Gallery, Studios, Cafe Redevelopment 2019-2020

Detailed Update
from the Board
December 2018


     For Frequently Asked
     Questions click here

Burrinja - Context

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.

Internal Redevlopment 2019-2020

Commencing in May 2019, approximately half of Burrinja’s internal spaces will undergo an exciting $3m redesign and refit.  With completion scheduled for May 2020, we will provide to our region a greatly improved gallery that can accommodate works from major lending institutions as well as our local artists, and be able to accommodate more than twice as many studio artists in a range of purpose built spaces. There’ll be a casual café space that is integrated into the foyer, the outside and the galleries, and a much improved first floor performance and function space for music and events. 

YES! We will still be open! 

Burrinja will remain open during the rebuild. The Theatre and its services will remain accessible and we will provide a theatre program for 2019 along with the usual school and community shows. We will be able to operate a foyer bar for performances, but meal and catering services will not be available.

Our gallery, studio, café, workshop and first floor spaces will be closed for refurbishment. 

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

Our Box Office and administration will continue to operate, albeit on reduced hours


What is Happening, and Why? 

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


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

This redevelopment will remove existing roadblocks, opening up the inherent creative connections between areas, providing improved accessibility to these activities and their social benefits for all members of our community. It will prioritise shared social experiences, enabling connections to be made where now barriers exist.

Funding the Project 

Council successfully applied for $1.25m from the Victorian State Government’s Growing Suburbs Fund and will contribute a matching $1.25m to the project. Some further Asset Renewal 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.

What scale of works is proposed? 

With the exception of remodelling and updating the entrance within the same ‘footprint’, 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 or event numbers.

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

Project Vision

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’.

Separation of Café and Music / Function Venue

With the scope of works now including 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 will produce better long term sustainable outcomes for the venue, for patrons and financially over coming decades. 

The first floor space provides an excellent opportunity to create a separate music, performance and function venue which is larger then the current cafe, with adjoining bar and kitchen, while we are able to provide a smaller separate day café space in the ground floor foyer area which will also be our foyer bar. 

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. 

On the first floor we will remodel and update the performance, function and multi-purpose space along with the kitchen area. A space that already caters reasonably well for performances – the refurbishment will create an updated performance and function space that can seat up to 140 patrons with existing adjoining dressing room / green room and toilets. The adjoining kitchen will have its size expanded slightly to include bar service capability. 


See our online FAQ for more information about music nights post-redevelopment. 

Strategic Outcomes

A summary of the project’s strategic outcomes includes:

• Increased accessibility and functionality of this important community asset 

• Meet increased demand from artists for space to develop creative industries practice and outcomes. 

• Contribute positively to the centre’s social impact and community engagement within the region 

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

• Increased regional profile for the Cultural Centre and facility – both locally and for tourism. 

• Meeting the demands on the facility created by increased engagement with programs. 

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

• Reduce energy costs and associated environmental / carbon footprint


Want more info? 

Check out of FAQ below, or for other 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?

Mosaic arch circa 2011 created by Jenny Rowe, Joy Serwylo, Janine Sutton & artists from d.ranged

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 2011 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.

Please read a full commentary on the creation of a new entrance and its cultural context from the Board and Project Reference Group HERE


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 ground floor Café space. The existing first floor multi-purpose space will be refurbished including entrances, lighting, air conditioning and fixtures to create an improved performance and function space that can seat up to 140 patrons plus stage area for performers.

Music nights will move into this updated space. We understand 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 seen as a separate entity.

There will also be an option to program some acoustic ‘Sunday afternoon’ music in the downstairs café /foyer 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?

Dinning options are likely to be more limited. While we will look to still provide catering for some performance, for many  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.