A decade of Australian stories

Wooden surfboat 'Flying FishIV' (1968)

The Australian Register of Historic Vessels (ARHV) marks 10 years in the public domain during 2017.

The ARHV celebrates the milestone with a new website and display www.anmm.gov.au/arhv, while continuing the progress it has achieved over its first decade.

As the ARHV has grown there has been the realisation that one of its successes, and the major strength of the Register, is its potential to tell the stories each craft represents. These stories are the basis of each vessel’s significance, and a comparison of their stories reflects the varying depth of significance and helps define those with outstanding merit. In due course the ARHV will develop another tier of vessels with high significance, based on a shared context or background. Collectively the stories reveal the overall significance of vessels and the role they have played in Australia’s maritime history.

This is the greatest challenge the Register has at present; highlighting how craft of all manners and types have shaped or been part of the maritime history of Australia. Raising this profile will develop public interest and generate support for their preservation, and working on this foundation is a principle challenge for the ARHV in the next decade. Unlike some other countries, notably the UK, Australia has no heritage lottery or other central funding body to provide money for the preservation of historic vessels.

The earliest craft

One of man’s earliest artefacts was probably a watercraft used to cross waterways, or for fishing, and then eventually to head out onto open water and the ocean. The ARHV has captured examples of these craft with a diverse range of original Australian Aboriginal watercraft.

Overall a very diverse range of vessels are now listed, mostly within the cut-off date of being built pre 1970. But there are some significant examples listed of craft built after that date, such as the 1974 built Spirit of Australia, the world’s fastest boat, and the 1983 America’s Cup winner, Australia II. Key Australian vessel types, including pearling luggers and couta boats, are well represented, and even vessels that have been taken out of the country, but once played a significant role, are included.


In addition to the vessels, the ARHV includes reference pages on designers, builders, types, classes and events, which add further information and background. From dinghies through to large warships, the ARHV has a wide range of craft listed and is continuing to add them with further nominations. A governance structure of two committees reviews the craft and directs the ARHV in its role of advocating wider issues on behalf of the heritage vessel community.

David Payne
Curator ARHV


Top - Wooden surfboat FLYING FISH IV (1968)
Bottom - Steam Yacht ENA (1900) in Sydney Harbour