Greetings all

We’re commencing this month with a crucial question:

Is the maritime industry sector in decline in Australia?

Alarming, yet at the same heartening, to note increasing reference in the mainstream media about the decline in Australia’s maritime capability. MMHN and our affiliated association Off Shore Specialist Ships Australia (OSSA) have identified the downward trajectory of this key industry sector and have pressed both state and federal governments to step-up. MMHN recommends listening to a recent ABC radio Conversation Hour which delves into the lives of seafarers. They are the unsung and unknown frontline workers, moving essential cargo, keeping all countries wealth and health afloat. Indeed, they are! The question is: What needs to happen to revive Australia’s maritime industry? The Conversation Hour hears the stories from the sea and members of OSSA feature in this program.

Protecting Australia’s Maritime Trade

Moving to a more academic analysis of the problems we face as an island nation in which maritime capability is in decline. You may wish to read the recently released, sobering analysis entitled Protecting Australia Maritime Trade from the Australian Naval Institute & Naval Studies Group, University of New South Wales (19 August 2022). The report revisits and up-dates material presented at the 2019 Goldrick Seminar on Maritime Trade and its implications for Australia’s Defence. Perhaps not new news, but very importantQuoting the text: Since the first European settlement Australia has been dependent on maritime trade for both sustainment of its society (sea supply) and export earnings. Shipping accounts for about 99% of our imports and exports of goods, including fuel. Australia’s exports are worth about $314b annually, of which 57% by value is from mining. In recent years as a result of the rise of globalization and the decline of local manufacturing, there has been a marked growth of Australian dependence on imports to maintain an increasingly complex society. This situation has been thrown into stark relief by the COVID-19 pandemic. It exposed supply weaknesses for a myriad of key imports; such as additives for diesel fuel, which were previously understood to be so vulnerable and so critical.

Notice of Annual General Meeting (AGM)

MMHN’s AGM will be held on Wednesday 12 October 2022 at 4.30 pm at Magnet Galleries, Wharf Street, The District, Docklands. The venue can be easily accessed from the tram terminus, Stop D11 for Nos 86, 70 and 35, and the City Circle tram. Car parking is available in Waterfront Way and Pearl River Road.

Attendance in person is encouraged. However, those who wish to attend by Zoom may do so by this link below which will open at 4.20pm. Our guest speaker Adam Buchholtz, Waterways Program Manager, Waterways & Recreation Branch, City of Melbourne, will share insight about our fascinating yet under-developed waterways. In accordance with the MMHN Constitution, nominations for the election of directors are called from individual financial members of MMHN. Further details: please email


(Click on the headings below for specific items, or scroll down for the full Update)
1. Maritime Experience Centre – Melbourne
2. Optimistic solutions to unavoidable heritage loss of Central Pier – Floating Pier
3. Museum of the Month – Norfolk Island 
4. Visualising Maritime Melbourne: Photographic Exhibition 1 – Victorian Fisheries
5. Heritage Fleet News – heaps this month!
6. Polly Woodside
7. Australian Red Ensign
8. Southbank Maritime Precinct Project
9. Protection of Australia’s environment and iconic places
10. Swan Hill River Centre
11. Wanted: Museum Manager and Curator
12. Roving Wind Advocate
13. Robotic submarines
14. Wooden Boats – always a joy
15. Wooden Boats further afield
16. Better Boating Victoria
17. Melbourne Boat Show

1. Maritime Experience Centre – Melbourne
MMHN was invited to put our proposal for appropriate activation of the Docklands Precinct, (i.e. primarily the Maritime Experience Centre and the Maritime Garden) at the Docklands Forum held on 2 September. MMHN argued that the untapped cultural and economic value of Docklands, in fact its key ‘differentiator’, lies in the waterways. Development Victoria has failed to grasp this over the decades, but the City of Melbourne can still turn this around. All emphasis and investment should be directed towards creating permanent waterways-based activation, a Maritime Experience Centre, to celebrate the unique site of Docklands.

