Greetings All
These are extraordinary, unpredictable times for us all.
Bushfires, floods and now contagion!

Amidst all of this, I am pleased to report as you will discover in this latest MMHN Up-date, the momentum of the Melbourne Maritime Heritage Network continues apace.

But first, given these are indeed sobering times and the impact of the current pandemic cannot be underplayed, it is fitting for the MMHN to reflect on maritime involvement with two earlier pandemics – and one ship board epidemic  – namely Black Death, Spanish Flu and Typhoid. Much has been written of these catastrophic events – but not always from the maritime perspective.  If you are interested in gaining a brief insight prepared by MMHN Board members, see our story on Contagion here.


Continuing now with current and more optimistic MMHN matters!

MMHN Board changes

As the MMHN continues to grow and evolve, changes within the structure are warranted. For example, we are delighted that Martin Dixon AM former State Minister for Tourism and Education, joined the MMHN Board and that Sue Scarfe has been appointed as MMHN Board’s  Technologies Advisor.

In relation to technologies and in response to the necessity of ‘social distancing’, MMHN is currently developing as a service to members a ‘workshop’ event or avenue for advice to enable MMHN members better understand and possibly adopt new ways to foster wider recognition maritime heritage, or reach new audiences  or promote the work they do.  Stay-tuned.


2020 Planning Day

Last week, just before the ‘social distancing’ struck, the MMHN Board held its 2020 Planning Day. Given the ambitious MMHN agenda, matters to be considered were many, wide-ranging and complex.  Here are some key topics.


  • MMHN Special Advisory Groups (SAG)

To better reflect MMHN stakeholder interests, a new SAG dedicated to Tourism Industry been established. The SAG dedicated Maritime Commerce  & Industry continues but now sheds Tourism. Obviously matters of interest to multiple SAGs will arise which is why we encourage you to register with one or more SAGS in order to receive on several initial SAG meetings – noting excellent participation, input and plethora of ideas and for those SAGs yet to meet, arrangements are in train. Note: A list of SAGs appears at the end of this Update.


  • MMHN Event Program for 2020– A ‘mix’ of maritime sector topics and events. e.g. site visits, lectures, panels, tours etc. MMHN will curate 5-6 events and collaborate with other relevant organisations when opportunities arise.


  • Pre- Pandemic – just. It was fortunate indeed that recently two major maritime events (Geelong Wooden Boat Festival (6 – 9 March) and Williamstown Seaport Festival (Feb 27-March 4) were able to go ahead as planned – thankfully in the ‘nick of time’. Acknowledging the immense effort required to host such events, this was immensely pleasing for all in the MMHN. Well done.


  • Some MMHN Event news:

February 24, 2020 A collaboration between Royal Historical Society of Victoria (RHSV) and MMHN. The launch of Dr. Liz Rushen’s latest book: “John Marshall: Lloyd’s reformer, shipowner and emigration agent”.  A reminder that our greatest resources, migrants, have arrived uninvited by sea.

April 6, 2020 A Panel presentation “Port Phillip Bay – Looking out, looking in: Aboriginal and Colonial perspectives” convened MMHN hosted by Federation Square involving the Koori Heritage Trust, Aboriginal Branch, City of Melbourne and the RHSV. Reflections on perceptions at the point of contact.   Regrettably this event is postponed due to COVID-19.

June/July 2020 A presentation by Michael O’Brien on “Maritime Melbourne: History on Paper” within the Melbourne Rare Book Week Program, a collaboration between MMHN and Rare Books Melbourne. Regrettably this event too is postponed due to COVID-19.

Lastly – pandemic permitting – a Fun Event in due course! A collaborative event involving OSSA, MMHN and a very wide range of maritime stakeholders. Offshore & Specialist Ships Australia (OSSA) alerted MMHN to the imminent arrival Australian Antarctic Division vessel Aurora Australis due in Hobart in April. This is a significant event for two reasons. Firstly, this is the ship’s final voyage, marking the end of an era – 30 years of remarkable service to science and to the Australian Antarctic operations. A remarkable period in Australia’s Antarctic maritime history.  Secondly the Aurora Australis is significant as Australia’s first and only ship purpose-built to service the remote Australian bases and also be the platform for conducting amazing marine science over this extended period. The planned event will acknowledge the significance of the Aurora Australis and celebrate this maritime sector milestone.


Keep checking the MMHN website for other Maritime events and opportunities – possibly virtual. See:


MMHN Advocacy Update

To state the obvious – ALL major MMHN objectives require advocacy on many levels.  Below is ‘snapshot’ of MMHN advocacy or engagement activity in recent months. If you too have been advocating on maritime matters, please share what you have been doing so that we can add to this list – and perhaps help:

Development Victoria (Central Pier, Victoria Harbour, Harbour Esplanade), Depts of (Museum, Heritage), Creative Arts (Museum Docklands,events), Immigration Museum, ACMI, MUA, Federation Square, Yarra Traders Association, Navy, Koori Heritage Trust, Melbourne University, RMIT, VU, National Trust, City of Melbourne, Melbourne Water.

