Australian Artillery National Museum

Moves at North Head

Dear Gunners and Friends

I am writing to inform you all of recent activities concerning the Australian Army Artillery Museum (AAAM) and Army's presence at North Fort. As you are aware the North Head Sanctuary (NHS), which includes the former North Head Barracks and the North Fort area, is now “owned" by the Sydney Harbour Federation Trust (SHFT). The AAAM and the artillery collection at North Head are tenants on the site.

Over recent years the SHFT has developed a management plan for NHS in consultation with many others, including a range of submissions by the Army and the RAAHC. The Trust’s management plan recognizes the historical links that the military have had at North Head through the School of Artillery, the various defence fortifications and tunnels, the national Artillery Museum, the Defence of Sydney Monument and the Memorial Walkway. The plan also acknowledges that a museum that tells the story of the defence of Sydney Harbour and the military history of the site may qualify for a long-term lease at North Head. The Trust's Management Plan for the NHS was adopted on 3 September.

The CEO SHFT has now written to the Head Army History Unit (AHU) outlining future conditions and requirements for the site. This includes from February 2011, when the Trust plans to open the refurbished Café at North Fort, a request for public access to all areas 7 days a week. SHFT has also requested that Defence enter into a 10 year commercial lease agreement.

The conditions advised by the CEO SHFT to the AHU are considered unacceptable to Army, who are particularly concerned at the security of the collection at North Fort and the associated personal and public liability created by uncontrolled public access. Army is therefore proposing to vacate the site in 2011 and to transfer the AAAM initially to a storage facility, probably at Bandiana, and eventually to a new army museum facility to be built at Puckapunyal. This would accord with present Army policy, which is to locate Corps museums adjacent to Corps Schools. This was previously considered when the School of Artillery moved to Puckapunyal in 1997 but for a variety of reasons linked to the history of site and the links to Sydney this did not occur, and until now the AAAM has been well maintained at North Fort with the support of the RAA Historical Company and the North Fort volunteers.

On 2nd December the Head AHU, Roger Lee, briefed the AAAM staff, North Fort Volunteers and the RAAHC on the situation. The Army position has been advised to SHFT and negotiation has commenced.

The RAA Regimental Committee and the RAAHC Board will need to closely monitor, and influence where possible, the development of this situation. A process to clarify the ownership of the wide range of items in the artillery collection at North Head has commenced between the AHU and the RAAHC. It is anticipated that those items that should appropriately be in the AAAM will be loaned by the RAAHC to the AAHU. Other items owned by the RAAHC would be distributed to where most appropriate. This would include consideration for some to remain at North Fort where agreed by the SHFT, and some being given to other Army, national, regional and local museums and organisations where they have a close historical association with items or can best care for them.

I will keep you informed as the situation develops. The next step will be to see how SHFT (and the Government) responds to the Army proposal. Both the RAA Regimental Committee and the RAAHC Board will be considering options and plans over the next 3 months. We are looking for a solution that will be best for the RAAHC and Regiment in the long term and will best maintain our history and heritage. We encourage the constructive support of all Gunners and friends through this process, and encourage the continued support and assistance of our volunteers both during the next few months and as long-term supporters of the RAAHC and the Regiment.


Major General Tim Ford, AO (Retd)
Representative Colonel Commandant and Chairman RAAHC

11 Dec 2010