5 minute read

Victoria Police's new HQ

Editorial: Grant Condon

Photography: Jesse Wray-McCann

Fifteen years after a concept for a modern and united precinct was first drawn, Victoria Police will find its new home in 2020.

The first of an eventual 5,000 staff have begun migrating to the new Victoria Police Centre (VPC) in Melbourne following the completion of the project to consolidate the force’s CBD operations into one highly-secure location.

The state-of-the-art 39-storey skyscraper at 311 Spencer Street, developed by Cbus Property, is the final piece of the new centralised precinct, following the 2015 opening of the 313 Spencer Street Police Complex, home of the Crime, Intelligence Covert Support, Counter Terrorism, North West Metro and Forensic commands.

The new centre is the first purpose-built police headquarters in the state since the iconic Russell Street building was constructed in the 1940s.

Victoria Police vacated Russell Street in 1995, shifting close to 2,000 employees to a renovated World Trade Centre.

The three-tower World Trade Centre succeeded in bringing together divisions and departments dotted across Melbourne under one roof, but 25 years on, Victoria Police has outgrown the Docklands complex.

"We’ve changed a lot in 25 years and this purpose-built modern facility will mean our frontline resources and support services will be better placed than ever before to serve the community,” said Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton, who officially opened the new VPC before his retirement from Victoria Police.

“Along with exponential growth in our software and computer intelligence capability, our physical presence has swelled.

“Protective Services Officers, the Critical Incident Response Team (CIRT), the Public Order Response Team (PORT) and the many investigative roles that exist in the online space, just to name a few, all didn’t exist 25 years ago, yet many of these units that come with staff and equipment operate and deploy out of our headquarters.

“By being in a modern facility, these units will have more space to work and a central CBD location in Melbourne will cut down our response times. Incidents that CIRT and PORT have attended in the city have shown every second can be vital.

“There is also a demand on our State Police Operations Centre that we’ve never experienced, with our response to events such as 2019-20 bushfires and the coronovirus (COVID-19) pandemic showing how important these facilities are. Upgrades to this centre are going to improve our oversight and response to large scale events.

“The police that work in the precinct won’t be the only people to see the benefits, the public will too.”

The new tower stands on the site of the old Australia Post Melbourne Mail Centre and more than two million working hours went into its construction.

When launched in 1995, the World Trade Centre VPC spruiked its two billiard tables and two automatic teller machines in a canteen area as key modern features, however the new tower has facilities more befitting a 2020 police force.

The total floor space of tower one is a staggering 65,000 square metres, bringing the total size of the complex to 94,000m2 when including the second 313 tower.

Included in this is the 24-hour Melbourne West Police Station and custody operations, now the largest facility of its type in the southern hemisphere.

Security has also been considerably upgraded in the new facility, with layered security zones, blast and ballistic treatments, increased surveillance and facial recognition technologies integrated into the build.

Other specialised operational facilities have been included to ensure an improved critical response, along with a media centre and a brand new Victoria Police Museum.

A total of 600 car parks have also been included and a helipad crowns the five-star energy-rated building, offering the police Air Wing a secure landing area, centrally located within Melbourne’s CBD.

While the new VPC will serve as a meeting place for police across the state with extensive collaboration and conference spaces, stations outside of Melbourne will also receive additional equipment as office furnishings and technology from the old building are repurposed and distributed across the organisation.

Information Technology and Infrastructure Services Deputy Secretary, Scott Arbuthnot said all 26 Victoria Police commands and departments that will come to call the new VPC home had their say in the design.

“We wanted to foster a culture of collaboration and excellence through improved integration of the various commands and departments. Through more effective usage of shared facilities, I think we have achieved this,” he said.

“There are five bridges and pathways connecting the two buildings, so while there are two separate towers, it’s truly one effective police precinct.”

Mr Arbuthnot said while most members of the public will never see inside the building itself, the community will still feel its benefits.

“Aside from the operational benefits the precinct provides to police, a new media centre will help police get important messages to the community faster, the improved facilities will allow our first responders to attend incidents sooner and a brand new museum will help bring the history of Victoria Police to the public in a modern way,” he said.

With Victoria Police occupying the building on a 30-year lease, CCP Ashton said he hoped the new headquarters will contribute to the legacy of the organisation.

“It was important we commemorate Victoria Police’s rich history throughout the precinct,” CCP Ashton said.

“There is memorabilia and dedications throughout the building to inspire a sense of pride and help employees connect with, and honour, the significant sacrifices and contributions of past and present generations.

“While the past is acknowledged, this new centre will also allow our force to grow and modernise as needed.

“I hope when Victorians see the tower in the heart of the city and the illuminated police signs high in Melbourne’s skyline, they’re reminded and comforted by the fact that Victoria Police is always here, working hard to protect the community and uphold the law.”