2. Optimistic solutions to unavoidable heritage loss of Central Pier – Floating Pier 
MMHN prefers to focus on optimistic solutions to unavoidable heritage loss – the demolition of Central Pier. Perhaps the most appropriate and respectful response to this seemingly inevitable loss is YES! A floating pier to replicate the structure of Central Pier and in doing so, respect the unique site of maritime heritage importance to Melbourne. Floating piers are not fanciful. One very successful floating pier may be found in Hobart’s Brooke Street Pier. This pier is 80m long, 20m wide floating concrete pontoon, on which three floors were constructed of lightweight superstructure, delivering 4,000m2 of retail space, ferry terminal, tourism centre, market, creative spaces, café, restaurant as well as a Bar and Function Centre for 1200. The company, Waterborne Development, specialises in facilitating the development of a range of floating structures for a wide variety of uses. See Such a structure would accommodate the MMHN proposal for a Maritime Experience Centre at Docklands – a perfect ‘activation’ solution on a new and appropriate structure for Victoria Harbour. MMHN proposes an architectural design competition for an iconic architectural form on a floating pier. This would attract global interest and put the Docklands Precinct on the map – for domestic, regional and international tourism.

3. Museum of the Month – Norfolk Island
MMHN Board member Liz Rushen offers an extended piece on our Museum of the Month with an excellent commentary picking up the just in time – just in case theme of the August Update. Liz recently attended the ‘History in Paradise’ conference on Norfolk Island and reports a very concerning shipping and supply chain issue affecting the Island. Due to their lack of port facilities, cargo ships normally stand a kilometre out to sea and a time-honoured system of lighter boats has been used to unload freight. Recently, a decision was taken in Canberra to stop this system in favour of a roll-on/roll-off system of unloading cargo. This is all very well, but it will cost over $200m to develop a suitable pier and facilities. And what happens to Norfolk Island’s residents and tourists in the interim? Bare supermarket shelves and an appalling lack of stock and essentials as only limited goods can be air-freighted in.

Images: Norfolk Island supermarket, 30 July 2022 and Independence poster, 29 July 2022

No wonder the residents of Norfolk Island are backing the Public Inquiry findings to return to an elected Council (see The Norfolk Islander, 30 July 2022). In the interim, the Commonwealth Government has signed a partnership Service Delivery Agreement with the Norfolk Island Regional Council for 2022-23. With the intention of Commonwealth-funded improvements in infrastructure, including electricity, shipping, waste and recycling and tourism marketing, something needs to be done immediately to ensure the supply of goods.Somewhat bizarrely, the residents of Norfolk Island vote in the electorate of Eden-Monaro on the NSW/Victorian border. As the elected MP and also the Minister for Territories, Kristy McBain has a double responsibility for Norfolk Island, but stated recently, ‘my primary focus is always Eden–Monaro’. She visited Norfolk Island recently and, as she told Simon Lauder, the Island has a series of shipping challenges. We know how difficult it is on the mainland with our supply chains at the moment and the cost of goods sort of escalating, and in Norfolk, you can imagine, that is exacerbated tenfold. They have serious supply challenges and a lot of empty supermarket shelves. The cost of a slab of beer is about $110 (interview with Simon Lauder, South-East Radio, 26 July 2022).

On a brighter note, Liz recommends a visit to the wonderful Norfolk Island Museum. The museum is located in the UNESCO World Heritage listed Kingston and Arthur’s Vale Historic Area and is one of only eleven historic sites that form the Australian Convict Sites World Heritage Properties. The museum is located in a number of heritage buildings in Kingston: the Pier Store, Commissariat Store, No 10 Quality Row and HMS Sirius Museum.

 Images: Some of the convict-built houses in Kingston and the HMS Sirius Museum

Located in the former 1840s Protestant Chapel at the time of the reformist Commandant Alexander McConochie, the museum is dedicated to the HMS Sirius, the flagship of the First Fleet which was wrecked on Norfolk Island in 1790. Over 6000 items have been recovered from the wreck site, which lies about 100 metres offshore on Slaughter Bay reef. The reasons why the Sirius was at Norfolk Island and the circumstance of the wrecking are fully explored together with the words of eye-witness accounts. A 20-minute video ‘Search for the Sirius’ tells the fascinating story of the recovery of the objects during the 1980s. All the elements of the Norfolk Island Museum in the historic Kingston area are well work visiting.

