Aim: to facilitate the establishment and ongoing development
of a state maritime heritage centre at Williamstown

Williamstown Vision | Background | Site Proposal

Williamstown Vision

The Maritime Heritage Association of Victoria believes that the Seaworks site at Williamstown should be developed as a major maritime heritage centre, managed by a dedicated not-for-profit organization holding a long-term lease for the site. The precinct should from the outset plan to become one of the most significant 'working port' maritime centres in the world.

The management organization should be responsible for developing and implementing a staged long-term business plan, for the viability of the operation and all decisions regarding sub-leasing and activity choice for the site. The organization should appoint operating personnel and manage overall aspects of the site. To ensure viability, the organization must be linked to, and ensure the financial and other ongoing support, of all three levels of government, the maritime industry, the full range of community maritime organizations and interested individuals.

Success can be achieved over time by catering to a wide range of interests, so that the state maritime heritage centre becomes a recognised destination of choice for local, interstate and international visitors. Maritime heritage must be presented with links to the many regional maritime museums and heritage operations in Victoria. A world-class heritage site should offer a range of elements in the areas of heritage, education, tourism, community, museum and sustainability. As a minimum for Stage One development for the site, MHAV proposes:

Maritime Heritage
  • Berthing for heritage local and visiting vessels
  • Workshops and display areas for maritime trades
  • Maritime and heritage crafts and trades gallery
  • Slipway operation with vessel-restoration facilities
  • Booking and general offices for local and visiting vessels
Full Commercial Facilities
  • Function and restaurant centre near foreshore
  • Food and drink concessionaires with heritage themes
  • Book, souvenir and site product shop
Maritime Museum
  • Themed display and interactive areas
  • Gallery for art, images and temporary exhibitions
  • Maritime library, documents and images for research
Site Support and General
  • Film and lecture auditorium
  • Open-air music and entertainment facilities
  • Reception and administration facilities
  • Meeting rooms for maritime interest groups
  • Volunteers' mess room and facilities
  • Storage and car parking
All commercial operators on the site should be selected primarily on their ability to support heritage aims, financially or otherwise. For instance, heritage vessel operators contribute largely by their very presence and continued viability. The site lends itself to the development, construction and operation of a sympathetic function centre with views toward the city and seating for perhaps 150 guests, with such a facility generating major funds for the site. The two larger slipways should be refurbished for use and operated by commercial interests on a leased basis.

The present site was left to run down after the Port of Melbourne Authority ceased operations in 1991. Since 2003 there have been major physical and financial investments by hundreds of volunteers to clean it up, and bring it to its current state of low-key suitability for public access to maritime events. The Seaworks site is already much appreciated locally and across Melbourne, and has the potential to become an internationally-famous maritime centre.

However, the present shore infrastructure is generally in a poor state, and major injections of capital are required to establish a necessary first-stage critical mass of developments to achieve a viable operation. Ongoing funding arrangements to maintain the facilities and at least the two larger piers must be put in place in conjunction with initial leasing arrangements. It is anticipated that over time capital funding of the order of tens of million over several stages will be required to establish operations.

The managing organization must:

  • ensure that the site acts as a focus for maritime heritage in Victoria, including promoting regional maritime museums and heritage organizations in the state,

  • maintain links with Museum Victoria, Scienceworks, the Immigration Museum, the State Library of Victoria and the National Trust of Australia (Victoria), all of which hold significant maritime records and artefacts, with the aim of relocating the appropriate items to Williamstown, and sharing information and cooperation on matters of common interest, and

  • maintain contact with nearby developments, as the site operation may be able to benefit from opportunities such as the availability of the Lopac building (corner of Nelson Place and Ann St), which could provide highly suitable reception, administration and display facilities.
In view of the very limited progress over many years, the MHAV urges all associated with the site to press for much more rapid progress from this time forward.

Williamstown Vision | Background | Site Proposal