Surviving on the commitment of its small team of volunteers, the Naval Heritage Foundation (NHF) is just one of around 80 military history and heritage groups in Victoria. Each year, ANZAC Day attracts interest in their activities, but when this fades, the groups continue to face funding, staffing, public and government interest challenges.
“We’ve been working for ten years to commemorate the Navy’s 100-year presence at Port Melbourne,” says NHF President, Mackenzie Gregory. “Our objective is to raise enough funds for a seven-foot bronze statue of a World War II sailor on the foreshore. The area has no navy heritage marker since HMAS Lonsdale was demolished in 1992.
“Our biggest hurdle is the Commonwealth Government’s refusal to grant us tax deductibility. Without this status it makes it difficult to approach organisations for donations.
“Everything costs money, whether it’s an event, seminar or simply being registered. So it’s always difficult for small groups to engage Government and the general public,” Mr Gregory says.
Acting President of the National Vietnam Veterans Association (NVVA), Mr Ken Anderson, a retired Army Colonel who served for 35 years, says raising awareness of their role and the Museum in Philip Island is a constant focus. “For us the concern is maintaining our relevance and ensuring the government of the day know we exist and acknowledge our credibility. We believe the NVVA will be relevant as long as Australian service men and women are involved in conflicts. We exist to remind people that the treatment Vietnam War veterans received when they returned home can never happen again,” he says. Attracting enough volunteers as veterans age and ensuring Museum displays keep up with technology are key challenges for the association.
To further their causes, NHF and NVVA have become foundation members of Military History and Heritage Victoria (MHHV), a new not-for-profit, incorporated association formed to support groups preserving Victoria’s military history and heritage and highlighting the contributions Victorians have made to Australia’s defence in peace and war from the 19th century to the present. “The richness of our heritage would be lost if these groups weren’t putting energy into preserving our history,” says MHHV President, Colonel (Rtd) Marcus Fielding. “MHHV will help military history and heritage groups – both large and small – by providing a gateway for the public to their invaluable knowledge – stories of service, bravery and achievement,” Colonel Fielding says.
Despite the challenges facing history groups, the Naval Heritage Foundation remains optimistic. “It’s a hard road, but we won’t give up. Anything MHHV can do to spread the word via its website, building relationships with government and promoting the importance of preserving history will help our cause.”
MHHV, with its emphasis on air, land and sea, is looking for a diverse membership of organisations and individuals who are interested in Victorian military history and heritage in all of its forms.
“MHHV is thrilled to be promoting the activities of its member organisations through its inclusive website, a Military History and Heritage Week and its own events and activities,” Colonel Fielding says.
Contact Military History and Heritage Victoria about this article.