Edith Cowan’s home facing the wrecking ball

04. 945NEWS

• Edith Cowan’s family home is in line to be demolished. Photo by Steve Grant

THE 130-year-old family home of Australia’s first woman parliamentarian is in line to be demolished to make way for a seven-storey hotel.

Plans for the $10 million hotel at 31 Malcolm Street, West Perth were presented to Perth council’s design panel last week, with the owners of the property arguing the existing building, which was home to Edith Cowan and her husband James, is in “poor condition” and unoccupied.

Cowan took office in 1921 and earned a reputation as a philanthropist and powerful advocate for women, children and prostitutes, and today her face is on the $50 note.

The house was put up for listing in 2006 but the owners, Messrs F and CC Cardaci, objected and it was dropped by then-lord mayor Peter Nattrass and councillors Rob Butler, Janet Davidson, Eleni Evangel (now Perth MP), Chris Hardy, Max Kay (now president of the National Trust), Michael Sutherland (now Mt Lawley MP), Judy McEvoy, and current lord mayor Lisa Scaffidi.

Edith Cowan University vice chancellor Steve Chapman supports retaining the property. “Edith Cowan worked tirelessly to improve conditions for women, children and the poor and she believed education played a key role in this improvement. She was also Australia’s first female parliamentarian. As such, her home has immense historical, social and cultural value to WA and it should be retained.

“ECU takes this view following our decision to help save Edith Cowan’s cottage at 71 Malcolm Street from demolition, and it’s relocation in 1996 to our Joondalup Campus.”

Meanwhile young planner Matthew Rogers and Stuart Doran from Perth Urbanist have started up a petition at http://www.perthurbanist.com/edith-cowan-house-petition calling on heritage minister Albert Jacob to block full demolition of the property.

“We strongly support a property owner’s right to develop on their land, however given that this site carries cultural and historical significance to many, we ask that other development avenues be explored such as retention of various heritage elements of the building,” the petition letter reads.

The project’s price just comes under the threshold to be determined by the state’s development assessment panel, so any future development approval will go to Perth councillors for a decision.

by DAVID BELL

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