- Editorial Staff
- History - general
- RAN Ships
- None noted.
- March 2022 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
The Queensland Maritime Museum (QMM) is facing an uncertain future as a number of recent unfortunate events have conspired to undermine the credibility of this important institution which until recent times could attract 35,000 visitors annually, many from overseas. The QMM should be preparing to celebrate 50 years since its opening in 1971, instead of which it is concentrating on how to remain afloat.
Late last year the museum announced it would close to the public from 1 November 2020 resulting from a loss in revenue owing to restrictions imposed by the coronavirus pandemic which also severely adversely impacted its volunteer base. A recent media report says the Chief Executive Officer, Emma Di Muzio, tendered her resignation in October 2020 in the wake of membership unrest and a sinking balance sheet. She has now departed after seeing out an agreed period of separation.
This however was not the start of the museum’s run of bad luck as there are two ongoing police investigations, the first involving the alleged theft of $100,000 stolen during a transfer from the QMM bank account. Secondly there is a further investigation into a cyberattack taking information from the museum’s database.
The QMM’s funding base is uncertain because of its reliance on state and federal grants and contributions from volunteers and visitors. Present funding and revenue is insufficient to meet expenses. With a glimmer of hope the museum announced some limited openings during weekends from early January 2021, subject to online bookings. The Catch 22 is that unless the museum remains open over a wider period and attracts more visitors the situation will remain dire for the future of this important maritime facility and its exhibits.
Establishment of the QMM
The museum traces its history back to 10 June 1971 when the Queensland Tug Company gave the retired tug Forceful to a group of dedicated volunteers interested in the preservation and display of historical maritime artifacts for public benefit. It has since expanded into a facility of national significance, well situated and presented at the heritage listed site of the historic South Brisbane Dry Dock.
The museum is important in demonstrating the evolution of our maritime heritage as Queensland and the Torres StraitIslands provide a direct link between indigenous people and the maritime environment. There are examples of simplebark canoes, larger dugout canoes and, through Macassan influence, more advanced designs of vessels fitted withoutriggers and lateen sails. Indigenous people could not only navigate in riverine areas but some navigated forconsiderable distances out of sight of land.
Northern Queensland provided an important interface with other maritime cultures from Macassan traders toEuropean explorers, most famous amongst these being Lieutenant James Cook and the epic voyage of the barqueEndeavour in 1770.
The opening up of the future state of Queensland started with an initial survey by John Oxley in the colonial cutterMermaid leading to the establishment of a penal settlement at Moreton Bay in 1824.
An important exhibit at the museum is HMAS Diamantina, one of twelve locally built frigates constructed by Walkersof Maryborough under a national shipbuilding program during WWII. Commissioned in the latter part of the war, shetook part in the last operational bombardments against Japanese positions in Bougainville and the Solomons. Subsequently, she worked as an oceanographic and training ship before paying off on 29 February 1980 after whichshe was gifted to the museum. Diamantina is the only remaining example of ships of this type built in Australia. Along with Diamantina, Forceful and the pearl lugger Penguin served in WWII, Forceful in Darwin and the Northern Territory and Penguin in the Gulf of Carpentaria and Torres Strait.
Queenslander Jessica Watson made history as the youngest person to sail solo around the world in 2009/10 in the 34-foot yacht Ella’s Pink Lady. In April 2011 the yacht was purchased jointly by the state and federal governments and placed on display at the Queensland Maritime Museum.
Road to Recovery
As of mid-February 2021 a petition against the closure of the museum had attracted 16,000 signatures. It will beunfortunate if this historically important asset is allowed to fail, mainly blamed upon the effects of COVID, when thenation is now climbing out of the impacts of this pandemic.
The museum is an independent organization run by a board of directors headed by Captain Kasper Kuiper. We were delighted to have a telephone conference call with Captain Kuiper who laid out plans for a road to recovery. The biggest challenge is finding volunteers with relevant skills to help fill a number of key positions and then develop a program of events to attract visitors. The present plan working within COVID constraints is to open the museum to visitors on weekends. When overseas visitors return numbers can be ramped up and opening times extended.
Any of our members who could assist the Queensland Maritime Museum would be most welcome either as volunteers and/or making a donation to help with the running costs.
It is up to us all in the wider naval community to contribute something, no matter how small, to ensure this important institution does not fail and we help leave a proud history for another generation.
You can donate at https://shop.maritimemuseum.com.au/donation.