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Tuesday, 28 June 1994
Page: 2183


Senator KEMP (12.03 a.m.) —Most Victorian senators and members will be aware of the Mount Macedon memorial cross. Over the years many Victorians would have been taken as children to visit the cross. As the years have gone by they have returned with their own sons and daughters. I certainly recall being taken there as a young child. Later my parents moved to Mount Macedon and my mother, Betty Kemp, whose father had served in Gallipoli and France, had a special affection for the cross. She would often be seen with other members of the Mount Macedon community collecting funds to help maintain the cross. The cross commemorates the service men and women of World War I and the memorial gates going to the cross commemorate the service men and women of World War II.

  The monument was opened in 1935 by the then Premier of Victoria, Sir Stanley Argyle. The cross owes a great deal to the generosity and enthusiasm of a Mr William Cameron. He spent large sums of money building the cross and its surrounds. The cross is a major tourist attraction in Victoria. About a quarter of a million visitors come to the reserve each year. Once the area is fully restored, the number of visitors could easily double. Standing at the cross, one can view the surrounding plains as far as Port Phillip Bay. On the way to the cross, the Major Mitchell lookout provides superb views to the west, to the wombat forest and the surrounding foothills.

  Some 60 years on, it is not surprising that the often harsh environment at the summit of Mt Macedon has taken its toll on the steel and cement structure of the cross. The cross itself was damaged in 1975 by a lightning strike. The Ash Wednesday fires of 16 February 1983 further damaged the memorial cross reserve. The fire on 16 February drastically altered the landscape and the standing dead trees surrounding the cross are a stark reminder of that day. The greatest damage has been from water seepage causing extensive corrosion to the structure. Regrettably, safety considerations have meant that it is no longer possible for visitors to stand at the foot of the cross.

  A report on the condition of the cross was commissioned in 1991. It concluded that if nothing was done to repair the steel framework corrosion would continue, resulting in eventual failure and collapse of the cross with consequent serious safety risks to the public. It has now been decided to totally replace the cross, involving fabrication of a precast high-tech concrete structure of the same dimensions as the existing cross.

  I am pleased to record that a public appeal has been launched to raise up to $1 million to restore this important war memorial. The Victorian minister for conservation, Mr Mark Birrell, has announced the establishment of a trust chaired by Dr Moulds to manage the appeal and raise the funds. I am delighted to see that Mr Bruce Ruxton is a member of the trust, as are friends of my family: Mrs Harbison, Brigadier Ian Gilmore and Air Vice-Marshal Carter. Members of the trust are: Dr Moulds, Brigadier Gilmore, Major Bell, Air Vice-Marshal Carter, Mr Paul Handbury, Mrs Harbison, Mr David Mann, Mr Mark Stone and Mr Bruce Ruxton OBE.

  The Victorian government has given a seeding grant of $25,000 to the appeal and the federal government, I am pleased to report, has made donations tax deductible. Active fundraising is now under way and I am pleased to hear from the trustees that the local shires and private citizens are coming forward to support the fundraising efforts. I hope that the Commonwealth government may see its way to making a direct grant to support the project. I have written to the Minister for Defence, Senator Robert Ray; the Minister for Veterans' Affairs, Mr Sciacca; the Minister for Administrative Services, Mr Walker; and the Minister for Tourism, Mr Lee. The total restoration work for the cross and surrounds, as I have mentioned, will total about a million dollars and I hope that the Commonwealth may be able to see its way clear to making a contribution in the order of $100,000.

  From both the national historic and tourist perspective, this project is most worthwhile and, I believe, merits sympathetic consideration by the Commonwealth government. The Historic Building Council has stated that it is one of the most significant structures in Australia and the trustees are working closely with the council in the complete restoration of the cross and its surroundings.

  The Mt Macedon cross is of national significance. I congratulate the commitment of the people on the trust who are determined that future generations of Australians will have the opportunity to visit this historic site, to enjoy the magnificent views and, above all, to reflect on the sacrifice of the men and women of earlier times.