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Media Release
Senator the Hon Robert Hill
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Minister for the Environment and Heritage

24 February 2000


A steamship which sank off the Queensland coast during a cyclone almost 90 years ago will be conserved as part of the Federal Government's Historic Shipwreck Program for 2000.

Environment and Heritage Minister Robert Hill said just over $400,000 in Commonwealth funding would go towards providing better protection for some of 6,500 shipwrecks resting off Australia's coast.

"One of the major projects being funded this year will focus on the wreck of the Edwardian steamship Yongala which lies off Cape Bowling Green near Townsville," Senator Hill said.

"The Yongala was on its way from Melbourne to Cairns in 1911 when it was caught unawares in a cyclone and sunk, losing all 120 passengers and crew. It was only weeks away from having a radio fitted that would have warned it of the approaching cyclone.

'We are fortunate in that today it remains remarkably intact and now supports a spectacular array of marine life. It has an international reputation as a favourite site for divers. It is therefore not only a site of enormous cultural value but is a major tourism asset as well.

"To ensure we don't 'love-to-death' sites such as Yongala, the Commonwealth grant of almost $40,000 will be used to improve its conservation and site management."

Senator Hill said funding will be distributed nationwide through a total of 39 grants supporting research and conservation projects leading to a better understanding of the wrecks lying in our waters.

Other projects funded this year include:

Historic shipwrecks in Australian waters have Commonwealth Government protection under the Historic Shipwrecks Act 1976, which aims to protect maritime archaeological sites while encouraging public access to them. The Act prohibits damage, interference, or removal of an historic shipwreck or associated relics.

A list of the grants under the Historic Shipwrecks Program for 1999-2000 is available in PDF format. You will need Adobe Acrobat Reader installed on your computer to view it.

Media contacts:
Rod Bruem, Senator Hill's Office (02) 6277 7640
Michele Parsons, Australian Heritage Commission (02) 6274 2181

Commonwealth of Australia