4. Visualising Maritime Melbourne: Photographic Exhibition 1 – Victorian Fisheries

Images: Daniel Walton, Victorian Seafood Still life at The Atlantic & James Moore, Vancouver Fisheries Sardine voyage


Join independent maritime curator and cultural programmer Valentina Bydanova and her photographic crew of RMIT early career artists, to launch this new photographic exhibition and talk series that captures the Victorian commercial fisheries industry from boat to wholesale seafood market, and to the plates of Melbourne’s leading seafood restaurants.

Drawing from the genres of social documentary photography, Dutch and Cubist still life painting, these works aim to generate a new maritime cultural consciousness and discourse for Melbourne by making marine space and issues visible, through the communicative power of the image.

In the context of recent cuts to commercial fishing in Port Phillip, the photographic works bring to light an industry the public hardly knew existed, and comment on relationships between people and the marine environment. Presenting alongside Valentina will be the photographic crew and select project collaborators representing the Melbourne Seafood Centre, local fishing enterprises and head chefs from Hazel, Bacash and the Atlantic restaurants.

But this is not just an exhibition; this is not just a lecture – this is a case study proposing a new way to create art and cultural programs that connect a new generation of creators, storytellers, knowledge holders and the public with local waterways and established maritime organisations. Through our approach, we believe that waterways can be positioned as cultural theatres at the forefront of innovation and engagement in Melbourne. We need your feedback and critique on this -Valentina Bydanova, 0425 795 547

When: Exhibition and talk series launch Thursday 6 October 6:30 – 8:30 pm.
Drinks and nibbles upon arrival. Exhibition open to public 3 -14 October 2022

Where: Magnet Galleries, SC G19 Wharf St, The District, Docklands, VIC 3008

This is a free event – Please book to attend the launch and RSVP here:

5. Heritage Fleet News – heaps this month!

HMAS Castlemaine
Important diary note – celebration to delight all maritime stakeholders commemorating the 80th anniversary of the commissioning of the HMAS Castlemaine at Commonwealth Reserve, Williamstown, on Sunday 9 October 2022. The heritage-listed HMAS Castlemaine is a ship museum owned, preserved and operated by the Maritime Trust of Australia, a totally volunteer-run organisation, and has been restored and maintained by the volunteers since 1974. This volunteer effort in itself certainly warrants celebration. Wonderful to see the Navy is strongly supporting this important event:

  • RAN Band recitals in rotunda, 13.00 – 17.00;
  • Static displays from HMAS Cerberus, 13.00 – 17.00;
  • Defence Force Recruiting displays, 13.00 – 17.00;
  • Australian Navy Cadets displays and TS Voyager Open Day, 13.00 – 17.00;
  • RAAF PC21 Aircraft display; (TTBC),
  • Navy helicopter flying display; (TTBC),
  • Navy Drone club flying (TBC); and
  • Ceremonial Sunset, Band Performance and Guard on Gem Pier and HMAS Castlemaine, including firing blank rounds, 19.15 – 19.45.
Image: HMAS Castlemaine website


Steam Tug Wattle
Maritime enthusiasts flocked to see the Wattle powered up and steaming on Sunday 28 August on North Wharf and were rewarded with the opportunity to sound the horn and siren. Lucky visitors were able to descend into the engine room to see the miracle of the restored tug engine. The day was testimony to the skills and persistence of the Wattle volunteers. We trust their vision will be realised with the Wattle becoming fully operational, enlivening Victoria Harbour, the Yarra and Port Phillip Bay.

Image: Jeff Malley


P60 RAF Crash Boat Progress
A reminder that Harry Bowman had donated this boat to the RAAF Museum in Point Cook and will be on display once Greg Blunt has finished his wonderful restoration!

Two Images from Harry Bowman: On arrival and painting in progress.

Aurora Australis tank test model
See images below of the restoration of this astonishing model of such significance to Australia’s Antarctic engagement. This test model, gifted to OSSA by P&O in 2021, represents a critical point in the evolution of what was to become the iconic Aurora Australis. With a restoration grant from the National Maritime Museum, OSSA commissioned Greg Blunt’s historic Boatyard in Williamstown to undertake this extraordinarily complex restoration. MMHN member and Chair of OSSA Ross Brewer states A heck of a job. Greg Blunt is a true artisan. The work was completed in August and the model literally delivered by hand (!) to Seaworks in Williamstown where it will be on permanent display.

