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Wednesday, May 19, 2021

History buffs keen for a Port Stephens hub

Port Stephens was once home to the world’s largest oyster farm, the training ground for 20,000 American and Australian soldiers under General MacArthur, and the site of Bert Hinkler’s crash landing.

It is its historical richness that is the driving force behind Tomaree Museum Association’s push to establish a museum within the coastal town.

The group will host a pop-up museum at Bob’s Farm in December.

The hope is that the temporary site will generate enough interest and lead to a permanent home for the collection of artefacts.

Group chairman Ian Farnsworth said the group’s aim was to develop a regional museum and interpretative centre “to document, protect and promote the history and changing natural environment of Port Stephens”.

Port Stephens has such a rich history,” he said. “We have mini museums but nothing that draws the history together under the one roof.

“We want to capture the whole lot in the one place.”

During World War II, Port Stephens played a critical role in the defence of Australia’s east coast, Mr Farnsworth said.

“It was General McCarthy’s training ground for the Pacific War. They’d practice their beach landings here.

“The Catalina’s (flying boats) used to take off from Rathmines and train in Port Stephens.

“It was part of the practice of landing in rough seas.”

Sadly, Mr Farnsworth said, one did crash, sinking in the bay during the Second World War.

“It’s still there,” he said. “Bert Hinkler is another legendary aviator that features in Port Stephens’ history.

“He was forced to land his aircraft on the beach at Birubi Point in Anna Bay during a storm.

“It was badly damaged so he got a team of horses together and dragged it all the way to Stockton.

“He took the wings off, put the plane on the ferry, and took it to Sydney.”

“They’re all wonderful stories like this, I could go on for hours,” he said.

“That’s why we want to link it all together in the one place.”

Tomaree Museum Association members say, although they are passionate about piecing together information, they do need the community’s help.

“We’d love people to contact us if they have artefacts or old photos from the Port,” he said.

“So far we’ve got a committee, we’ve had grants approved and we’ve been busy collating information.

“This is the exciting part. But we are going to need $10 to $20 million to do it right.

“It’s a virtual museum at the moment but we’d love to put the full scope of Port Stephens’ history on display.”

Go to the Tomaree Museum Association’s website for more information.

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