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

20 February 2001


Discovering early visits by Macassans and Europeans to Aboriginal communities in Arnhem Land, surveying shipwrecks off the remote coastline of Western Australia and investigating a first fleet wreck in Norfolk Island - just some of the projects to win Commonwealth funding in 2001.

Federal Environment and Heritage Minister Robert Hill today announced the Commonwealth would provide $357,000 in funds to document and protect ships wrecked in Australian waters.

"The Commonwealth is funding 27 projects designed to preserve historic shipwrecks and give Australians the opportunity to view and appreciate Australia's sunken treasures," Senator Hill said.

"This island nation's history is inextricably linked to voyaging on the seas. A significant part of Australia's heritage is represented by more than 6500 wrecks spanning four centuries which are submerged in our waters."

Some of the projects funded under the Historic Shipwrecks Program include: Wreck inspections near Groote Island, which will help in understanding the impact of Macassan and European contact on Arnhem Land Aborigines; Inspections of the former pilot schooner Rip and the SS Karakatta in Western Australia; Investigation of the whaling vessel Victoria that sank in Tasmanian waters in 1870.

"There will also be a focus on education with the development of materials and programs to help future generations learn about Australia's rich maritime history," Senator Hill said.

"Community involvement with our shipwreck heritage will be further encouraged through a project researching the ships, lifestyles and living conditions of the Tasmanian whaling industry.

"An oral history project will collect personal experiences of the Torres Strait pearling industry and a maritime heritage community program in NSW will enable visitors to experience the legacy left by those whose ships failed to complete their planned journeys."

"The projects funded in this year of the Centenary of Federation will bring maritime history alive and give Australians the opportunity to better understand our culture and heritage," Senator Hill said.

Under the Historic Shipwrecks Act 1976, historic shipwrecks are protected and preserved by the Commonwealth Government.

The Act aims to protect maritime archaeological sites, while encouraging public access to them. The Act prohibits damage, interference or removal of historic shipwrecks and their associated relics.

February 20, 2001

Media Contact:
Belinda Huppatz, Senator Hill's Office,02 6277 7640
Noel Pratt, Environment Australia, 02 6274 2117

Attachment - Historic Shipwreck Program Grants 2000/01

Historic Shipwreck Program Grants 2000/01 is available for downloading as a PDF file. You will need Adobe Acrobat Reader installed on your computer to view it.

Commonwealth of Australia