Home > Our Place – Swan Hill’s iconic new building
Our Place – Swan Hill’s iconic new building

Our Place – Swan Hill’s iconic new building

Our Place will be a new building in Swan Hill that will be home to our art gallery, visitor services, the Pioneer Settlement entrance and a new Aboriginal cultural experience.

We are working hard to create Our Place as a learning, interpretation and information hub for our region. Our Place will be an iconic, central space for creativity, culture and tourism.

We have been working to develop site options and concept designs, and to gain the views of our community.

Feedback shared throughout recent community consultation will be shared with Councillors to review and consider.

We anticipate that Council will consider the community feedback as part of its deliberations on the siting of the Our Place building at a special meeting of Council to be held the 7 July.

The site options

There are two sites being considered for the development of Our Place.

  • Site option 1
    Inside the Pioneer Settlement, north of the PS Gem and near to where the rose garden and locomotive are currently located.
  • Site option 2
    Outside the Pioneer Settlement, south of the PS Gem in the area where the Art Gallery, Spoons Riverside and associated car parks are currently located.

Site considerations

For each of the sites, we have prepared a list of considerations that needs to be thought about when deciding which site and design option will achieve the best outcome.

This list isn’t exhaustive – there are many things to consider. This is just a starting point of things that you can consider, and things that Councillors will consider when they make a decision about the final site.

Concept designs

Two concept designs have been identified as feasible designs for further consideration, one design for each site.

  • Design option 1
    Proposed to be located on Site option 1
  • Design option 2
    Proposed to be located on Site option 2

More information

Following extensive feasibility assessment of five sites along the river, Council resolved in December 2018 to proceed with the development of the Our Place project inside the Pioneer Settlement, north of the PS Gem, in the area where the locomotive and rose garden are now located.

The feasibility study indicated that this site offered the best economic, social and financial benefit, including improving public access to this prime riverfront location and facilitating co-location of services.

In March 2019, funding was announced. The Our Place development is part of the larger $34.5 million Our Region Our Rivers project, delivering 29 projects across seven Local Government areas in proximity to Swan Hill Rural City Council.

In July 2019, an architect was engaged to develop concept designs for Our Place.

A community information session was hosted on 9 October 2019 to share these plans with the community.

At a Special Council Meeting in February 2020, Council received two petitions related to the development of Our Place.

Council resolved to carry out further community engagement and to investigate an alternative site for Our Place.

Community consultation was undertaken in February and feedback from the consultation was shared with Councillors at the March Ordinary Council Meeting.

During this time, Brandrick Architects was engaged to conduct design feasibility for the two sites. Brandrick has developed two design options - one design for each of the sites being considered.

Community consultation will be held in May 2020 to receive feedback and comment about the site options and concept designs.

In light of social distancing measures and other restrictions associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, a large part of the engagement and consultation with regards to the site options was hosted online and over the phone.

If you know someone that wants to know more about Our Place, they can give us a call on 5036 4755 or send an email to candis.fraser@swanhill.vic.gov.au.

A concept design is a high level and very basic design that helps us to understand what the style and layout of a building might look like, before the architect spends too much time on the detail. The concept design will help us understand;

  • the basic shape/s of the building
  • where the services will be located (i.e. Art Gallery on the upper level; Aboriginal cultural experience and education space on the ground level)
  • how the building will sit in the landscape (concept elevations for the two Our Place designs are included for each of the designs

Once the concept design has been approved, the architect will work to firm up the detail, including the exact size of each of the spaces, the final location of each service and details of the landscaping, like where trees, paths and lighting will be located.

We have been working with our architect to assess the design feasibility of the two proposed sites.

Two concept designs have been identified as feasible designs for further consideration, one design for each site.

The materials and colours of the building will be finalised during the detailed design development, after the site location of the building has been finalised.

However we wanted to share some of the materials and colours that are currently being considered as options.

These material and colour combinations can be considered for either of the design options, regardless of the site. You can let us know your preferences for the above colour/material palettes in the online survey about Our Place.

Check out our FAQ section below - it has answers to lots of the questions that we have been asked to date and we are continually updating the content.

If you have a question that’s not addressed in our FAQ or the information shared above, you can submit your question here.

