As part of ASPECT’s ongoing work with the restoration and reopening of the former HMAS Platypus site at Sydney’s Neutral Bay, ASPECT Studios and its Urban&Public team attended the official dedication of the site’s Submariners’ Memorial, at a remembrance ceremony on Friday 18 August.
The memorial’s unveiling marked the 50th anniversary of the HMAS Platypus site. Special guests at the ceremony included Minister of Defence, Senator the Hon. Marise Payne; Chief of Navy Vice Admiral Tim Barrett AO CSC RAN, Mr Kevin McCann AM, Chairman of Sydney Harbour Federation Trust; Commodore Mark Sander RAN (retired), President of the Submarine Institute of Australia.
Susan Moylan-Coombs, Director of The Gaimaragal Group, gave the Acknowledgement of Country, representing Indigenous owners. A keynote address was given by retired Executive Officer of the HMAS Oxley, Vice Admiral Ian MacDougall AC AFSM RAN and a vote of thanks delivered by Rear Admiral Peter Briggs AO CSC RAN (retired).
Commemorating the service and seamen of the six Australian Oberon Class Submarines that were based on the site from 1967 to 1999, the memorial was conceived by Submarines Association Australia and the Submarine Institute of Australia and designed by ASPECT’s Urban&Public team for the Sydney Harbour Federation Trust, current custodians of the site.
The memorial’s centrepiece is the restored submarine anchor from HMAS Oxley, the first of the six subs to be based here. When the Oxley was decommissioned, her anchor was retained for this future purpose and has been installed on a circular precast concrete base. Three new plaques affixed to the memorial recognise the years of operation of HMAS Platypus and the three sailors lost whilst serving on Oberon submarines. An official wreath laying ceremony was part of the day with the Minister, family members and other dignitaries paying their respects.
Nearby, the names all six submarines – Oxley, Otway, Ovens, Onslow, Orion and Otama – have been etched into concrete steps. “We took advantage of these concrete steps to sandblast the names into their risers,” explains Urban&Public’s Simeon King. “So their memory is permanently embedded in the site, in a fittingly industrial way.”
While the memorial is a solemn reminder of lives lost, it also signifies the imminent rebirth of the HMAS Platypus site, from naval base to waterfront urban park. The memorial unveiling is a significant milestone in this transformation, marking the start of building and public space renewal works, after seven years of site remediation and community consultation. The new park will give public access to parts of Sydney Harbour foreshore off-limits for more than 140 years.
lahznimmo architects are designing new site structures and adaptation of the former naval and industrial buildings for new cultural and commercial uses, in collaboration with ASPECT Studios, who are designing the new public domain and park landscaping. Urban&Public will be involved on other interpretive elements across the Platypus site and adapted buildings.
HMAS Platypus was decommissioned in 1999, when its submarine base and workshop were relocated to HMAS Stirling in Western Australia. Also relocated was the bronze ‘Platypus’ on a granite rock, the base mascot since it opened in 1967. In the spirit of this new memorial and the park’s renewal, there’s hope that the ‘Platypus’ might return to its original home in the not too distant future.
Photography: Guy Wilkinson
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