Images: Ross Brewer


6. Polly Woodside

MMHN, OSSA and MMV recently reached out the National Trust to discuss mounting concerns about the vessel. Participants included the new Chair of the National Trust (Vic), the CEO and the Executive Manager of Collections & Cultural Projects. We understand there is progress towards establishing a collaborative relationship with key personnel and look forward to more detailed discussions in relation to the re-accreditation of the Polly Woodside Museum and the implementation of the maintenance works as recommended by experts who have been commissioned to compile a comprehensive report.

7. Australian Red Ensign

It is widely acknowledged that the global Merchant Fleet has been absolutely critical during the pandemic. Over recent months OSSA has valiantly lobbied state authorities to persuade them to fly the Red Ensign on 3 September – Merchant Navy Day – as a mark of respect to the seafarers entering Melbourne under the West Gate Bridge. Similarly, MMHN lobbied the City of Melbourne to fly the flag at Town Hall. Sadly, protocol prevented this. However, happily the City of Melbourne found a way to indicate its respect for merchant seafarers in this great maritime city. We are delighted to report that the Red Ensign flew in Victoria Harbour outside the Waterways Branch on 3 September. The Australian Red Ensign is the official flag to be flown at sea by Australian registered merchant ships. See national-symbols/australian-flags

8. Southbank Maritime Precinct Project

Maritime historians have long understood that that both the south and north banks of the Yarra River were significant in the development of maritime trade in Melbourne. Noting that there seems to be greater acknowledgement of the north bank and less so of the south bank, MMHN began to advocate for recognition that Southbank too should rightly be recognised as a maritime precinct. MMHN congratulates the Yarra River Business Association (YRBA) which, in conjunction with the City of Melbourne, has commissioned a Research Project to examine and evaluate the current but nascent market positioning of both South Wharf and North Wharf as a maritime heritage cultural tourism precinct for Melbourne. Taken as a whole, these riverside dock areas constitute the City of Melbourne’s most authentic maritime heritage The cargo wharves of Southbank were restored between 2007 and 2011 as part of a PPP development of the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre. As part of that process, the Polly Woodside was removed, restored and relocated to Duke’s Dock. Many of the cargo sheds of South Wharf were restored to reflect the height of their productive years during the 1920s and 30s. There are many remnants of the original sheds, although many have been largely rebuilt to meet today’s standards required for food and beverage delivery.

Image: Yarra Traders Business Association


9. Protection of Australia’s environment and iconic places
On 30 October 2020, the Independent Reviewer of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, Professor Graeme Samuel AC, provided the Minister for the Environment with his Final Report. The Report was tabled in Parliament on 28 January 2020, and has been publicly released. It is available at The Final Report is comprehensive, and the Government will spend the time needed to fully consider Professor Samuel’s recommendations, before providing a formal government response.

The evidence received by the Review is compelling: that Australia’s natural environment and iconic places are in an overall state of decline and are under increasing threat. The current environmental trajectory is unsustainable. However, the overwhelming message received by the Review is that Australians care deeply about our iconic places and unique environment. Protecting and conserving them for the benefit of current and future generations is important for the nation.

The EPBC Act focuses on nationally important matters, termed ‘matters of national environmental significance’ (MNES). Good outcomes for the environment, including heritage, cannot be achieved under the current laws. Legally enforceable National Environmental Standards should be made as the centrepiece of effective planning, regulation and investment. This will ensure that all decisions clearly track towards improved environmental and heritage outcomes.

To quote from the Executive Summary: A system that allows for developments that impact certain habitats is not consistent with a Standard that requires impacts on these habitats to be avoided. Similarly, if the Standards require that the values or attributes of a heritage place or property are to be protected to achieve the outcome, then a project-level decision cannot allow a development to destroy or compromise those values or attributes.

