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Public Submission

Leslie Fern - 14 February 2014


The money for construction of bar, cold room, and patron facilities was a grant from the International Transport Federation (ITF) of Seafarers, London.  The amount was about $250,000.  I don’t know the year in which this building was completed. It was before I became treasurer), may be in the early 1980’s. In addition, a further $99,000 was given by the ITF for the rest-rooms which were built in the late 90’s. Some of this money was also used to buy a motor vehicle.

About $300,000 has been returned to the ITF at the urging of the late Brian Manning, after Stella Maris ceased operations in 2003, and the NT Government paid about $600,000 for the infrastructure only. The site was leased on “a pepper-corn in perpetuity basis” from the government, with the approval of the former Chief Minister Shane Stone.

Union links.

The union has an historical link with Stella Maris, because of the funding made available by ITF and the support of those who drank there, mainly wharfies, who were unionists. Stella Maris also liaised with a Darwin Seafarers association headed by the late Brian Manning, for helping seafarers.

If it wasn’t for the ITF and a free lease of the site at the time of Shane Stone, I don’t think Stella Maris could have operated for as long as it did.

For further information on the accuracy of my figures, please check the audited statements.

Old Railway house:

To the best my knowledge, the 1937 North Australia Railway house is now heritage-listed and a tourist attraction. It was under the control of Stella Maris and maintained for renting out from time to time.  It was very costly to restore and there was also talk of bulldozing it.

This site is separate from the adjoining Apostleship of the Sea (Stella Maris) site, and I think it came under the jurisdiction of the Darwin City Council. In effect, Stella Maris management were only caretakers and custodians.

After 2003, a new Stella Maris committee was formed to manage the money received on settlement from the NT Government, and other relevant matters.  The committee was comprised of Fr Brennan (Chairman), Brian Manning, my wife, a few others and myself. We constantly applied for grant money to restore this building and put up a case for having it heritage-listed. The person we dealt with was Michael Wells, who knows all the details. Our efforts were also supported by Trevor Horman of Power Water Corporation.  This is as much as I can remember.

Eventually, this valuable site was heritage-listed by the government.  Our fight to save this old house from the bull-dozer was well worth it!

Les Fern.