All feedback will be shared with Councillors. The Councillors will make the decision on behalf of our community about the most suitable site for the project. All feedback will be taken into consideration.

What happens next?

The project team are working to collate all the information and feedback shared throughout the recent community consultation. This information will be shared with Councillors, who will then be given some time to consider all of the detail that has been collected.

It is expected that a final decision on the site will be made at a special meeting of Council to be held the 7 July 2020.

Once a decision has been made on the site, the architecture team will work closely with the project and construction teams to develop the detailed design.

Frequently asked questions

Our Place came about from our investigations into a planned new interpretive centre.

During these investigations it became clear that co-locating other tourism and cultural services would have benefits far beyond those that could be achieved with a standalone interpretive centre. In fact our work indicated a standalone interpretive centre would not be viable.

Co-locating our services on the currently proposed site will offer a cost saving for Council and the community, and provide an iconic, central space for creativity, culture and tourism.

It would achieve the much-needed art gallery upgrade.

We have been working for many years to advocate and seek funding for a new gallery building. The gallery is renowned for its collection, community engagement and outreach programs. It needs a modern space that befits that work, and that is large enough to store its valuable collection.

It allows us to create a new Pioneer Settlement entry - a goal that Council has had for many years.

The existing entrance was only ever meant to be temporary, and strategic planning dating back to 2010 suggests that a modern entry be built on Monash Drive.

It allows us to custom-design a modern information centre that caters to tourists in the digital age, like others are doing right around Australia. It is also worth noting that Council leases the current information centre building.

It allows us to tell stories of our Aboriginal culture, and we have and will continue to work with local Aboriginal people as we develop Our Place plans.

Our Place will further activate the riverfront area - a plus for locals and visitors.

At the Special Council Meeting on 11 February, Councillors resolved to:

  • Receive two petitions from the community about Our Place.
  • Carry out additional community engagement.
  • Investigate the feasibility of locating Our Place outside the Pioneer Settlement, on the land currently occupied by Spoons Restaurant, Swan Hill Regional Art Gallery and the associated carparking area.
  • Request the CEO prepare for the March Ordinary Council Meeting a report on the petitions’ requests, the outcomes of the engagement program and the investigation into the feasibility of an alternative site.
Echuca-based architect firm Brandrick were appointed to work with Council to develop new concept designs and to assess the feasibility of the two site options.

Community consultation to share feasibility considerations and concept design options for each site was hosted throughout May 2020.

Community feedback captured during this recent consultation will be shared with Councillors to consider, prior to making a final decision about the site.

The Federal Government (through its Regional Growth Fund) has committed $16.8 million to Our Region, Our Rivers – a joint infrastructure project of seven local councils to deliver river and lake front projects across the region.

The councils – Swan Hill, Gannawarra, Buloke, Loddon, Balranald, Murray River and Edward River – have all committed to contributing matched funding. This contribution can include grant funding from State Government, and some of our projects do (see below).

Our Place is the major project from the Our Region, Our Rivers suite of projects. All the projects to be delivered under Our Region, Our Rivers in the Swan Hill municipality are:

Project Funding sources Project total
Our Place - detailed design and construction, incorporating a new art gallery, Aboriginal cultural experience, visitor services and a new entrance to the Pioneer Settlement.
  • Regional Growth Fund - $5,473,020
  • Grant funding from Regional Development Victoria - $293,480
  • Council - $5,179,540
  • $10,946,040
Our Place - carparking and footpaths on Monash Drive
  • Regional Growth Fund - $1,125,000
  • Council - $1,125,000
  • $2,250,000
Landscaping for Our Place, including a bush tucker garden, plus Yamagata garden
  • Regional Growth Fund - $110,000
  • Council - $110,000
  • $220,000
Activating the Swan Hill riverfront
  • Regional Growth Fund - $250,000
  • Council - $250,000
  • $500,000
Robinvale walking trail and community centre art work
  • Regional Growth Fund - $21,500
  • Council - $21,500
  • $43,000
'Discover More' augmented reality walking trail for Robinvale
  • Regional Growth Fund - $5,000
  • Council - $5,000
  • $10,000
Robinvale riverfront pop-up cafe
  • Regional Growth Fund - $12,500
  • Council - $12,500
  • $25,000
Upgrade Bromley Road, Robinvale
  • Regional Growth Fund - $690,000
  • Grant funding from TAC - $70,000
  • Council - $620,000
  • $1,380,000
Boundary Bend walking trail
  • Regional Growth Fund - $13,000
  • Council - $13,000
  • $26,000
Activate River Towns project - Robinvale, Wemen, Beverford, Nyah, Piangil, including seating, shade and landscaping
  • Regional Growth Fund - $65,000
  • Council - $65,000
  • $130,000

This project will play a significant role in Swan Hill’s (and Australia’s!) economic recovery and the Federal Government, which is contributing half the funding for the project, are actively encouraging us to continue with the project as it supports jobs in our community.

