Talking maritime heritage
By Sue Dight - CEO, Mission to Seafarers Victoria
The Mission to Seafarers Victoria (MtSV) building is, and will continue to be, a place of rest and recreation for seafarers. I have mentioned over the past 12 months how busy we have been as port workers caring for the crews who come to Melbourne delivering all the goods we require for our daily lives. Cars, concrete and coffee. We continue to serve the seafarers who will most likely not get shore leave in Melbourne for a least the rest of the year.
One thing that those who come on our guided heritage tours of the building or just drop in to check us out ask most often is, “how are you funded?” and my answer is always the same: The Australian Government signed the International Maritime Labour Convention 2006 (MLC); The state owns the ports and who funds the Mission?
The MLC states as per guideline B4.4.4 …
Financing of welfare facilities1. In accordance with national conditions and practice, financial support for port welfare facilities should be made available through one or more of the following:
(a) grants from public funds;
(b) levies or other special dues from shipping sources;
(c) voluntary contributions from shipowners, seafarers, or their organisations; and
(d) voluntary contributions from other sources.
The State of Victoria has committed considerable funds to the Mission buildings recently, especially across the recent renovations that shored up the flooring on the ground floor, and stopped the render falling on the footpath out the front. The Mission through some very generous grants and donors were able to have the weathervane repaired, the Chapel windows repaired, new furniture and drapes in the main hall all in the past couple of years. We pay a peppercorn rent for the facility our Mission community built, as it is on Crown Land. But this doesn’t fund our day-to-day work.
We do this by opening the building every day to you - the community. We rent out spaces and meeting rooms; we host events; we hold functions including weddings; our major fundraiser the Annual Maritime Art Prize is the shipping industry’s opportunity to support us, and the seafarers themselves when they come ashore by buying a beer and a souvenir of Melbourne – the place they have called home for less than a day.
The MLC also calls for …
Guideline B184.108.40.206 Necessary welfare and recreational facilities should be established or developed in ports.
These should include:
(a) meeting and recreation rooms as required;
(b) facilities for sports and outdoor facilities, including competitions;
(c) educational facilities; and
(d) where appropriate, facilities for religious observances and for personal counselling.
The Mission was built for all these things – the tennis courts were taken for Siddeley St, and the gym in the Norla Dome is now used for public exhibitions and events. For outdoor recreation we have taken crews to the local basketball courts, and when Seafarers Rest Park is built they will have this outdoor area as well as our wonderful garden.
The North Wharf area around the Mission is currently under development with the Seafarers Rest Park, the Seafarers apartments and hotel (by developer Riverlee), and it will be a desirable area when completed; so why shouldn’t the Mission to Seafarers stay where we need to be to deliver our core services and continue to be a place for the community?
MtSV also believes our heritage collection and related narrative should be maintained, and that the presentation of the collection must continue to be associated with the Mission buildings. If there were to be no change to MtSV’s position within the building, MtSV would continue to invest resources in preserving and presenting its collection and related heritage narrative for the benefit of the people of Victoria.
Your support for the Mission and seafarers comes in the form of attending one of our wonderful events, dropping in for a coffee; or drink after work and appreciating that Melbourne has many maritime stories and the Mission to Seafarers is one part of the great big picture •