Victoria’s maritime heritage is typically associated with shipwrecks, our coastline is also rich in infrastructure that has made a significant contribution to the State’s economic and social development. Until now, the history of these breakwaters, rocket sheds, sea baths, pile lights, jetties and piers has remained largely untold.
Since 2003 the Heritage Council of Victoria has funded an on-going project, the Maritime Infrastructure Assessment Project, to research and create an inventory of archaeological maritime infrastructure around the Victorian coast. The aim is to gain an understanding of potential sites in areas under increasing coastal development pressure. Sites identified to date include;
- saltwater bathing sites
- fishing facilities and harbours
- anchorage and mooring areas
- defence installations
- evidence of other planned and vernacular coastal engineering, and
- an array of archaeological sites which demonstrate historic seaside leisure, defence and maritime industries
Stages of the project
The initial two-part project was funded in 2003 by the Heritage Council of Victoria; part one was a thematic history of maritime infrastructure on Victoria's coasts and waterways by historian Jill Barnard, and part two was an inventory of maritime infrastructure sites in northern Port Phillip by maritime archaeologist Brad Duncan.
The thematic history Jetties and Piers provides the background to the Maritime Infrastructure Assessment Project (MIAP). The publication is a useful resource for local planners, heritage consultants, archaeologists and historians, as well as a great general reference for local history associations and heritage groups.
Stage One of the project identified over 200 non-shipwreck, maritime archaeological sites in coastal, intertidal zones and underwater, just in the northern part Port Phillip Bay, Maribyrnong and Yarra Rivers. Further stages of the project have covered Geelong (Stage 2), with additional ad-hoc research conducted in regional areas including Gippsland and Queenscliff. There are now more than 400 sites listed and being considered for the Victorian Heritage Inventory, which is a list of known archaeological sites in Victoria. Some of these sites are also being research for nomination to the Victorian Heritage Register.
The project has been valuable for the management of a number of maritime infrastructure sites, especially coastal sites around Port Melbourne and Queenscliff. Some jetty sites have been under pressure through maintenance works, however the creation of new marinas around the coast has had the most impact. The project has also been very useful in the assessment of cultural heritage impacts through the Channel Deepening Project.
Heritage Victoria intends to continue the project in small coastal towns around the state, including regional ports and inland waterway. The ultimate aim is to develop a complete inventory of potential underwater and coastal archaeological sites in Victoria.