Griffith Island Light House Project

The Lightstation in c. 1930, showing the main cottage (behind the picket fence), the assistant’s cottage and kitchen (right), the flagstaff and code house (upper left) and the bare nature of the area outside the station boundary.  (Photo courtesy of Rob. Haldane, Port Lincoln, South Australia)


The lighthouse and supporting infrastructure (a light-keeper’s and an assistant’s cottage, flagstaff and ancillary buildings) were built on Rabbit Island (then the furthest island in the small group of isolated “islands”, now joined by a breakwater and landfill), in 1859, as part of the Victorian Government’s investment in maritime safety improvement.  Port lights were built at Portland, Port Fairy, Warrnambool and Port Albert at this time. The Port Fairy light is the only one of these still located on its original site, but the associated buildings were demolished in about 1956 (after being vacated and subsequently badly vandalised) and the “Shiny-leaf” mirror bush (Coprosma), originally planted as a windbreak, flourished and slowly overgrew the remnant foundations.

 The Lighthouse viewed from track near the cottage foundations in June, 1999

Marten Syme, supported and advised by Rob Haldane, the grand-son of Hugh Haldane, who was the Port Fairy Harbour-Master and light keeper from 1929 until 1952, proposed a program to remove much of the Coprosma, delineate the cottage foundations, restore a few artefacts (such as the flagstaff area, the front picket fence, the lightkeeper’s basalt jetty), and provide two signs that provide brief information for visitors to the site and the lighthouse. The Port Fairy Historical Society agreed to auspice Marten’s application to Parks Victoria for a Community Grant.  Approval for the proposed works were also obtained from Heritage Victoria (the site is listed on the Victorian Heritage Register), the Moyne Shire and the Dept. of Natural Resources and Environment (as the Committee of Management).  The Belfast-Port Fairy Lions Club agreed to support the work with labour and Coast Action will replant the cleared areas with endemic native plants.  Parks Victoria have provided a funding grant of $5,635 for the works which physically started in May and are expected to be completed by November, before the shearwaters return.

The Coprosma growth seen from the light tower in May, 2000,  just after the project commenced, showing the extent of weed cover and the Norfolk pines planted on the Station boundary in the mid 1930s.

Updates to  The Griffith Island Project 

For more information or to be involved in The Griffith Island Project contact
Marten Syme on (03) 5568 2632.


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Copyright © 2000 Marten Syme
Image Copyright © 2000 Marten Syme & Rob Haldane
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last updated: 23 Aug 2000