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Balcony safety changes needed after 2017 collapse

Thursday 16 September 2021

The deaths of two women in a balcony collapse in 2017 has led Victorian Coroner Paresa Spanos to call for greater vigilance in the construction industry regarding the safety of the structures. 

Cheryl Taylor, 59 and Sarah Kajoba, 37, sustained fatal injuries when the timber balcony of a Doncaster East home they were attending a Christmas party at collapsed on 16 December 2017. Ms Taylor died at the scene, while Ms Kajoba died at the Royal Melbourne Hospital a few hours later.  

The coronial investigation focused on how the balcony, originally built in 1987, failed — if it was built to original industry standards or complied with the standards in place at the time of the collapse.

During the inquest, Her Honour heard evidence from an independent engineering witness and technical experts from Manningham City Council and the Victorian Building Authority (VBA) regarding the original build and the regulatory standards for construction and maintenance. 

In the finding, released for the first time today, Coroner Spanos concluded that the load beam was undersized at the time of construction, and combined with poor maintenance, provided inadequate support for the balcony. 

Her Honour also found that the balcony did not comply with the plans approved by Manningham City Council in 1986, nor did it meet relevant industry standards for 1987 or 2017. 

In addition to the deaths of Ms Taylor and Ms Kajoba, 34 people presented to Victorian emergency wards with injuries from balcony collapses during the period March 2004 to June 2019 — highlighting the need for increased awareness and safety measures. 

To prevent similar deaths, Coroner Spanos has recommended that the VBA:

  1. promotes among registered builders and building surveyors a practice of ensuring that balconies associated with residential premises are subject to mandatory inspections at either the frame stage or at the final stage and that the inspection is specifically directed to the compliance of the balcony with currently applicable standards. 
  2. continues its efforts to improve public awareness of the need for regular inspections and competent maintenance of balconies, particularly where they are of timber construction or have timber structural members.
  3. continues its efforts to develop a specific standard addressing the design and durability of exposed structures in response to the 2018 paper referred to it by the Chair of the Building Regulations Advisory Committee. 
  4. considers developing a system for:
  • the certification of newly constructed balconies as to their maximum distributed load capacity.
  • requiring an alert to all users of newly constructed balconies in the form of signage age to be permanently affixed to the balcony with an appropriately worded alert to owners and occupiers not to exceed that capacity and to be mindful of the need for regular inspection and competent maintenance.   

Copies of the findings can be access at:

Finding into the death of Cheryl Taylor –

Finding into the death of Sarah Kajoba –

Media contact:
Claudia Hodgens 
Strategic Communications Manager
P: 0407 403 371