You are invited!
By Jackie Watts - chair of Melbourne Maritime Heritage Network
Join us Federation Square on Sunday, April 18 between 12pm and 3pm on the Centre Stage to see a performance by the Royal Australian Navy Band and brief Melbourne Maritime History Network (MMHN) presentation about Sea Shanties.
The recent MMHN seminar Port Phillip: Looking in, Looking out. Aboriginal and Colonial Perspective seems to have triggered the imagination of many. Demand far exceeded the capacity of the Docklands Library Theatrette. Fortunately, thanks to the generosity of City of Melbourne’s Aboriginal Melbourne team, the presentations were captured on video and can be accessed via Dropbox by request. Since the MMHN seminar additional information on the fascinating topic of “First Contact” has come to our attention, broadening our understanding of this pivotal point in our shared maritime history. For those keen to know more on this, MMHN recommends that you watch The Message: The Story from the Shore – an award-winning film by Alison Page, made in collaboration with indigenous communities along Australia’s east coast. It reimagines the message of the arrival of Endeavour being passed from place to place. See https://youtu.be/hoU65yHWikA
Another viewing recommendation likely to interest Docklanders is a recent segment on the ABC’s Gardening Australia aired on Friday, March 12 at 7:30pm, featuring Yarra Riverkeepers. The show shined a spotlight on maritime heritage infrastructure, showing splendid images of Docklands – wharves, bridges, goods sheds etc. It also featured Herring Island, a 3.2-hectare artificial island, one of only two such islands in the Yarra River. Access to the island is via a Free Public Punt Service leaving from the Yarra bank near South Yarra and operating until Easter Monday. The actual course of the Birrarung/Yarra River has changed, many, many times – natural mean- derings on its way to the mouth of the Estuary and also altered to suit the “needs” of the day. For example - Herring Island formed in1928 by cutting a channel of the river through an old basalt quarry, the vast excavation of Victoria Harbour and the site of Docklands as it is today. All evidence that the river has been shaped, and re-shaped, over time. See abc.net.au/gardening/ and abc.net.au/gardening/factsheets/ my-garden-path---andrew-kelly/13243134
Cheerful news – steam tug Wattle.
Although Development Victoria pier works regrettably continue to restrict public access to Collins Wharf, there is cheerful news from a member of Melbourne’s heritage fleet berthed there – the venerable steam tug Wattle. Thanks to the diligent, persistent and enthusiastic work by the Bay Steamers Association, Wattle will very soon be steaming out of Docklands and will once again be plying the waters of Port Phillip Bay. Many Victorians will remember Wattle from the mid 1980s to 2003 when it carried thousands of passengers around Port Philip Bay on various cruises to Port Arlington, Williamstown and Rye and charters around the bay. The steam tug Wattle is a significant vessel and a very special maritime asset for Docklands having both a citation from National Trust of Victoria (1993) and registration with the Historic Register of Australia Vessels. Fewer than 20 such oil-fired compound steam engine harbour tugs are left in the world.
Marine service depot
It is no surprise that heritage vessels such as Wattle need constant regular maintenance. Strange as it may seem, amid all this navigable water in Docklands, there are no adequate marine service facilities based there. This is bad news for the heritage fleet, as well as the many modern vessels we all enjoy seeing at Docklands.
This absence of marine services facilities in Docklands is clearly a “deficit” in the precinct which must be addressed. The City of Melbourne’s long held plans to establish a marine services depot must happen. Obviously essential marine infrastructure is required in the Docklands precinct. Development Victoria decided many years ago that the site for this was Yarra’s Edge and allocated funding for the necessary wharf restoration there. Yet, NO ACTION STILL!
MMHN advocates staunchly that Development Victoria must, as a matter of urgency, act on its own long overdue plans. Making progress on this project is possibly a great opportunity right now for Development Victoria to neutralise the bad media generated by its failure to preserve and care for Central Pier, exacerbated by its current Collins Wharf repairs. Positive action to “push the button” to progress the depot may elevate Development Victoria in everyone’s estimation. Further, the economic uplift is assured. It would create jobs, extend opportunities for maritime skills train- ing and would obviously activate Docklands. We live in hope.