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The Hon Peter Garrett AM MP
Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts

Official hand over of quarantine station to Victoria

Point Nepean
8 June 2009

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Thanks Mark [Stone, Chief Executive Parks Victoria] for your introduction.

I would like to begin by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land on which we meet - the Boonwurrung and the Bunurong people – and pay my respects to their elders past and present.

And I want to recognise others here, including:

It's a real pleasure to be back here at the Quarantine Station for this important and historic event.

I was here last in 2004 with a commitment that is fulfilled today, and I'm reminded again that Point Nepean is, indeed, a very special place.

It's a place of breathtaking natural beauty situated on some of Australia's most spectacular coastline.

The National Park is home to an incredible diversity of native flora and fauna.

However, the significance of this place extends even beyond its obvious natural beauty and important environmental values, for Point Nepean is rich in Indigenous, colonial and wartime history.

It's worth reprising the vivid history of this place.

Over one hundred years ago Point Nepean played a critical role in our nation's defence against the dual threats of disease and foreign attack.

Within a year of the discovery of gold in Victoria in 1851, around 100,000 people arrived by sea to the colony, seeking their fortune.

Ships were often overcrowded, with many people contracting serious illness and disease while on the arduous voyage to the colony.

Point Nepean was the arrival point for thousands of these early immigrants.

A quarantine reserve was first opened in 1852 at Point Nepean to prevent the outbreak of serious diseases such as cholera, typhoid and small pox that otherwise would have decimated the population.

Ships carrying passengers with infectious diseases were required to land all cases here along with those at risk of contracting the disease. Passengers' luggage was brought ashore to be fumigated with formaldehyde gas and passengers were required to take baths using antiseptic soap.

And yes, the quarantine station contains the oldest barracks-style accommodation built for quarantine purposes in Australia.

It's easy to understand just why the quarantine station was so crucial in the late 1800s, and again during the First World War, when it became the quarters for soldiers returning from battle with the dreaded Spanish Flu.

The isolation hospital and ward constructed from 1916 to 1920 and the emergency influenza huts, illustrate the bathing and disinfecting standards set by the Commonwealth during the First World War.

In addition to its role as a quarantine station defending against disease, the area's line of fortified defences contributed to Melbourne being known at the end of the nineteenth century as the ‘best defended commercial city in the British Empire'.

Today the fortifications on Point Nepean and Fort Nepean in particular, are regarded as unique examples of the crucial role coastal defence played in protecting the Australian colonies of the British Empire.

Because of its importance to Australia's development as a nation, Point Nepean was added to the National Heritage List in 2006.

It is one of a number of other Victorian places on the List, including the Royal Exhibition Building and Carlton Gardens in Melbourne, the Melbourne Cricket Ground and the Eureka Stockade Gardens at Ballarat.

The National Heritage List records and protects our most valued natural, Indigenous and historic heritage places.

Listing ensures that these places are protected for the benefit of the Australian community and future generations.

And today's hand over signals the next page in the Point Nepean story.

For many years the Point Nepean National Park and the Heritage Precinct have been neighbours, but managed separately.

Today, the Australian Government will hand ownership of the 90 hectares of the Point Nepean Quarantine Station to the Victorian Government.

This fulfils a key election commitment for the Rudd Labor Government and, coming after my earlier visit, I'm absolutely delighted to do the honours.

The fulfilling of this election commitment by the Rudd Government will ensure the Quarantine Station and the National Park are protected and maintained together.

In recent years this site has been managed by the Point Nepean Community Trust. I want to acknowledge the work of the Trust in protecting and conserving Point Nepean.

I also want to make special mention of the vital contribution made by local campaigners, of course led by Kate Baillieu, who have fought so tirelessly for this outcome.

Your persistence and passion are to be commended.

Point Nepean, its history, heritage and environment are now protected for future generations.

It now gives me great pleasure to pass, to the Victorian Government, the certificate of title for the Point Nepean National Park and Heritage Precinct.

Thank you.

Commonwealth of Australia