The vision is one of transparency and openness. The creation of a relationship of spaces, uses and functions that when taken together are more than the sum of their individual parts. The design outcomes shall prioritise equally the functional effectiveness, usability and requirements of each space with the interconnectedness between those spaces physically, conceptually and creatively.

The design solutions shall answer the question: how can our spaces be better configured and designed to talk to each other, drawing them into the same creative narrative that is ‘Burrinja’ – a cultural hub for the community of the Dandenong Ranges?


With the budget and scope of works expanded part way through this project to now include the first floor black box/ multi-purpose space and kitchen an opportunity has arisen for the first time in twenty years to consider alternative ways to program and operate venues in the facility that may produce better long term sustainable outcomes for the venue, for patrons and financially over coming decades. 

The project architects have found inherent contradictions in the original design brief that asked for a combined ‘open, casual, smaller day time gallery café space integrated with and open to the foyer’ (approx. 40 patrons), along with a ‘larger, acoustically isolated music performance/ function venue’ for up to 120 patrons. These are contradictory uses that the existing space has always struggled with.

Alternatively, the first floor space now provides an excellent opportunity to create a larger, separate music/ performance/ function venue with adjacent commercial kitchen, while we are able to provide a smaller separate day café space in the ground floor foyer area. 

After much consideration and further reviews of the benefits of both design options, the Project Group and Architects are now pursuing this new design option to take into detailed design and build.

Design changes in separating café/ performance facilities 

1. Day Gallery Café: 

   a. The day café will comprise an area that can seat up to 40 patrons. There will be no separation from the foyer and other areas. It will be fully integrated into the expanded, welcoming public spaces. 

2. Performance, Function and Multi-purpose space + commercial kitchen – first floor

   a. A space that already caters reasonably well for performances – the black box space will be refurbished including entrances, foyer and fitout to create a much better performance and function space that can seat up to 140 patrons plus stage. 

   b. Adjoining dressing room and toilets create an excellent existing green room facility for performers. 

   c. Adjoining kitchen will be upgraded to become the new ‘commercial catering kitchen’ for the entire facility. It will have its size expanded slightly. 

3. New 25 person activity space – ground floor

   a. The existing ground floor kitchen and bar area will be transformed into a functional 20 to 25 person activity and meeting space – where workshops and the like can be run as an alternative to the large first floor space. 


As a result of achieving the desired design outcomes, Council, Burrinja and other government partners will achieve the following strategic outcomes:

 1. Increased accessibility to and functionality of existing community asset 

2. Meet the demands on the facility created by increased engagement with programs. 

3. Contribute positively to and grow the centre’s existing social impact and community engagement within the region 

4. Be able to better meet targets and fulfil strategic plan and program plan 

5. Respond to increased demand from artists for space to develop creative industries practice and outcomes. 

6. Increased regional profile for the Cultural Centre and facility – including local/ community and tourism. 

7. Increased economic activity for artists, performers and for the cultural centre. 

8. Address long term issues identified for rectification in the Asset Management Plan

9. Contribute positively to the centre’s cultural narrative

10. Reduce energy costs and associated environmental / carbon footprint


Internal works are scheduled to commence in January 2019, with project completion scheduled for February 2020.


Burrinja will remain operational during 2019, but in a limited capacity. 

Due to the extent of works, only the Theatre and its support services will remain accessible and operational. We will continue to provide a theatre program for 2019, albeit reduced in scope, and with very little programmed for the first four months of the year. 

School shows will be able to operate during the latter part of the year. 

Our gallery, studio, café, workshop and first floor spaces will be closed for refurbishment. We will be able to operate a foyer bar for performances, but meal and catering services will not be available. 

Burrinja will continue to manage and support many programs and events throughout the community, such as the Dandenong Ranges Open Studios, utilising and alternative gallery space, and events like the Belgrave Lantern Parade. 

We continue our support and auspice of multiple arts and cultural projects, both those ongoing and new projects that are currently in development. 

Our Box Office and administration will continue to operate, albeit on reduced hours during the year – TBA. 

For inquiries regarding this project please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 


FAQ – Frequently Asked Questions


1.When will building works commence, and how long will they take?

Building works are scheduled to commence in May 2019.

The project is due for practical completion in April 2020.

Visual Arts Programming, Studios and the Café will be able to recommence in May 2020.

Note: these dates are a few months later than those first anticipated.


2.Will Burrinja stay Open during the building works, and how?

Yes, the Theatre at Burrinja will remain operational during the building works, with a 2019 theatre program, along with the regular school and dance school season from July to December 2019. We will be able to operate a foyer bar for performances, but meal and catering services will not be available.


3.What parts of the centre will be Open to the public during the redevelopment?

The theatre, box office and administration areas will be operational during building works.

Our term-based classes such as ‘Creative Movement’ and ‘Rainbows and Sparkles’ will run at Burrinja during terms 1 & 2 in 2019, with alternative venues being provided thereafter.

The galleries, studios, café, workshop and first floor spaces are being redeveloped, and will be closed from May 2019 until May 2020. (Note: the first floor ‘black box’ will be operational through until September 2019).


4.How will patrons get into the building, and what about parking?

Access to the building for patrons will change during the redevelopment period. We will utilise the front doors, the lift, and the café entrance at different times of the build.

