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Alma wins Victoria Remembers grant

01 Jun 2017

By Bill Reid

Hidden away in the furthest recess of Docklands, there is a fantastic project underway to restore Alma Doepel.

Alma is a 113-year-old, three-masted schooner built in 1903 for coastal trading.

She is the last remaining vessel of her type. During World War 2 Alma was commissioned as Army Ketch AK-82 to work as an explosives and ammunition ship, carrying stores and personnel to remote outposts in northern Australia and the Pacific Islands.

The project has been awarded a grant by the Victorian Government under the Victoria Remembers grant program.

The program supports projects that help communities make personal connections to the Anzac Centenary and other wars, conflicts and peacekeeping operations.

In April 1945 Alma carried about 800 troops into action under General “Red Robbie” Robertson, shuttling them along the coast of New Britain under cover of darkness to assault remaining Japanese strongholds.

The grant will be used to develop a shore-based reflective and memorial space showcasing Alma’s war service. It will also be used to facilitate a permanent installation on board the restored ship.

The installation will be known as “Victoria Remembers AK82/Alma Doepel’s War Veterans Exhibition”. An announcement will be made on the opening of the exhibition for public tours and open days.

Alma worked as a cargo vessel until 1975. For almost 60 years from 1917 she traded from Henry Jones (IXL) in Hobart to the mainland and the South Yarra Jam Factory.

From 1975 until 1999 she operated as a sail-training vessel for youth groups.

Requiring extensive refurbishment to stay in survey, Alma was laid up until restoration started in 2010. Part of that time she was berthed at Port Macquarie where she functioned as a museum ship before returning to Melbourne to commence her full restoration.

The Alma Doepel Restoration Project has reached the final stage of hull restoration required to return her to the water and to vital youth sail training programs.

Donations can be made at http://www.almadoepel.com.au

But there is now considerable urgency as the developers move along North Wharf towards the restoration site, expected to happen at the end of 2017. Funds are urgently needed to ensure the ship is back in the water where she belongs, before this happens.

Funding will enable the purchase of the remaining hull frames and planks and pay for an experienced shipwright team to complete the work on time.

The target is $800,000, and is hoped to be raised by the local community, organisations and businesses who want to ensure this historical treasure of Victoria’s maritime past is preserved for future generations, and to ensures the viability of essential Youth Sail Training program that has proven to turn young people’s lives around to give a new start to youths at risk.

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