Commissioned by: Victorian Government
Length: 17:51 minutes
About The Film
In WW1 Melbourne a pioneering network of women at the Mission to Seafarers called the Ladies Harbour Lights Guild supported sailors who risked their lives at sea.
The documentary ‘Harbour Lights’ tells the remarkable story of the Ladies Harbour Lights Guild and the lives of seafarers in early 20th century Melbourne. It focusses on Melbourne’s iconic Mission to Seafarers building, its connection to the Great War and to a unique community of ships crew and volunteers.
This Wind & Sky Production was produced in collaboration with the Mission to Seafarers Victoria. It was directed by Jary Nemo and written and produced by Lucinda Horrocks and Jary Nemo with executive producers Sue Dight and Gordon MacMillan.
Narrated by Sharon Turley, the film features Jill Garner, Kate Darian-Smith, Chris McConville, Janet Miller and Gordon MacMillan. Music was specifically composed by the incredible Richard Chew. Featuring Melbourne historians, commentators, archivists and architects and rare footage and images of sailing and social life in and around the ports of Melbourne, this film will inform and connect audiences young and old.
Created with the support of the Victorian Government.
At the outbreak of World War One shipping was central to the Victorian way of life.
Seafarers from every corner of the world visited Melbourne on merchant ships. They risked their lives bringing goods to what was then the largest port in Australia. Life could be equally difficult in port where exploitation of sailors was rife.
To help protect them from harm the Mission to Seafarers set up a network of support in Australia and around the world. The Mission was first established as a floating chapel in Hobson’s Bay in 1857, but by the early 20th century had established shore-based missions in Williamstown, Port Melbourne, and on the Yarra River in Melbourne.
The Melbourne Mission to Seafarers, which still stands today, was constructed on the Yarra River waterfront in 1917 during the First World War at a time when ships carrying cargo and people were subjected to heightened dangers at sea.
What is little-known about the story is the crucial work of a group of women called the Ladies Harbour Lights Guild who raised significant funds for the Mission’s construction and who volunteered their time to support the global welfare of seafarers from ship to shore.
The inspiration for the film project was the rediscovery in 2007 of a near-forgotten set of dusty old boxes stored under the Mission’s theatre. The boxes were filled with documents and photographs related to the activities of the Ladies Harbour Lights Guild from its foundation in 1906 to its demise in the 1960s.
In recent years a dedicated team of volunteers and staff at the Mission has been gradually digitising, identifying and cataloguing the Guild records. Through their research they discovered that the construction of the current Mission building at 717 Flinders Street, particularly the building of the Memorial Chapel, was paid for in large part by the fundraising efforts of the Ladies Harbour Lights Guild during WW1.
The archives also revealed that the Ladies Harbour Lights Guild model was a homegrown invention, pioneered in Melbourne in 1906 and exported to Missions around the world.
Though the Ladies Harbour Lights Guild disbanded in the 1960s, their legacy is present in the bones of the building they helped construct during the terrible years of the First World War. Their traces can be found in the outdoor garden, designed and planted by members of the Guild, and in the stained glass, decorative work and plaques in the building’s Memorial Chapel, dedicated to the memory of merchant mariners who lost their lives in the Great War.
Today the Mission continues to operate from the same building and has an active staff and volunteer community working in support of the world’s seafarers who visit the port of Melbourne.
Screenings and Events
Official Selection, Carmarthen Bay Film Festival 2021, 18-19 May 2021.
Geelong Wooden Boat Festival: Sunday 8 March 2020, West Lounge Theatre, Geelong Foreshore. Program
Film Launch: Wednesday 26th February 2020, Melbourne Mission to Seafarers.
Viewing the Film
The film is free to show, watch and share online at internet quality at Harbour Lights on YouTube.
- Sharon Turley
- Featuring (in order of appearance)
- Dr Chris McConville, Gordon MacMillan, Janet Miller, Professor Kate Darian-Smith and Jill Garner
- Raul S Gantalao Jr, Escoto Lemuel, Ben Schroeder, Cinda Manins
- Ian Fletcher, Yuan Jia, Uma Kothari, Gordon Lansley, William Reed and Cheka Samaranayake
- Directed by
- Jary Nemo
- Written and Produced by
- Lucinda Horrocks and Jary Nemo
- Music by
- Richard Chew
- Executive Producers
- Sue Dight and Gordon MacMillan
- Research advisors
- Geraldine Brault, Maria Culka, Professor Kate Darian-Smith, Ros Fletcher, Professor Uma Kothari, Dr Barbara Lemon, Catherine McLay, Dr Chris McConville, Janet Miller, Rick Mitchell, Duncan ‘John’ Perryman, Dr Annette Sheill and Peter Taylor
- Archival photographs, music and footage courtesy of
- Australian Red Cross Society, Central Highlands Libraries, Internet Archive, National Film and Sound Archive, National Library of Australia, Mackarness Family Personal Archives, Mission to Seafarers Victoria, Public Record Office Victoria, State Library of Victoria and US National Archives
- Harbour Lights. Music by Richard Chew. Westering. Music by Richard Chew. Twilight (Crépuscule) by Jules Massenet. Performed by Amelita Galli-Curci. I Love You So, Waltz from The Merry Widow by Franz Lehár. Performed by Elise Stephenson and Harry Macdonough with Orchestra. Harbour Lights 2. Music by Richard Chew. If I Could Fly by Walking Hearts featuring Jennifer Holm. Courtesy of Epidemic Sound.
- With thanks to
- Peter Barrow, Sarah Bartak, Lin Bender AM, Patty Braumueller, Csilla Csongvay, Emer Diviney, Moira Drew, Ian Fletcher, Ajith Jayasuriya, Ben Jones, Patience Jones, Cinda Manins, Madeleine Martiniello, Georgia Melville, Elisabeth Moglia, Tara Oldfield, Lyn Pasquier, Nigel Porteous, Rev’d Onofre (Inni) Punay, Dr Rosalie Triolo, Ben Schroeder, David Simpson, Cheka Samaranayake, Daria Wray, the Helen Macpherson Smith Trust and KPMG.
- A special thanks to
- The women of the Ladies Harbour Lights Guild 1906 to 1961
- Produced in collaboration with
- The Mission to Seafarers Victoria
- Created with the support of
- The Victorian Government
- This film has been released under a
Creative Commons BY-NC-ND 4.0 International license
- Acknowledgement of country
- Project production and development took place on the lands of the Kulin nation. We acknowledge Traditional Owners and pay our respects to Elders past, present and future.
- Production company
- A Wind & Sky Production
- Copyright with
- © Wind & Sky Productions MMXIX