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Editions

Hands off building, says mission

30 Aug 2009

Hands off building, says mission Image

Docklands’ historic Mission to Seafarers in Flinders Street has become a hot issue in the precinct planning and development debate. 

Mission to Seafarers Victoria CEO Andrea Fleming said charitable services to the 15,000 vulnerable and often-exploited seamen who use the heritage-listed centre every year was the priority purpose of 717 Flinders Street.

Ms Fleming said the port authorities granted the land to the mission over 100 years ago but some time later the land had reverted to Crown land.  She said the mission was heartened mid last year when discussions took place with the Department of Treasury and Finance with regard to the Mission to Seafarers taking ownership of title and the building.

Subsequently the building has been determined a public asset, thus transfer of title is being contested as other government departments see the potential of the building for alternative uses.

Ms Fleming said that the organisation had warded off various government departments and VicUrban developers some months ago from discussion regarding potential uses for the site.

She said the site was purpose built for seafarers’ welfare and maintains that the organisation will stand firm to ensure the on-going presence and preservation of the building for this purpose.

Ms Fleming said it was important that the organisation demonstrate it had the capacity to maintain and improve the building and that there was an undertaking from the Anglican Diocese and shipping industry stakeholders to support this.

She said she was confident that the mission could raise via public appeal the estimated $5million that would be required to restore the aging treasure.

The building was built from funds raised early last century by a group of women known as the Ladies of the Harbour Lights Guild specifically for services to seafarers.

The building provides a home away from home for merchant seaman. Ms Fleming said the site was not just of historical significance, but “for a not-for-profit service like ourselves, it is integral to our service provision.  The building provides a primary source of revenue that supports seafarers’ welfare in the Victorian Ports of Geelong, Portland, Hastings and Melbourne.” 

Fundraising for seafarers’ welfare would be dramatically threatened if the building was not available to the mission.

Ms Fleming maintains that public access to the site is important and the organisation welcomes visitors daily, mostly tourists from the City Circle Tram and passers by.  The seminar and functions facilities are used by many corporate groups and private functions are growing in popularity as is the annual ANL Maritime Art Prize and Exhibition hosted annually in October.

A Treasury and Finance Department spokesperson said no decision had been made on the building which was part of a wider study of the North Wharf precinct.  She said the Government supported the Mission’s occupancy of the site.

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