THE state Liberal Party has stepped in to save plans for a memorial service to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the disappearance of Prime Minister Harold Holt.
Mr Holt was last seen by friends on 17 December 1967 wading into the water off Cheviot Beach at Point Nepean near Portsea.
Plans by the Harold Holt Memorial Committee, auspiced by the Nepean Ratepayers’ Association, for a memorial service on 17 December this year looked like being scrapped after little interest was shown by either federal, state or local governments.
However, the state Liberal Party president Michael Kroger this week has sent out invitations for a “special event” to “commemorate the life and service of the late Harold Holt”.
At that time of Mr Holt’s disappearance access to the beach was restricted as it was within the Officer Cadet School, Portsea.
The prime minister’s disappearance made headlines around the world, although today a cleared area above the beach contains just a small stone cairn with a plaque while another plaque has been bolted to the reef just offshore.
The beach is now within the state government-controlled Point Nepean National Park.
Russell Joseph, electorate officer manager for Liberal Nepean MP Martin Dixon and also the party’s candidate for the seat at the next election, said there was a “strong local desire to create an upgraded memorial overlooking Cheviot beach, near to the current site”.
“The Robin Boyd Foundation, with Parks Victoria and other stakeholders, will commence work on a design and approval process for this upgrade in the new year,” he said.
Mr Joseph said in October that “I’ll go myself with a mobile phone and make a speech” if no official memorial service was held (“No backers for Holt anniversary service” The News 17/10/17).
Shortly after Mr Holt’s death the late Robin Boyd sketched what he saw as a fitting memorial to his friend.
The sketch proposed building two straight four metre high walls – concrete breakwaters – tapering towards each other across the beach into the sea with a 25 centimetre gap at their apex. The equilateral triangle formed by the walls and the beach was designed to create an enclosure of “safe, calm water”.
“The calm water is symbolic of peace; the narrow head which the walls form is symbolic of Australia’s turning outwards, under Mr Holt’s leadership, towards her neighbours,” a paper promoting an updated version of the memorial produced by the Robin Boyd Foundation states.
The proposed memorial was presented to Governor-General Lord Casey and former Prime Minister Sir Robert Menzies who were both said to be enthusiastic, but was not supported by the Prime Minister John Gorton and did not proceed.”
The Sunday 17 December now planned by the Liberal Party includes a memorial service at the former Fort Nepean Barracks site and a visit to Cheviot Beach followed by lunch at the former commanding officer’s residence.