Recently I was made aware of the Inquiry into the union contribution to the site and surrounds.
my relationship with the area and the old house goes back to the early eighties we the martine unions were approached to provide letters of support for Stella Maris to establish a mission to which we agreed.(Brian Manning and myself SUA/WWF
At the time the house had fallen in to disrepair with the closure of the railway and a low priority on the rebuild list after Tracy.The first occasion I recall wharf unions were involved in a dispute with a vessel involving the ITF,the Stella Maris was operating on a part time basis and we used SM as a meeting place which worked well at a later time I was informed that the house had a history with the Australian Railway Union [from the turn of century the only unions operating with a branch were the N.A.W.U and the railways/Larrama line]
Darwin of that time was quite different Stokes Hill [wharf/power station]were both operating full time with shipping being the main transporters of supplies to the NT and the Power station was oil powered Mandorah ferry terminal and the trawlers were also located at the main wharf we [the port unions]were approached as they didn’t have a lot of patronage the bar at the time was very small and located at the rear upstairs and we began to patronize the establishment.We soon became somewhat larger than the accomidation and our numbers moved into the bottom of the old house and going upstairs for service as it grew. Having established a working relationship with the ITF(International Transport Frederation)which had the responsibility for seafarers wages conditions, working on flag of convience shipping( where the seafarers are of a different nationality to the flag of the vessel) we were asked if we would provide further support to the ITF for a request for funding to extend the bar downstairs and a restarunt upstairs also funding later for a mini-bus for crews transport from SM to wharf airport etc.This was done and duly granted the; manager of the time was Tony Fanning.With help for members and families we planted trees cleared the land as coffee bush etc had taken over also volunteer unionists assisted with the cold room power etc ;this took some time meanwhile the restaurant became busy and a community resource Xmas dinner was done for the less fortunate; workers were taken home at closing,also a place where work contacts for employment in the seagoing/transport industries could be made.Worthy of note industrial disputes such as Uranium,Meatworkers, NT Gov were under federal governance and when Commision was in town they all loved SM for dinner and meetings with workers also it with the unions involvement in the arts/1988 it also became a place for southern/ arts workers to meet and make local contact the unions were responsible for bands and artists such as Neil Murray/Yothi Yindi/Colored Stone/Robin Archer /Frank Hardy making their home in Darwin with rehersals in the garden.
This was a busy time for the area and bears little resemblance to the present day.As East Arm was built renovations occurred in the early nineties unfortunately they were to late to take advantage as the train had arrived trawlers had moved into the Mooring Basin and no longer were crews based in Darwin also the Darwin Trader/WestCoast traders had all finished.We were part of the new structure and I believe that the ITF was repaid but quite frankly due to some design problems with the new premises and the relocation of the workforce to East Arm it was never going to generate the income required for it to pay its way.
In closing this submission I would submit the the NT Trade Union movement has certainly made a contribution along with Stella Mairis to ensure the continuation of the old house up until the present restoration occurred.It should also be taken in to account that the pathway was was named Chinaman’s walk where the wharf workers carried their loads to and from the wharf or in later years down to the mud flats where the convention center is now.Bearing in mind the location of the house and the path how the amounts being quoted for value could be accurate.I would like to request the commissions indulgence for the lateness of the submission but I am living on the Gold Coast and was not informed until recently.
I would of course be happy to provide further information to the commission on request.