10. Swan Hill River Centre
MMHN is delighted to turn our attention to Victoria’s inland waterways, and in particular, the Murray River. In the early 1850s, a wharf on the Murray River was built and Swan Hill became one of the region’s major inland river trading ports, but this trade declined with the expansion of the railways. Thankfully, post-COVID Swan Hill River Centre reports that it is booked out for the rest of the 2022 school year. A new laser light attraction will be installed by December. Plenty of rain in recent months has meant that the river level, at 2½ metres, is great for the Paddle Boat Pyap, Cleaning and painting work continues with the Paddle Steamer Gem which is approaching her 60th anniversary at Swan Hill in 2023. Before European settlement the Wemba-Wemba occupied a vast area around the Loddon River, reaching northwards from Kerang, Matakupaat (Swan Hill). To this day they have a deep connection to Country/. See

Image: Visit Victoria


11. Wanted: Museum Manager and Curator
MMHN hears that the Flying Boat Museum is looking for a Museum Manager and Curator to be responsible for managing all operational aspects of the museum, the curation of collection items, display of the collection, and management of staff and volunteers. This permanent position has an attractive renumeration dependent on qualifications and experience, and working hours between 24 and 38 hours per week. A copy of the key selection criteria and Position Description can be obtained by emailing

12. Roving Wind Advocate 
You will perhaps recall that when Melbourne University academic Christiaan De Berkelear headed off on a year-long sabbatical looking at the transition back to wind propulsion for the global merchant fleet, he promised to keep in touch. Word arrived this week of his participation at conference on a sustainable maritime industry in Dumfrees, Scotland. Proposals to ‘put sails back on ships met with scorn and derision’, Christiaan reports, but times – like winds – change, and wind propulsion is gaining acceptance. Christiaan mentions a Smart Greet Shipping report, you may wish to investigate. See During a year-long trial, that the owners of the vessel Ultrabulk Tiger, carrying biomass for Drax between Baton Rouge and Liverpool, saved approximately 20% fuel re annum. Impressive! See the Final report:

Image: Ultrabulk Tiger from the Green Shipping website


13. Robotic submarines
Military technology company Anduril Industries has been contracted by the ADF to build three ‘extra large autonomous undersea vehicles’ (XLAUVs). These 30-metre long drones will be built at an undisclosed site on the shores of Sydney harbour within three years to help ‘mitigate’ a looming capability gap. Tory Shepherd reports (The Guardian 18 August) the robotic underwater drones will be tested at Anduri’’s research and development facility on Sydney Harbour, and will be used for intelligence gathering, reconnaissance and surveillance. They are intended to help fill the ADF’s looming capability gap between the retirement of the Collins-class submarines and the delivery of their nuclear-powered successors. Anduril has established an independent entity, Anduril Australia, and their HQ is in Sydney, but promises jobs around Australia in science, technology, engineering and manufacturing. Victoria lives in hope?

 Image: Robotic underwater drone from the Anduril website


14. Wooden Boats – always a joy
Maritime Heritage enthusiasts tend to enjoy a wide range of vessels but are perhaps especially fond of wooden boats. The Wooden Boat Association (WBA) was formed in 1989 and is based in Melbourne at Albert Park Lake. The WBA welcomes all people who enjoy wooden boats and wooden boat building. WBA holds regular sailing days at Albert Park and at other venues around Melbourne, and at least one weekend each year elsewhere in the state. You do not need a boat of your own!


15. Wooden Boats further afield 
A big claim but sounds fun! The next Australian Wooden Boat Festival will be held in February 2023 and is the largest free event in Tasmania and the largest celebration of wooden Boats and Maritime Culture in the Southern Hemisphere! Big claims, but sounds great fun. Maritime enthusiasts can simply enjoy the spectacle and can participate in three further categories: Boat Ashore, Boat Afloat and Models Boat. There has been a ‘massive response’ to expressions of interest to display at the event. Note: OSSA models are featured at the Festival. Despite a four-year hiatus, the wooden boat community across Australia is strong. For further details see


16. Better Boating Victoria – New Minister
MMHN Board members met this month with Better Boating Victoria (BBV) CEO Katherine Grech for a heartening wide-ranging discussion on topics of shared concern including the maritime skills deficit, degenerating piers, public maritime education and the plethora of waterways authorities. The BBV is concerned with improving access to and experience of the waterway by recreational boat enthusiasts whose $33 million licences and registration fees fund an astonishing amount of waterways infrastructure works. BBV is a division within the Victorian Fisheries Authority (VFA) and was established in March 2019 to oversee the Victorian Government’s investment in boating infrastructure and facilities under Minister for Fishing and Boating, currently Sonya Kilkenny. BBV are developing a coordinated dredging program to boost boating access across Port Phillip and Western Port.

17. Melbourne Boat Show
And before we go, a reminder that this year’s Melbourne Boat Show will be held 19-23 October at Docklands.

Until next month,
Kind regards

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