‘Schonell Theatre at University of Queensland’s St Lucia campus closed due to asbestos fears.’
The Courier Mail – Stephanie Bennett – May 14, 2021
A historic Brisbane theatre due to celebrate its 50th anniversary next week has been suddenly closed after it was revealed asbestos in the roof could no longer be contained effectively.
Asbestos fears have resulted in the immediate closure of a historic University of Queensland theatre at its St Lucia campus after positive test results were returned this week.
Building 22 including the Schonell Theatre, Geoffrey Rush Theatre and hospitality outlets the Pizza Cafe and Chatime were closed from 6pm Thursday night, with experts set to review whether the site can be saved over the coming weeks.
UQ Vice-Chancellor Deborah Terry said asbestos levels in the Schonell Theatre, due to celebrate its 50th anniversary next week, were regularly monitored, but the positive results were an indication that measures to contain asbestos in the theatre’s roof were no longer completely effective.
She said there was a chance the Schonell Theatre, which has controversially been slated to be demolished as part of a future redevelopment of the student union complex, may not reopen.
Some current and former UQ students have been vocally opposed to the theatre’s removal, but bids to protect it under heritage laws have been unsuccessful.
Professor Terry said she understood the news of the immediate closure was “very sudden”, and at a time when consultation on the new complex had commenced.
“Given the health and safety of the UQ community is the number one priority, I felt an obligation to accept the advice to temporarily close the theatre to allow for immediate clearing of impacted areas and a detailed evaluation to occur,” she said.
“I hope people understand that our priority is to provide a safe and healthy environment for our staff and students, and those who come to our campus – and this is something we cannot compromise on.
“The comprehensive assessment will take approximately six weeks, and we then expect to be able to make a decision on whether the theatre can reopen.”
Testing results received by UQ on Wednesday showed 17 positive findings of asbestos dust in Theatre 1, but no evidence of asbestos in the air.
Professor Terry said independent experts Environmental & Laboratory Solutions confirmed there was no health risk for those who had recently visited the theatre, or the occupants of the site.
“I have also requested ongoing air quality monitoring, and ELS have been commissioned to commence cleaning while UGL undertakes a comprehensive assessment of the theatre’s electrical infrastructure and advises on potential remediation efforts,” she said.