Speech on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the opening of Darwin Military Museum

Occasion: 50th Anniversary of Darwin Military Museum
Location: Darwin Military Museum

The Honourable Michael Gunner, Chief Minister of the Northern Territory and Ms Kristy O’Brien;

Mrs Lia Finocchiaro, Deputy Leader of the Opposition;

The Right Worshipful the Lord Mayor of Darwin, the Honourable Kon Vatskalis;

Mr Luke Gosling, Member for Solomon;

The Honourable Austin Asche and Dr Valerie Asche;

Mr Normal Cramp, President of the Royal Australian Artillery Association, Northern Territory;

Veterans present,

Distinguished guests, Ladies and gentlemen.

I acknowledge the Larrakia People - the Traditional Owners of these lands and waters. I pay my utmost respects to their Elders past, present and emerging.

It is a pleasure for Craig and I to be here this evening for such a significant occasion.

50 years! A considerable amount of time – particularly for a city with a relatively short history.

But certainly not an insignificant history.

Casting our minds back over 70 years, the area where we stand today played a central role in Darwin’s Second World War experience. One of the most impactful periods of Darwin’s history.

The story of which, during the years after the War, as the twentieth century continued to unfold, needed to be remembered, and told.

As the fortifications at East Point gradually fell into disrepair, Darwin was in danger of losing a vital reminder of its past, and its identity.

A risk that the Royal Australian Artillery Association NT - a group of serving and ex-serving Australian Army personnel under the leadership of Lieutenant Colonel Jack Hayden – formed in 1967 – was keen to avert.

This Association began the long but crucial journey of bringing the iconic military heritage of East Point – and the Territory - back to life. And the thousands of artefacts collected by the members are only a physical representation of the countless hours of research, organisation and preparation these remarkable people dedicated to making the East Point Military Museum a reality on the 16th of August 1969.

The very first museum in our Northern Territory. A truly significant milestone in our cultural history.

The success of the museum over the last 50 years is testament to the hard work of thousands of volunteers.

It would be impossible to count the number of work hours that has gone into creating such a successful Darwin institution – much-loved by locals and visitors alike.

And of course the museum does not stand still. The Darwin Military Museum continues to evolve and develop, offering a highly relevant, interactive experience for us all to enjoy.

I remember well the opening of the Defence of Darwin Experience in 2012, which coincided with the change of name to the Darwin Military Museum. For the first time Darwin’s Second World War story came to life in a modern, interactive, immersive way.

On a personal note, my father served in WWII. The stories he told strongly influenced my understanding and appreciation of this seminal event in the lives of a generation across the world.

And the experience offered by this museum is crucial in ensuring our young Territorians, and our many visitors, are able to fully understand the complex, rich military history which is such an essential part of our identity.

It is fitting of course, that this incredible resource sits right here, where the two gun emplacements and Command Post we can still see today, along with many other emplacements, defence facilities and the two 9.2 inch guns stood representing Darwin’s defence during the uncertainty and constant threat of our proximity to the Pacific theatre of World War Two.

On behalf of Territorians, I thank Norman Cramp for his dedication, and the countless volunteers and supporters – past and present – who have contributed to ensuring the success of this wonderful museum over the past 50 years.

I know that there is so much to look forward to as we face a bright future, and I am excited to watch as the Museum continues to grow and innovate for at least another 50 years.

Go well, and thank you.