Melbourne – A Great Maritime City

Greetings All The May 2020 Up-Date – a little late

So much has been happening around maritime heritage on-line ‘virtual’ world during COVID19 that May flew by – few of us feel that we have been ‘locked-in’ or ‘locked-out ‘ as we tentatively pass through various levels of  ‘ISO’.

First – Practical Help
a. Heritage advice for museums, galleries & heritage collections post-COVID-19
 For those MMHN members or organisations needing advice re their collections – useful links perhaps, The Australian Museums and Galleries Association of Victoria (AMaRGA) Victoria has just released an excellent guide, Reopening Museums & Galleries during COVID-19.
See Heritage collections face new risks when people are a regular presence in the building.  An earlier version published 29 April 2020, ‘Closed by COVID-19, a Practice Guide for managers of heritage collections that are closed at short notice because of an epidemic or pandemic” a is accessible on two Australian websites: Australian Institute for Conservation of Cultural Material and Blue Shield Australia and Blue Shield Australia

b. Maritime Oral Heritage    Most Maritime enthusiasts tend to have the urge to capture the past – and talk. While artefacts, printed material or images can reveal much – first hand accounts are wondrously revealing. Although we all like a ‘yarn’, there is a knack to capturing the past through historical interview. Why not get better at it? Oral History Victoria offers two-day online workshop is for anyone who would like to learn how to prepare, conduct, record and document an oral history interview. For the next training schedule see If you need inspiration – MMHN will gladly direct you to interesting folks. Email

Docklands  – Central Pier News

Regrettably not yet news of the restoration and re-opening we hope for. Nor news of Development Victoria’s (DV) timeframe. However, MMHN has discovered pleasing news of the large murals you will notice on the outside walls of the buildings on the pier. A long-time resident of Docklands and MMHN member Tony Bryer became concerned about potential deterioration of the Murals on the structure. These murals installed by DV in 2002 initially formed part of the DV ‘History Walk of Docklands’ celebrating the maritime and industrial history of Docklands. MMHN raised this matter with DV. We are pleased to find that DV understands the importance of these works and arranged for them to be retouched in 2009 and 2015, DV have no plans to remove them and they will remain in situ on Central Pier for now. DV reassured MMHN that the originals are in safekeeping should other copies be required at a later date. Many of us have been aghast at the sorry saga of neglect by DV (to re-fresh your memory  – see
Central Pier has been, of course, an iconic stevedoring presence in Victoria Harbour since 1916-17. At the very centre of todays Docklands precinct, the Harbour, as a body of water, has significant heritage value in its own right. It was excavated 125 years ago, largely by hand and steam shovel and is an astounding example of 19th Century civil engineering – the second largest excavated harbour in the world. Long-time resident of Docklands, Tony Bryer has compiled a brief history of Victoria Dock in his blog the high-rise residential ‘luxury’ of todays Docklands precinct, its difficult to comprehend the nitty-gritty industrial muscle that would have characterised this area in the past. Great prosperity for Melbourne and Victoria emanated from the ships, trade and stevedoring on these Docks. By 1908, Victoria Dock was handling 90% of Victoria’s imports. And the demand grew. To increase the amount of wharf space available to handle cargo, Central Pier was constructed in 1916-17. By the 1950s Melbourne claimed that its Port was the most mechanised in the Commonwealth. Containerisation, larger ships and technological changes in the stevedoring industry led to the ‘Docks’ gravitating to the new down-river Swanson Dock with its massive container cranes opened in the late 1960s and automation of today.