In the past few years we have worked with key stakeholder groups as we have investigated and developed plans for Our Place.

There have been many key project milestones that have been well publicised through Council channels and in local media.

These included Council’s decision on Our Place’s location in December 2018, the funding announcement in March 2019 and the release of concept images in September 2019.

A series of community information and feedback sessions were held in February, and again in May 2020.

The project team will continue to consult with the community throughout each stage of the project.

If you have a specific question about Our Place or you would like to share feedback at any time, you can submit your question or feedback here.

Council engaged an independent investigation into the suitability of five proposed sites for Our Place. The investigation identified the current proposed location within the Pioneer Settlement as the site that offered the greatest potential.

The five sites investigated were:

  • At Horseshoe Bend, within the Pioneer Settlement
  • On the existing art gallery site
  • In River Plaza – an area identified in the Riverfront Masterplan between the end of McCrae Street and the park’s soundshell
  • On the GrainCorp site near Big4 caravan park
  • Adjacent to the gallery and linking to Spoons

Sites were discounted for a range of reasons, including ownership of these sites, the cost to demolish or relocate existing buildings and the strategic opportunity that co-locating these services offers to our community.

Initially, Council decided to build Our Place on the Pioneer Settlement site. Two petitions were received by Council in February and as a result, Councillors resolved to investigate an alternative site for Our Place – in the area currently occupied by the gallery, Spoons and the associated carpark.

Co-locating the information centre, gallery and Pioneer Settlement entrance will be a cost saving for Council, and in turn the community.

Co-locating these services at the Pioneer Settlement allows us to create a new Settlement entry - a goal that Council has had for many years.

The existing entrance was only ever meant to be temporary, and strategic planning dating back to 2010 suggests that a large, modern entry be built on Monash Drive.

We are aware that the Settlement – more than 50 years since opening - operates in a vastly different world and must adapt to continue to attract visitors, remain a competitive attraction in the region and to reduce ratepayers’ annual investment.

There are lots of things to consider when deciding where to build the building. Our Place is one of 10 projects funded by the Our Region Our Rivers grant, with the objective to open up the riverfront to community access - so it is important that the development achieves this.

The project must also include the four services that were originally proposed - the art gallery, Aboriginal cultural experience, visitor services and the entry to the Pioneer Settlement.

Each of the sites poses different advantages and challenges that need to be considered.. When Councillors make their decision about the location of the building, they will need to consider the advantages and challenges of each of site and the costs associated, feedback from the community; and social, financial, environmental and economic factors.

You will find a list of some of the basic considerations for each of the sites, here.


We want the Pioneer Settlement to continue and to thrive into the future. To compete in a competitive tourism market we have to adapt the Settlement to meet modern expectations, and believe that Our Place will help us to continue doing this.

We have already started adapting, with Heartbeat of the Murray laser light show the major improvement in recent years, along with the new Paragon Cafe and an increased focus on functions at the Lower Murray Inn.

For many years there have been plans in place to build a modern, permanent entrance to the Pioneer Settlement. The existing entrance was only ever meant to be temporary and was built as such.

The current proposal is to build Our Place on the area between the river and Monash Drive, where the Pioneer Settlement rose garden is now.

Exactly where it will sit in this area is still to be determined, as is the look of the building and the materials it is built from.

Echuca-based architect firm Brandrick has been appointed to progress the concepts and were chosen because they are familiar with, and can be sympathetic to, our climate, river environment and heritage values.

This location would require the locomotive to be moved. We will ask the community for their thoughts on where it should go.

For many years there have been plans in place to build a modern, permanent entrance to the Pioneer Settlement. The existing entrance was only ever meant to be temporary and was built as such.

