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Australian Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Senator the Hon. Ian Campbell
14 December 2005
The HMVS Cerberus, a warship that protected Australia from 1871 to just after Federation, has been included on the National Heritage List for its outstanding significance to the nation.
The Australian Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Senator Ian Campbell, said HMVS Cerberus reflected a period in our history immediately after the Crimean War, when the colonies were thought to be vulnerable to coastal attack and invasion by Russian forces.
“Named after the mythological three headed guard-dog of Hades, the HMVS Cerberus in her prime was an outstanding example of technical achievement and ingenuity,” Senator Campbell said.
“Launched in 1868, she served in three navies of the one nation. Her initial role was to protect Melbourne and Victoria’s gold riches for the Victorian Colonial Navy.
“She was transferred to the Commonwealth naval forces on Federation in 1901 and was eventually commissioned as the capital ship in the Royal Australian Navy when it was formed after Federation in 1911.”
The engineering and design of the HMVS Cerberus is of international significance. She was one of the earliest ‘Monitor’ style warships in the world, and she is the last remaining example of a vessel of this type. Her hull and superstructure were completely encased in iron, a radical departure from the wooden hulled warships that dominated the world’s navies at that time. Without masts, these ships were the first British designed warships to be powered purely by steam. They were also the first ships to have a central superstructure, with rotating gun turrets above deck both fore and aft.
In her 53 years of service, however, the Cerberus was never required to fire a shell at an enemy. The closest she came was an attempt to apprehend a small trading vessel when it tried to evade customs duties by sneaking up Port Phillip Bay. The crew raised the alarm but the tide had turned and the ship’s guns were facing towards the shore. As a result, their fire blew the roof off a chemist shop in St Kilda and hit the Gellibrand Lighthouse.
“Despite never seeing active service, the Cerberus remains an important part of our naval heritage, for her role in the development of Australia as a nation,” Senator Campbell said.
The HMVS Cerberus was scuttled at Half Moon Bay in Black Rock, Victoria, in 1926. The Black Rock Yacht Club has used her as a breakwater to protect its slips from the often rough waters of Port Phillip Bay.
She joins 20 other places on the National Heritage List, including Kurnell Peninsula where Captain Cook first set foot in Australia; well known convict sites like Tasmania’s Port Arthur and Western Australia’s Fremantle Prison; and the Royal Exhibition Building in Melbourne where Federal Parliament sat for its first 27 years.
For more information on the National Heritage List visit, www.deh.gov.au/heritage/national/index.html
Renae Stoikos on 02 6277 7640 or 0418 568 434