Ballina Naval and Maritime Museum volunteers (from left) Andrew Chapman, Ron Herbert and John Reid look over the pages of history.
Ballina Naval and Maritime Museum volunteers (from left) Andrew Chapman, Ron Herbert and John Reid look over the pages of history. Yvonne Gardiner

Ballina Naval & Maritime Museum houses rich history

VERY little of the history of the Ballina settlement remains along the length of the Richmond River.

The river once teemed with activity as the major transport link for the region.

Past decisions such as the one made by CSR (Colonial Sugar Refineries) to dig a canal around Ballina to ease the passage of cane to the Broadwater mill still shape the lives of locals.

Ballina was the third busiest port in NSW after Sydney and Newcastle, shipping out timber, dairy products, sugar, horses, pigs and canned produce. The city was also a centre for shipbuilding and ship repairs.

Ballina Naval and Maritime Museum exists to "fill those gaps in people's understanding" and preserve that history, says president Richard Greaves.

"The museum provides a unique opportunity for visitors to see and learn about the rich history of the Port of Ballina and activities which were integral to development of industry along the length of the Richmond River.

"Our models give visitors the chance to visualise and to put into scale and context many vessels - both naval and merchant.

"It is important to preserve our history so that the present generation as well as those who follow us will be able to experience the physical nature of our history and to provide a context for historical events.

"I think the museum is a rich source of historical material and a focus for the community, many of whom like myself were not born in the area.

"The museum also provides volunteers with the opportunity to meet like-minded people and to interact with the wider public."

In 1983, the not-for-profit museum started in the old pilot's cottage where the Ballina Information Centre now stands.

A move to its present site and two extensions later, the museum is now drawing up plans for a third extension which will bring the pilot boat PV Richmond into the museum to protect it from the elements and give more space for future exhibits.

"In regard to future planning, our current project in conjunction with Ballina Shire Council is to enclose the structure which houses the historic riverboat MV Florrie and develop a display which features the vessel and the Port of Ballina," Richard said.

"We are also looking to increase the number of our volunteers.

"Interested people could drop in to the museum and have a chat about what we do and collect an application form."

The Ballina Naval and Maritime Museum is located in Regatta Ave, along the banks of the picturesque Richmond River.

It opens seven days a week from 9am-4pm.

Displays include: navigation, communication, fishing, local history, women in the navy, fate of the HMAS Sydney I, submarines and significant events in maritime history.

Guided tours can be arranged for groups (booking required).

Call (02) 6681 1002.

ATTRACTIONS

  • The largest collection of ship models in Australia.
  • The only remaining raft of the famous La Balsas Expedition of 1973.
  • Port of Ballina display.
  • Rare and unique shipwreck items.

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