Victoria University is calling on the community to help save The Janet, a one-time grand lady of Australia's maritime history which now sits unnoticed inside a boatshed at VU's Newport Campus.
The 11-metre-long barge was built in 1922 for just over 2,600 pounds (about $5000 in today's currency) with silk curtains, teak planking and blue buffalo-hide seats to ferry naval admirals to and from their host ships in luxury.
She was used by the Australian Navy until 1945, privately owned until the 1990s, and then donated to the National Trust. Since 2006, nearly 100 apprentices and pre-apprentices from VU's boatbuilding, joinery and mechanical engineering programs have been restoring the vessel in a unique real-life project.
So far, the students have repaired or replaced some of her spotted gum ribs and other structural timber, and removed her diesel engine and entire cabin for restoration.
But efforts on Australia's oldest surviving Admiral's Barge are now stalled due to lack of funding.
VU boatbuilding teacher Eric Sandberg said The Janet requires a total rebuild and specialist labour and materials estimated to be worth about $85,000 to get her to the next stage.
"We've made good progress but we've probably gone as far as we can with our current resources," he said.
The 88-year-old vessel could be brought back to about 85 per cent of her original condition, and will likely be floated again, he said.
Once restored, The Janet may go back to the National Trust or stay with VU as a long-term showpiece and educational aide, allowing students to refer to historic carvel construction techniques.
VU is now calling on the community to help support The Janet's continued restoration with the donation of funds or specialist materials.
For more information about The Janet or to make offers of assistance, contact Eric Sandberg on Ph: (03) 9919 8422.
Eric Sandberg, Boatbuilding Teacher,
School of Construction Industries, Victoria University
Ph: (03) 9919 8422.
Ann Marie Angebrandt,
Senior Writer/Journalist, Victoria University
Ph: (03) 9919 5487 or Mobile: 0403 556 001.