Maritime matters

Maritime matters


Maritime heritage and the maritime sector are very significant elements of Melbourne’s culture and economy. This is especially the case in Docklands.

Docklands News has granted the Melbourne Maritime Heritage Network (MMHN) this regular column.

February and early March was a busy period for MMHN.

The MMHN Board held its 2020 planning day. Given the ambitious MMHN agenda, matters discussed were wide-ranging and complex. We are delighted that Martin Dixon, former Victorian Minister for Tourism and Education, has joined the MMHN Board and Sue Scarfe has been appointed as technologies advisor to the Board.

A new MMHN special advisory group (SAG) focused on the tourism industry has been established. Other SAGs cover maritime commerce and industry, maritime skills, education and careers, museums and heritage and waterways and maritime infrastructure (piers, wharves, bridges etc). If interested, register to be kept in the loop about one or more SAGs at [email protected]

We have been very active on advocacy, which underpins all of MMHN’s major objectives. Here is a snapshot of our advocacy over recent months …

We’ve had dialogue with Development Victoria (Central Pier, Victoria Harbour, Harbour Esplanade), the Departments of Jobs, Precincts and Regions (transport) and Education & Training (maritime skills), Creative Victoria (museums, heritage), Creative Arts (museum, events), the Immigration Museum, ACMI, MUA, Federation Square, Yarra River Business Association, the Navy, Koori Heritage Trust Melbourne University, RMIT and Victoria Universities, the National Trust, City of Melbourne and Melbourne Water (MW).

Note that MW has issued a draft 10-Year Strategy for the Yarra – see Inexplicably, they failed to consult with any maritime stakeholder organisations. This has triggered a strong response from MMHN members. It’s important to ensure bureaucratic “amnesia” doesn’t impede due recognition of Docklands and its maritime heritage, which encompasses the lower reaches of the Yarra, its tributaries and estuaries, Victoria Harbour and various piers, wharves and docks. As a consequence of our advocacy, another river strategy document created last year, by the City of Melbourne, did include references to heritage infrastructure along the river. MMHN is having an impact. Those who love Docklands and maritime heritage need to keep insisting: maritime matters really matter!

On February 18, MMHN director Dr Liz Rushen, in a collaboration with the Royal Historical Society of Victoria (RHSV), launched her new book John Marshall: Lloyd’s reformer, shipowner and emigration agent. This is a reminder that one of our greatest resources, migrants, have often arrived uninvited by sea.

Two major maritime festivals went ahead as planned - the Geelong Wooden Boat Festival and the Williamstown Seaport Festival.

This flurry of activity occurred just before the new world of “social distancing” descended. A series of planned site visits, lectures, panels and tours have had to be postponed. Sadly, we’ve had to defer the planned April 6, 2020 panel presentation “Port Phillip Bay – Looking out, looking in: Aboriginal and Colonial perspectives” which was to be convened by MMHN and hosted by Federation Square, involving the Koori Heritage Trust, the Aboriginal Branch of the City of Melbourne and the RHSV. When it eventually occurs, this will reflect on perceptions at the point of contact. A planned collaboration between MMHN and Rare Books Melbourne, to be presented by Michael O’Brien as part of Melbourne’s splendid Rare Book Week in June and July 2020 on “Maritime Melbourne: History on Paper” has also been postponed.

An event is still being planned (pandemic permitting), in conjunction with Offshore and Specialist Ships Australasia, to celebrate the final voyage of the Aurora Australis, whose arrival in Hobart in April will mark the end of an era - 30 years of remarkable service to science and to Australian Antarctic operations. This vessel, Australia’s first and only purpose-built ship to service our remote Australian bases, has functioned as the platform for amazing marine science over a long period. This is a key part of Docklands’ maritime heritage - until the 1970s, all of Australia’s iconic Antarctic ships left from North Wharf on the Yarra close to the CBD.

Responding to the new necessity of “social distancing”, MMHN is developing as a service to members a series of digital workshops which will assist members to understand and adopt new ways to foster recognition of maritime heritage. We aim to reach new audiences and better promote the work of existing organisations. Stay tuned.

Finally, as the COVID-19 pandemic plays havoc with our lives, the residents of Docklands and shipping enthusiasts might be interested in maritime angle on two earlier pandemics (Black Death, Spanish Flu) and an infamous shipboard epidemic (typhoid). Much has been written about these catastrophic events, but not often from the maritime perspective. I encourage you to access a brief Insight document prepared by MMHN Board members which can be found at the MMHN website: – just click on “updates” then “contagion” on the left hand side.

And keep checking the website for information about maritime events and opportunities. You can promote your maritime events free of charge.

On behalf of the MMHN Board, try to keep well - and stay “socially connected” though our shared enthusiasm for maritime matters! •

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