Photo from Tony Bryer

Northbank Docklands heritage and Riverlee Developers

With the Mission to Seafarers now free of scaffolding, MMHN has been keenly anticipating progress towards sympathetic re-development of iconic No 5 Goods Shed, which is adjacent to the Mission. The vast Goods Shed stretching way along the wharf towards the CBD has heritage protection but has been seemingly derelict for many years. Recently an astonishing change occurred. It is now without a roof – and this accentuates the enormity of the structure reminding us of its astounding capacity. The large roof trusses have been dismantled and taken off-site to undergo preservation treatment. Maritime enthusiasts, and MMHN members, Riverlee Developments are now actively engaged in the restoration of the Goods Shed No. 5 and in collaboration with the City of Melbourne, the design of Seafarers Rest Park to the east of the Goods Shed. This Goods Shed and the now restored heritage-listed electric crane (1948) on the wharf on which it sits form the last intact example of an ‘integrated wharf-shed-crane berth’ in the Port of Melbourne. This makes it one of Melbourne’s most significant heritage waterfronts. Clearly Melbourne’s heritage Docklands extends beyond Victoria Harbour up the river to this fascinating heritage ‘Docks’ precinct on the North Bank of the Yarra inked to Docklands precinct along Australian Wharf dating from 1855. The wharf was an important loading facility, especially for the now demolished gasworks and although it remains along the waterfront, it is now very much altered The Northbank precinct was a functioning wharves precinct up until the construction of the Charles Grimes Bridge in 1975.
See It has countless links to Melbourne’s maritime heritage, and other key events in Melbourne, including an enduring relationship with Australia’s Antarctic “Dan” ships which embarked for the Southern Ocean from very near to this Goods Shed. If you are curious about how this heritage site is being incorporated into the new development  – See

Image from PROV

This photo below provided by Riverlee dated 17 March 1971 taken from on-board Thala Dan port side alongside on North Wharf No. 5/6.  She is looking aft and west towards Nella Dan with port side alongside on North Wharf No. 7/8 with a Melbourne Gas Works silo to the right north of North Wharf No. 9. The reefer ship on South Wharf has starboard side alongside and just west of the swinging basin across from the now demolished Gas Works.

Pleasing news for Antarctic enthusiasts

Given that the working life of the iconic vessel Aurora Australis is almost over, it is timely news that Hobart author Kerry Dickson has completed the first part of her monumental work A 30-year Aurora Australis Crew History. Kerry was prompted to commence this research because although, much has been written about the scientific achievements associated with this famous ship, very little has been recorded of the crew and their work, which obviously enabled the science to progress. Who were these seafarers plying the dangerous Southern Ocean aboard the Aurora Australis over the past 30 years? This epic project began two years ago when Kerry began to compile a list of crew names and voyages which eventually encompassed entire ships compliment over the past 30 years.  What is the significance of the iconic Aurora Australis? 

  • The ONLY Australian built icebreaker designed to take scientists, supplies and equipment to the Antarctic bases – unique in our maritime history.
  • Crewed by Australian seafarers – an increasing rare phenomenon.
  • Recognised as being uniquely ‘specialist’ in Antarctic Science – a specialist ship that required that crew adopt an ‘out-of-the-box’ approach to their tasks on numerous occasions in one of the most inhospitable regions on the planet.

Before the Aurora Australis crew data became lost over time, Kerry set out to record the story for the benefit of the crews themselves, a way recognizing their splendid work and capturing their memories. Kerry has now compiled includes crew data crew from all Aurora Australis voyages over the past 30 years – names, roles, voyages.    The next phase of the work is to unpack the stories and images from each voyage.   Kerry is calling on all former Aurora Australis crew, or anyone who knows crew, to contact her to help progress this marvellous work. You can reach Kerry and assist her by contacting Kerry by emailing

Photo provided by Ross Brewer

Melbourne Maritime Centre

As we continue to refine our vision for the Melbourne Maritime Centre, MMHN Board Member Dr. Liz Rushen presents the second in our Update Museums Series. This month we review the entire precinct of Greenwich:

National Maritime Museum at Greenwich, London
An absolute must for any visitor to London is Greenwich, best approached by a ferry ride down the River Thames. Built on the site of a Roman landing place, Greenwich is at the centre of Britain’s association with the sea and navigation. Today the National Maritime Museum comprises a network of iconic museums located in a 200-acre World Heritage Site. There are so many places to visit in this complex, including:

  • The Royal Observatory, built in 1675, the Home of the Greenwich Meridian (0˚ longitude) – stand with one foot in the west and the other in the east on the Prime Meridian Line
  • Cutty Sark, once the fastest tea clipper of the day, now fully restored after its fire and sitting on top of a clever interpretive centre on the banks of the Thames – inspiring possibilities for our much-loved Polly Woodside
  • The National Maritime Museum with its extensive collections and family-friendly galleries including the new hands-on Sea Things Gallery, fabulous Picture Library. Click here to explore the museum collections:
  • The Caird Library and Archive – a must for serious research
  • The award-winning Children’s Gallery – a fabulous winter playground for the under-7s
  • The Old Royal Naval College – built by Sir Christopher Wren, this impressive Baroque complex is the iconic view of Greenwich. Formerly the Royal Hospital for Seamen, a visit to Greenwich isn’t complete without seeing the magnificent, recently-renovated Painted Hall. We were fortunate to visit during the renovations when tours of the scaffolding allowed visitors to get up close and personal with Sir James Thornhill’s incredible ceiling painting.
  • Not forgetting Queen’s House and the Armada Portrait of Queen Elizabeth 1.

