Columns
10 years on Image

10 years on

Finally the fog lifts on South Wharf
Read more >>

Away from the desk Image

Away from the desk

The little bent tree
Read more >>

Chamber update Image

Chamber update

Another great year
Read more >>

Docklander Image

Docklander

Hats off to you, Premier, but remember, we’ll all be watching …
Read more >>

Docklands Secrets Image

Docklands Secrets

Conflicting speeds
Read more >>

Fashion Image

Fashion

Top five street style trends
Read more >>

Business Image

Business

Golden Fleece enters a golden age
Read more >>

Owners Corporation Law Image

Owners Corporation Law

New Owners’ Corporation Bill reads like a “favour for mates”
Read more >>

Pets Corner Image

Pets Corner

Odd couple enjoy waterside company
Read more >>

Precinct Perspectives

Yarra’s Edge - Precinct Perspective
Read more >>

SkyPad Living Image

SkyPad Living

The vertical commons
Read more >>

Street Art Image

Street Art

Goodbye from Blender Studios
Read more >>

Sustainability

Eat sustainably!
Read more >>

The District

ArtVo returns with brand new art
Read more >>

We Live Here Image

We Live Here

Proposed changes to the Owners’ Corporation Act
Read more >>

Abby's Angle  Image

Abby's Angle

The Silly Season
Read more >>

From ship to shore

29 Oct 2019

From ship to shore Image

By Meg Hill

When seafarers arrive at the Mission to Seafarers from the port they enter the side gate and “negotiate the narrow path along the edge of the small garden”.

The garden is “tended by Margaret, who reflects that seafarers like to see trees and flowers and feel grass underfoot after weeks onboard the ship with nothing to touch but metal and nothing to see but water.”

The experience was recounted in a seminar by Professor Uma Kothari, whose fellowship at the University of Melbourne has so far focused primarily on the Mission within the scope of a changing relationship between ships, seafarers and shores.

Before the courtyard, Professor Kothari described the experience of arriving on land: “They’ve spent four months at sea when the ship steers into port. They’re on a nine-month contract.”

“It’s been two weeks since they left their last port of call and some of them are desperate to go ashore.”

Professor Kothari specialises in migration and postcolonial studies at the University of Manchester. For the past two years she has been a Vice-Chancellor’s Fellow at the University of Melbourne.

“One Sunday not long after I’d arrived in Melbourne I went for a walk around Docklands and for a potter along the river and I came across the Mission to Seafarers building,” she said.

“It was seemingly out of place, but actually perfectly in place as it’s the skyscrapers around it that seem incongruous.”

Professor Kothari said she became enthralled by the history of the Mission, its connections to people, places and objects. She returned the next week and regularly since.

The Mission is “a place that cannot be solely defined physically by its borders and boundaries as its permeable, fluid and facilitates connections.”

“A long, internalised history gives the place its uniqueness – not necessarily a single unique identity but multiple shifting ones.”

Not long before Professor Kothari stumbled across the Mission, the staff had discovered almost 100 years of records concealed in boxes under its stage – annual reports from the 1890s, scrapbooks, diaries, log books, newsletters, artefacts and photographs.

She has been carrying out research at the Mission by consulting the archives and interviewing staff and seafarers.

She recently curated a photographic exhibition that brought together historical and contemporary photographs to depict continuities and changes in maritime life.

Professor Kothari made a point to highlight that the aim of the Mission since it was founded had been to care for all seafarers and their families regardless of nationality or background.

Today, the Victorian Mission has a wall where seafarers can pin their countries’ currency and a passport size photo of themselves.

“They want to leave a marker, a sign, a trace that they were there,” Professor Kothari said.

“Once a young seafarer spotted his uncle’s photograph on the wall and felt happy that his relative had also spent time at the Mission and in Melbourne.”

Share on Facebook

Stay in touch with Docklands. Subscribe to FREE monthly e-Newspaper.

You must be registered with Docklands News to be able to post comments.
To register, please click here.