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Address to the Commissioning of HMAS Stirling

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FRIDAY 28 JULY, 1978

Admiral Synnot, Mr. Premier, Sir Arthur Tange, Commodore Boase, and ladies and gentlemen.

It's a little over one hundred and forty-nine, years ago since a little ship, the PARMELIA, edged her way through waters nearby where we are today. On board that

little ship of 443 ton was one, Captain James Stirling.·

Stirling was an early explorer of these waters, but nevertheless as the ship entered the Sound she ran on to a sand bank. : ' - Eorae may'} say not a Very auspicious start for the founding of the Colony of Western Australia. But Stirling described the incident with felicity and frankness in the first report that he sent back to England. He had taken the helm of the PARMELIA as he entered the Sound, and he wrote:

"As I entered the anchorage the PARMELIA took to ground, a consequence I regret to say of my over confident pilotage".

The PARMELIA was removed from the sand bank and the first settlement started.

Stirling continued to write as he had from the year 1827 with enthusiasm about the possibilities of

Cockburn Sound and his writings were read, as a lot of writings are read, but not much notice is taken of them..

But nevertheless; he persisted and he continued to describe the possibilities of Cockburn Sound as being quite unequalled

on the western coast.


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There's something, ladies and gentlemen, about the name Stirling that is arresting in itself. The adjective modified with a vowel denotes something that is sound, solid, respectable, and the name itself denotes just that too.

Stirling was a man of courage; he was a man of vision; he was a man possessed with a very robust spirit. Stirling was one who lifted his eyes up unto the hills, and he is remembered today. Stirling is part of the past

but he belongs to the present and it is given to few humans to win that renown. .

If Sterling's perception of the possibility of Cockburn Sound was as he described it, it was many years before high authority made a similar assessment.

It began in the year 1910 when the then Minister for Defence, Senator Pearce, a Western Australian, introduced the first Naval Defence Bill into the Parliament. It was the beginning of the founding of the Royal Australian Navy, and during the course of his speech he made reference

to the fact that Australia, by that time a Federation, was part of an Empire, and he acknowledged the unusualness of a component in an Empire having a separate Navy. But destiny ladies and gentlemen, makes her own appointments. That was

the beginning of the Royal Australian Navy.

And in the course of that speech he made reference

also to the fact that an Admiral of the Royal. Navy, Admiral Henderson, had been invited to come to Australia to advise

on the establishment of a Navy. "We have asked", he said, "Admiral Henderson to come here and to mark on.the map those

places where naval bases should be established." And a year later, in 1911, Admiral Henderson presented his report, and

one of the marks on the map that Henderson made for a naval base was Cockburn Sound. He shared the perception that

Stirling had on the possibilities of these waters.

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I suppose the cynic may say, well,.it's a

lively commentary on the process of political decision

making that it's taken some 67 years to take up the recommendation of Henderson. We'll leave an assessment of those years, Commodore Boase, to.the cynics and to those who believe they have powerful capacities for reflection. But nevertheless, ladies and gentlemen,

there was the report of 1911, and here we are 67 years from there. ,

There is, I'believe, a fond link between Stirling, Henderson and the year 1978. Nation building . is not, as many of use are inclined to suspect, a finite process^; it's a continuing process, and the qualities

that Stirling showed in 1829 are as much required today ( - ■ N

as they were displayed then. A nation that abandons .

the disciplines of nation building will', like all Empires, pass from sight. This nation requires vision, encouragement, a capacity to husband resources and a capacity to understand. '

The.word 'pioneer1 is not a word that should be left to history. The word 'pioneer' has a continuing

presence, a continuing role to fulfil. And this nation today is no longer a part, a component, of an Empire, but.she has her own personality, and her own gathering of responsibilities, and we are here today to see the

commissioning of the dream of Stirling nearly- 150 years ago, of the recommendation of Henderson of 67 years ago.

The quality of the work that has been carried out here is exceptional, and so should all work in the interests of this nation be exceptional in its quality.

■ I join with you, Admiral Synnot, in congratulating

most warmly all those who have participated in the construction of HMAS STIRLING. Ships will be based here,

ships w i n be deployed through here; ships from friendly nations will be received and welcomed here.



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The United States Naval ship, TRUATUN, is due

about the 7th of next month. She. will be welcomed

because in the matter of friendship the spirit of . pioneering remains a constant one, and friendship should never be taken for granted.

Ladies and gentlemen, it would be our hope and our prayer that this base.will never be used in anger, but if it should so be used then let it be used with skill, with courage, with honour and with success.