Note: Re Melbourne Water – The Lower Reaches of the Yarra River, tributaries, estuary, Victoria Harbour, various piers wharves, docks and another maritime infrastructure, all retain maritime heritage significance. Inexplicably MW when compiling this eagerly anticipated 10-year Strategy for the Yarra, simply failed to consult with ANY maritime stakeholder organisations. NONE. Without comprehensive consultation including with maritime heritage and maritime commerce and industry stakeholders, this Draft is inevitably deficient. This deficiency is most obvious in the section referring to the Inner City Reach. Given that both maritime heritage and maritime commerce are crucial formative elements past and present on the Yarra River and the Estuary, such an omission by MW is disappointing to say the least. It is yet another perplexing example of prevailing and persistent government ‘amnesia’ in relation to maritime heritage and the maritime industry sector in general. MMHN members need to ensure, must insist, that maritime matters – matter!

A strong response from the MMHN was clearly warranted. To counter the problem, four MMHN members made submissions. It is not too late to help enlighten MW.  We encourage you to have a look at this MW Draft Yarra River Strategy – much of it is excellent – but unless maritime heritage and the maritime sector are granted due recognition, then it will remain inadequate.


Note that this MW Yarra Strategy followed closely the adoption of another River Strategy, City of Melbourne River Strategy, the final version of which, as a consequence of several MMHN advocacy, included reference to significant maritime heritage infrastructure along the river. MMHN is having an impact.


International inspiration

An earlier MMHN Update referred to MMHN Board members’ tendency to travel widely gathering inspiration and information about maritime heritage matters during their travels.


The Sub-Antarctic Mid-February just COVID-19 pandemic began to envelop the world MMHN Chair Jackie Watts captivated by all aspects of Australia maritime engagement with Antarctica was sailing from NZ through in the magnificent swells of the Southern Ocean bound for Australia’s own glorious sub-Antarctic Island, Macquarie.

Mid-voyage, Parks Tasmania who control access to ‘Macca” fearing the spread of COVID-19 amongst the folk at the Research Station, withdrew permission to visit the island. Despair for all ‘Macca’ enthusiasts on board!  Happily, after some tense negotiation (and thanks to advice from MMHN members) permission to land was granted – on the strict proviso that the Research Station itself was off-limits.

Jackie was able to land by zodiac through the surf to enjoy the wildlife and the mega-flora.


Macquarie-historic image of the Nella Dan striking rocks off Macquarie

When people at the Research station become aware that MMHN had a keen interest in the famous vessel ‘Nella Dan’ now resting on the ocean floor off Macquarie, they kindly sent Jackie images of the commemorative plaque on the Station. A very gracious gesture.






commemorative plaque – Macquarie Island


England June MMHN Board member Liz Rushen, planned visit the City of Hull in June, specifically to meet with those responsible for developing the splendid new Maritime Museum “Hull: Yorkshire’s Maritime City”. Sadly COVID-19 intervened for the moment and this visit is now postponed. :

However, it is instructive to note the alignment between The City of Hull Museum project and the MMHN aspiration for Maritime Centre in Melbourne. The City of Hull has the advantage of accessing considerable funding through the UK National Lottery Heritage Fund. The Hull Museum Project is obviously further advanced than the MMHN project but it is worth noting similarities and shared a focus including raising awareness of maritime heritage, a dispersed collection of artefacts, the use of new technologies and on enhancing maritime skills training.

Now that these times call for ‘social distancing’ you might take time to enjoy watching a terrific light installation set against Hull Minster – presenting Hull’s maritime history from the times of the Vikings. Set aside 20 minutes and perhaps to think about how a Melbourne version might look? A Docklands ‘Son et Lumiere’?



Promotion through MMHN

We are delighted that so many MMHN stakeholders are using the website to publicize their events – please continue to do so: Contact

While we have no way of gauging the impact of such ‘exposure’ through MMHN, anecdotal feedback suggests that participation numbers at maritime events have increased. A further tip for gaining free promotion – Try listing any city-based events is available on the City of Melbourne ‘What’s On ‘website.  See:


Special Advisory Groups (SAGs)

FYI – Here is an up-dated list of MMHN Special Advisory Groups, the MMHN Board member ‘Leads’ and other roles:

  1. Maritime Commerce & Industry SAG – Ross Brewer and Haya Al-Daghlas
  2. Tourism SAG – Martine Dixon and David Goodwin
  3. Skills, Training, Education & Careers SAG – Jeff Malley, Greg Yorke and Ross Brewer
  4. Museum & Heritage SAG – Liz Rushen and Michael O’Brien.
  5. Maritime Infrastructure SAG (Piers, wharves bridges etc) – David Goodwin

Contact the various SAG ‘Leads’ to be kept ‘in the loop’ for the next SAG meetings of each (which of course may be virtual due to the COVID-19 constraints),au


In conclusion

While we are all prudently adopting ‘social distancing’ strategies, managing this crisis as best we can, it is our hope that this MMHN Update and future MMHN Updates will be  ‘social connecting’ us through our shared enthusiasm for maritime matters!


Keep well.