Having this new building as part of the Settlement will provide undercover, climate controlled spaces for visitors in summer and winter - something that today's visitors need and expect.

Having a modern building as the Settlement's entrance will make the experience of stepping back in time very clear and defined, and will enhance the visitor experience.

There are many examples of historic tourist attractions moving this way.

At the Pioneer Settlement, the Heartbeat of the Murray laser light show has demonstrated how a modern infrastructure can be incorporated into this historic area. It has proven successful, with night-time visitors increasing from 6,600 to almost 19,000 last year.

The building concept plans for Our Place that were previously advertised are just that – concepts. They will change and future design development will consider feedback that we continue to receive.

Echuca-based architect firm Brandrick has been appointed to progress the concepts and were chosen because they are familiar with, and can be sympathetic to, our climate, river environment and heritage values. Brandrick have also been working with Council to explore feasibility for the alternate proposed site.

The existing restaurant building has been Horseshoe Bend for over 10 years and is a renowned restaurant in the Swan Hill region. It offers a unique riverfront dining experience that currently isn’t found anywhere else in our region.

Incorporating a new restaurant into the new Our Place building would ensure that the style of the precinct isn’t compromised and continues to offers a fresh aesthetic. It would also allow all of the services incorporated in the Our Place project to take advantage of this prime riverfront location, ensuring that the precinct is a drawcard for many more years to come.

As part of the Federal funding, budget has been allocated to upgrade the parking and road in Monash Drive.

This parking upgrade will proceed, regardless of the site of the building.

Currently, there is capacity for about 45 vehicles to park along the road on Monash Drive. Concepts for upgraded parking will be being designed and will include extra sealed car parks, plus dedicated long vehicle parking for buses and cars towing caravans.

Already, there are about 100,000 visitors to the Settlement and Gallery each year.

As we add Our Place to the long list of improvements along the riverfront – like the playground, Yamagata garden and concrete pathways - we expect that tourists will be immediately drawn to this area.

So, we believe it makes sense to have our information centre right there amongst it.

A new co-located building will allow our information services to work with our cultural and tourism services and to introduce modern ways of telling our region’s story and distributing information on our region’s offerings. We will become the first information centre in the Murray region to apply international best practice.

It is also worth noting that Council leases the current information centre, so we anticipate long term savings to the ratepayer by incorporating the information centre into this new building.

Plans for Our Place include increased parking for cars, caravans and buses, making it easier to access than the existing building.

The centre will still sell tickets for all Town Hall and other events and shows as it does now, as well as tickets for the Settlement and Heartbeat of the Murray.

We know the current gallery building was a community effort. It was opened in 1987, the result of a tireless community campaign to raise funds and lobby for government support.

It is a beautiful building and with recent improvements, is ideal for commercial or community use. We don't know what that use will be yet.

The Swan Hill bridge and Our Place will both happen - it is not a case of one or the other.

Funding for Our Place is from the Federal Government for "major transformational projects that support long - term economic growth and create jobs". It is new money that Council worked hard to achieve – we joined with six neighbouring councils in Victoria and New South Wales to attract $16.8 million for riverfront projects. The councils will match the Federal contribution.

While we were applying for this funding, Council continued advocacy for a new Swan Hill bridge. The Federal Government has committed $60 million and Council is working with Murray River Council, RMS and VicRoads to finalise a location for a new bridge.

Council is also working with the Swan Hill Needs a New Hospital community committee to advocate for action on a new Swan Hill hospital.

The Federal Government has committed some funding for a new Swan Hill hospital and the committee will continue campaigning the State Government to complete and release feasibility studies and a business case, and ultimately to fund the new hospital.

By not redeveloping the current Art Gallery building, there would be an opportunity to repurpose the gallery building at a later date. This would offer potential for future financial, social and economic benefit, and further development of the precinct at a later time.

It would also mean minimal disruption to the gallery during the construction of Our Place if it occurred on Site option 2.

Ongoing access to the rear car park and lodges would provide long term opportunities for further development of the lodges site as well.

No decision has been made about the type of operations that would occupy the gallery building after Our Place is built.

Ask us a question or have your say

If you have a specific question about Our Place, you can send it to us, and we will respond to via your preferred contact method.  You can also have your say about Our Place.