For further information on the UK’s National Maritime Museum, see

It is significant – and heartening to note that this world-renowned precinct is, in fact a NETWORK of maritime organisations. Although many MMHN members are likely to have visited Greenwich, they may not have perceived that this Network approach at Greenwich underpins the strength and success of the precinct as a whole. E.g. collective marketing and cross-promotion. MMHN has, in effect, modelled in a modified way this Greenwich Network approach in the establishment of the Melbourne Maritime Heritage NETWORK.  While MMHN member organisations are, of necessity, geographically dispersed, MMHN can aspire to emulate the Greenwich collaborate approach towards the mutual benefit of all.

Photo below by Liz Rushen  – The famous Armada portrait of Queen Elizabeth 1st. (Who clearly understood the significance of maritime power (see the Armada through the window.)

The vessel Cutty Sark

Offshore & Specialist Ships Australia (OSSA) – Advocacy and Acquisitions  

A wonderful example of OSSA advocacy in support of the shipping industry is the acquisition of Aurora Australis model described below. Early 2017 when a few people from the shipping industry were alarmed at the severe disruption being caused at the sudden downturn in the industry and particularly the offshore oil and gas sector. Companies were going bankrupt, crews and office staff were being made redundant and offices were being closed and photos, documents and general memorabilia was being discarded. Determined to do something about this they banded together to capture as much of it as possible before it was too late.  OSSA are delighted to be given this Model of the Aurora Australis by P&O. The Aurora Australis is a remarkable ship that has proudly served Australia so well in the 30 years since her launching in Newcastle in Sept 1989. She is the only (and most likely there will never be another) specialised icebreaker built in Australia designed to take scientists, supplies and equipment to the Antarctic bases. This model is the original Model used for the ‘tank testing’ the design in Finland and note, both the Model and the actual ship passed with flying colours!  Below are images of the Model in her current condition and also when used in the mid 80’s ‘tank tests‘ in Wartsilia Arctic Research Centre (WARC) in Finland (Now called Aker Arctic). This Model has been ‘open to the elements’ during the storage period and although it is clearly in a fairly advanced state of disrepair, experts report that it is definitely salvageable. Once fully restored the Model  will have a place of prominence in the new Maritime Centre the establishment of which is a key objective of the MMHN. OSSA is a staunch and supportive stakeholder within MMHN. For further information about OSSA see

Photos provided by OSSA

Opportunity to rebuild the Australian Maritime Industry

MMHN Skills Advisory Group have a positive ‘take’ on COVID19 – an opportunity presents Australia to address this inadequacy and vulnerability – if the policymakers will take a proactive stance in relation to maritime skills training. The pandemic has opened-up, actually turned a spotlight on the growing inadequacy of Australia’s manufacturing capacity and dependency on foreign imports. As pointed out is graphically in a recent ABC Q&A program by John Anderson (former Deputy Prime Minister) Australia’s short-term reserves of oil are woefully deficient and we rely on the support of the USA. Hardly a prudent situation nor an acceptable long-term strategy. There is general agreement these issues must be addressed and will be a major topic in post virus discussion. Maritime expertise and increased focus on maritime training is obviously central to the ‘solution’ to our vulnerable dependence.

  • We MUST address the lack of Australian controlled shipping so we are not totally reliant on foreign ships and crews to transport our cargoes and other shipping needs to and around our vast coastline.
  • We MUST provide the opportunity for our youth to have careers in the Maritime Industry (ashore and afloat).
  • We MUST invest in provide maritime training.
  • We MUST provide opportunities for employment of our trained maritime workers. Their secure future is our secure future.

As a major part of COVID recovery and economic stimulus from this virus created economic havoc we have the once in a lifetime opportunity to restructure the Australian Maritime Industry – let’s not waste it!  See:
MMHN is a staunch advocate tor maritime skills and the establishment of a Maritime Skills institute at Docklands.

Seaworks Success! May there be many, many more grants from where this one came from!