Car parking will not be affected.

Car parking on Matson Drive will be expanded by an extra 28 car parking spaces at some time during the early part of 2019, as part of our updated planning permit.


5.Will the building itself be expanded by these works?

No, all the works are internal to the existing building, except for a minor redevelopment to update the front entrance of the building. This will remain within the footprint of the existing building façade.


6.Will the existing entrance and mosaic remain?

The entrance will be remodelled to create a more dynamic, inviting entrance that can better accommodate large audiences for theatre shows. As part of this the mosaic that was created by local artists on the brick work entrance in 2001 will need to be removed along with all of that old structure. As this mosaic was created directly onto the brickwork, rather than on a removable secondary surface, sadly it won’t be able to be reclaimed as an ‘intact’ work for relocation.


7.Will Open Studios still be going ahead and will any of it be at Burrinja?

Yes, Dandenong Ranges Open Studios will still be going ahead (March 30-31, 2019). However the venue for the group exhibition in 2019 will be the Sherbrooke Arts Society gallery on the Belgrave-Monbulk Road.

With a later than expected start to building, a number of our studio artists will still be in residence at Burrinja, and we there will be an activation of the Burrinja Gallery spaces during Open Studios. More info to follow!


8.How do people apply to get a studio in 2020?

With a built-for-purpose redevelopment and expansion of available studios, we expect many people will be interested in our new full-time, part-time and casual studio facilities.

During 2019 we will update our Studios policy and application process, with applications opening some 6 months out from project completion.

But if this sounds like your kind of place, be sure to fill in a Studios Expression of Interest with information about your creative practice, using this link here.

We’ll then be sure to get in touch with you once applications open. Further information is on the Studios web page here, or you may email Toni Main our cultural development coordinator if you have further questions: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Please note that filling in our EOI does not guarantee you a future studio placement, and is not an actual application. But it will put you on our radar!


9.What other Burrinja programs will run during the development?

We will continue to support programs and events such as Belgrave Lantern Parade, Belgrave Survival Day, Hillscene LIVE, Growing Pains Initiative and many other artist-led projects during the year, including providing auspice services for artists applying for funded projects.

We will also seek alternative temporary venues for some of our popular term-based classes and programs from terms 3 & 4, 2019 onward, and will notify those participants as more information is available.


10.Will the new cafe be open 6 days a week?

Refer to the section on our redevelopment project page about the Cafe redevelopment plans. Our plan is to have a new, smaller, more casual ‘gallery-café’ open 6 days per week, operating separately to the music program.


11.Will the great music nights Burrinja’s café has been known for continue to operate and support local musicians?

Yes, they will. But they will run separately from the Café space and its management. The existing first floor multipurpose space will be completely refurbished including entrances, foyer and fitout to create a much better performance and function space that can seat up to 140 patrons with a larger stage and good audio-visual facilities.

Music nights will move into this remodelled space, and we know that retaining a unique character for the space and accessibility to emerging as well as established musicians will be important. We are looking at a number of different ways for music to be programmed into this space. Our aims is for the music program to become more integrated with the whole of the cultural centre’s programming, rather than being a separate entity, and we believe this will bring benefits.

We will also have an option to program some acoustic ‘Sunday afternoon’ music in the downstairs café space from time to time, opening out into the garden on sunny days.


12.Will the music nights still be offered as a ‘dinner and show’ experience?

Our main catering kitchen is also moving to the first floor, opening out onto the performance space, so for those nights that suit we can continue to offer a full 'dinner and show' experience. For some performances we are more likely focus on the music and offer much simpler refreshments.

The space will be refurbished with a directly accessible licensed bar.


13.Will Burrinja still be offering pre-show dinners after the redevelopment?

In most instances no. We will be providing an upgraded, better foyer bar location and expanded refreshment options. However in most cases the pre-show dinners have low take-up from patrons. We’ll be looking to form some

partnerships with the many terrific local restaurants that have opened in Upwey to offer our patrons some great pre-show meal options.


14.Will the building be more energy efficient and environmentally sustainable?

Yes, by a long margin. Sustainable design features will include greatly increased insulation, the use of LED lighting throughout including all gallery lighting, the use of fresh air ventilation in studios and other spaces – reducing the use of air conditioning, and the installation of more efficient air conditioning in older parts of the building; all in addition to the recently added array of solar panels on the theatre roof, which will be expanded to include other roof areas once they are upgraded.


15.How will the redevelopment affect the gallery spaces?

Burrinja Gallery will undergo an upgrade of climate control and will be fitted with energy-efficient LED lighting. This will decrease current energy consumption and ensure the gallery meets museum-standard climate and humidity control levels. This is important for the preservation of works on display as well as Collection works, and is essential for us to be able to present works on loan from major collecting institutions (such as the NGV) and to bring in national touring exhibitions.

While the gallery lay-out will change slightly and some walls will be straightened, the overall display area will not change much. However, the gallery will have an improved glass walled entrance clearly visible from the entrance, foyer and other aspects of the building. It will also ‘connect’ visually to the outside environment.

The collection storeroom will be moved and will receive a window, where visitors will be able to get a “behind the scenes’ view from the foyer.

Our exhibition program will continue to present a range of local, community, emerging, mid-career, established and high profile/ touring artists and exhibitions.


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