Official Dedication of the ‘Monument to All Seafarers’
Mayor Tate; Mayor Milne; President, Mr Hunt; distinguished guests; ladies and gentlemen. From the ancient mariners of Australia, the Indigenous people who explored our coastal waters for millennia – and whom, as the traditional custodians of these lands and seas I at once acknowledge, to the British explorers and settlers who so critically shaped modern Australia, seafaring is deeply embedded in our common culture.
The metaphors of the sea sing throughout Australian English.
We still speak of “throwing off the bowlines” and “seeking safe harbour”; we ponder “trimming one’s sails” and “finding shelter from the tempest”.
We also owe a tangible debt to seafarers and merchant sailors.
They are the sinews of the trade which has made our island nation prosper, for without their labour – as masters, engineers, deckhands, cooks and stewards – in peacetime and at war, the trade of goods on which our society depends would grind to a halt.
As we reflect on how vital these workers are to the greater good, the question becomes: what do we owe – in the words of the Psalm – to “They that go down to the sea in ships; and occupy their business in great waters?”
We will never know exact numbers of merchant sailors who perished while plying their trade off our shores – one hundred thousand, probably more.
But thanks to the tireless efforts and advocacy of the South East branch of this immensely dedicated Association, we now have a dignified and fitting memorial through which we can channel our gratitude for the service and sacrifice of merchant sailors.
The memorial’s central anchor, recovered from the wreck of the transporter ship SS Alberta which ran aground and sank in 1890 at Sutherland Reef, off the shore from here, is a powerful reminder of the perils awaiting those who venture beyond our shores.
But the memorial also stands as a fitting monument to the spirit of service – the spirt of recognition – which inspires the work of this Association.
I thank wholeheartedly all those assisted in bringing this project to fruition, including local government, and many community-minded organisations. I particularly thank members of the South East Queensland Vindicatrix & MN Mariners Association for their have persisted with this memorial.
Through your combined efforts, you have given public prominence to the legacy of merchant sailors – our co-citizens – so vital to securing our modern prosperity. May they no longer be the “Forgotten Service”.
It is an immense privilege to now officially dedicate the ‘Monument to All Seafarers’. Thank you.