Congratulations to Seaworks! which has been granted a $200,000 to repair wharves by local member The Hon. Melissa Horne MLA who, fortunately, as State Minister for Ports, Freight, and Public Transport, who genuinely understands the critical importance of investment in timely maintenance  – obviously an all-important aspect of preserving maritime heritage infrastructure.

Mission to Seafarers Restorations and Reopening
Congratulations to all concerned. The exterior works on the iconic Mission to Seafarers building are complete.  And how splendid it looks too without the scaffolding –  and the scourge of graffiti!  It is very pleasing to note that the Chapel windows are now restored and that the City of Melbourne funded Black Stage curtains will be installed in the next week. The Mission will have a limited reopening from the 1st of June but of course, health issues and spatial distancing restrictions will curtail social activities. Amidst COVID-10 new ‘rules’ apply – staff members will manage and register visitors. This is tracing mechanism as well as a declaration of a personal health. Pre-booking with two days notice is required for all visits.  Such prudent safety measures not only comply with government requirements but, most importantly, given that the Mission is considered a place of refuge for the seafarers, they must remain healthy so that can they leave port and resume their crucial work on the ships which serve us all.

Global Response  – More on continuing Plight of Seafarers amidst COVID-19 

Throughout these unprecedented times seafarers, continue to transport more than 90% of the world’s goods. Key workers here are being provided with PPE, given support and recognized for their dedication, but the seafarer category of ‘key worker’ is less well served. Travel restrictions prevent home and shore leave, and contracts are extended onboard vessels.  t is reported that overall more than 150,000 seafarers are now working beyond their contract end.
Well-being suffers. Anxiety mounts. In response to this on-going challenge, Mission to Seafarers is partnering with Wilhelmsen Ship Management, to raise funds for the Mission’s Samaritan’s Fund, which will help provide support where it is most needed, often in life-changing situations.

Crew rotation changes means difficulty with timely re-joining ships. Indian sea cadets in the UK in training could not continue or complete courses or be repatriated without intervention by the High Commissioner as well as food vouchers and safe accommodation. In the Philippines the situation is severe. Multiple cruise ships are waiting for crews to disembark and more ships are on the way. Hotels are already full.  Mission in Manilla collects seafarers from hostels after the mandatory strict quarantine in Manila and provides a ‘safe’ minibus service to transfer COVID –free seafarers to home to their families. There are thousands of seafarers in need of support daily, all around the world. Intensive lobbying by the maritime industry, and by welfare organisations including MtS, has made a difference. To help see

Photo from Mission Website

WISTA – Women’s International Shipping & Trading Association

WISTA Australia President, Maritime Lawyer MMHN member, Alison Cusack reports on aspects of the maritime shipping and logistics business unknown to many of us. The flow-on impact of COVID-19 was quickly understood by those in shipping industry at least one month before the general public became aware of the issue. Noting factory shutdowns in China, together with various and the imposition of fast changing port clearance regulations (eg. Maritime Safety Queensland.) the business scene was changing at speed. The majority of the consumer goods arrive in Australia via pre-determined containerised shipping routes. When low volumes, port closures and restrictions, commenced, related trades commenced a known recovery tactic or strategy known as “blank sailings”. The result being that ship companies   cease operating voyages on the affected trade routes. This can create logistics havoc particularly with time-sensitive goods and cause a ripple effect throughout the supply chain. These changes are not however, not isolated incidents. Shipping lawyers are familiar with the ‘invisible’ supply chain of disaster recovery. Assisting importers and freight forwarders with decisions on time-sensitive goods is core business involving consideration of both commercial and legal elements. That said, on an industry-wide level the supply chain is not as robust as consumers would like to see. From incidence of ‘blank sailings’, misconstrued contractual rights, last-mile freight issues etc there will be consequences impacting on business reputation and cash-flow. Businesses under pressure are rapidly pivoting to an online environment, but though technically manageable when implemented may have legal and insurance pitfalls. There are obvious benefits in assessing and preventing risk by seeking proactive legal assistance.

The Lady Vera Propeller Saga 

Further upstream from Northbank you may have noticed the magnificent sculptural form of the propeller of the vessel Lady Vera”which is currently and unsatisfactorily installed in concrete at Enterprize Park behind the Melbourne Aquarium. This Lady Vera ( there were two) was built in the Carrington Shipyards in Newcastle in 1974. She was one of 4 ships built at that time to service the offshore oilrigs in Bass Strait.  A plan is afoot to re-locate the propeller and other maritime artefacts to a much more appropriate site in the city –  Seafarers Rest Park. Discussions with the City of Melbourne on the design and artefacts have commenced. This is another OSSA acquisition.

Photo of Ross Brewer and the granddaughter of ‘Lady Vera’ Susan Rose n Entrprize Park

Advocacy  – Melbourne Water to acknowledge Maritime Heritage

MMHN in recent submissions to the Melbourne Water Draft Yarra River Strategy calling into question the inexplicable absence of any reference by MW to maritime heritage on the Yarra.  Given that significant colonial maritime infrastructure remains evident on our waterways, this omission by a responsible authority such as MW is a serious concern. While all MMHN submissions were acknowledged, MMHN Board member and Chair of OSSA Ross Brewer has been invited expand on his submission and has been invited to put forward ideas for proper recognition of the maritime heritage. We can be confident that Ross will be persuasive and will make the most of this rare opportunity to influence policy. Melbourne Water one amongst many state authorities governed by pointless sub-divisions of legislative responsibility. For example MW has no control over Victoria Harbour, nor the Yarra banks and wharves (Parks Victoria) nor Yarra Estuary (managed by Port of Melbourne).  This bureaucratic tangle must be addressed. A key objective of the MMHN is to advocate for the establishment of a single responsible authority.

An alert for all Maritime Artists  – and those who enjoy it  

Many MMHN members have greatly enjoyed the marvellous Mission to Seafarers Annual Art Exhibition – either as exhibitors or collectors.  Planning for the 2020 event has commenced – with submissions now open. Note in your diaries Opening Night   October 1st. Time to start thinking about the coveted Mission to Seafarers Maritime Art Prize. $20,000!

Victorian Community History Awards

Another alert for MMHN members or heritage organisations. If you or your organisation has recently completed a history project, book, exhibition, oral history or article you may wish to submit an entry to the 2020 Victorian Community History Awards. These awards are presented by the Public Records Office of Victoria (PROV) in partnership with the Royal Historical Society of Victoria (RHSV). Award categories include the Victorian Premier’s History Award, History Publication Award, Digital Storytelling Award, Community Diversity Award and Oral History Award presented in collaboration with Oral History Victoria, among others. Prizes range from $500 to $5000.Entries close 8 July 2020. Contact

Wreck Report

More of the very exciting shipwreck Amazon emerged from the rapidly eroding sands at Inverloch. The erosion has revealed never-before-seen parts of the shipwrecked Amazon that ran aground at Inverloch on December 12, 1863, after being caught in a storm. Initially wrecked by storms and the Amazon now being revealed to us by storm surges! The vessel was believed to have been sailing from Melbourne to Mauritius carrying salted meat. The three-masted barque (320 tons) built at St Heliers, Jersey by Frederick Clark, Ship Builder. The Victorian Heritage Database lists the mid-19th century wreck as “a rare example of an international wooden trading ship” and the only wooden cargo vessel of its kind in Victoria. The Amazon is on Heritage Victoria’s list of the top 20 most significant and at-risk shipwrecks. See

Captain Cook Enthusiasts

You may or may not be aware of the excellent free on-line daily news service  ‘The Conversation’ presenting accurate scholarly articles on all manner of fascinating topics including from time to time Maritime Heritage. The Conversation is a Melbourne ‘innovation’ and is such a successful model of reputable, well-researched on-line journalism; editions are now operating globally in the UK, Africa and the USA. On April 29, a special Edition series of essays was issued reflecting on early encounters – both in Sydney and around what came to be known as Cooktown, where the vessel Endeavour ran aground on the Great Barrier Reef where Capt James Cook and the crew of the Endeavour stepping ashore 250 years ago at Kamay, on the lands of the Gweagal Clan of the Dharawal Nation. Cook called it Botany Bay. Contrary to some accounts, the encounter started almost immediately with violence, as Cook fired a musket loaded with small shot at Gweagal warriors who protested the arrival of these strangers. Here are the links.

Melbourne Regatta 2021?

Early days – and hard to project post-COVID-19 but discussions have commenced and MMHN Members with robust enthusiasm for working towards re-instating such a wonderful event might wish register their interest now. Email info@mmhn

The Maritime Trivia Challenge

The MMHN/ WISTA Inaugural Maritime Trivia Challenge is now complete.
Send your answers to,au

Do keep well

Dr Jackie Watts  OAM
Melbourne Maritime Heritage Network 
0400 305 323 or email


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