Hillsong claims Melbourne’s iconic Festival Hall

Hillsong Church has outraged the music community by purchasing Melbourne’s historic Festival Hall, writes Rhys Muldoon.

“I asked my father

I said, ‘Father, change my name’

The one I’m using now it’s covered up

With fear and filth and cowardice and shame.” ~ Leonard Cohen

You may or may not have read it, but there’s a rather dark book by Ray Bradbury called ‘Something Wicked This Way Comes’. It features a Mr Dark, who brings a carnival to an idyllic town called Green Town. His carnival is set up very quickly at 3 A.M. on 24 October. He grants wishes for money. It gets worse. He wants more than money — he wants souls.

I’ve no idea what Bradbury was getting at, but in unrelated news, Melbourne’s Festival Hall has been bought by Hillsong. You may already know this. I “know it,” but there’s a difference between “knowing” and “accepting”. If this is a cri de cœur, may it reach God’s ear.

If you’re not from Melbourne, it’s hard to overstate Festival Hall’s cultural significance. In Sydney, maybe it’s The Hordern, Cloudland in Brisbane or in Canberra, The Uni Bar. You get the gist.

Born in 1913, it’s been home to boxing, ballroom dancing, basketball, The Beatles, Bob Dylan and the Beasts of Bourbon. That’s just some of the B’s. Let’s throw in The Who, the Small Faces, Frank Sinatra, Lou Reed, Pink Floyd and The Clash, Chuck Berry and Queen. Remember André the Giant from The Princess Bride? Him, too. Okay, you get the point.

I have no idea if you’ve been to Festival Hall, or to Hillsong. I’ve been to both. I wrote a piece a number of years ago for the Sydney Morning Herald‘The Day I Booed in Church’ – about my time at Hillsong.

I’ve never booed at Festival Hall. I’ve been there to see bands I like and I’m generally a pretty enthusiastic gig-goer. I tend to be up the front. The last two gigs I attended were, oddly, both Iggy Pop. The most recent one, it was Iggy’s birthday and he was turning 73. If you want to see a miracle on stage (without any strange hands held high in an awkward reminder of an artistically inept, Aryan Austrian) check out Iggy’s 73-year-old torso, creating photographic sculpture, every f***ing second.

Iggy didn’t pass around the tax-free electronic collection plate, no. We bought our ticket and we took the ride. He knew the deal. We knew the deal. Did he give? Hell, yes. And with far more sincerity and vitality than Brian Houston’s slick-suited, tombstone-toothed sorry about his paedophile pater’s profligate penchant for Peter, Paul and Percy.

 (An apology I witnessed live, dear reader. No, really, I did)

Did Iggy have a “merch” table? Possibly, but I didn’t notice it. It’s hard to miss Hillsong’s Supermarket of Salvation though. However they redesign Festival Hall, I can guarantee the Salvation Supermarket will be up front. You won’t miss it. Nothing like tax-free bucks to make a decision. So much soft rock, so little time. And the books! Bobbie and Brian, Bobbie and Brian, Bobbie and Brian’s brilliance in book form. When you literally worship prosperity, why hold back?

Festival Hall, the people’s hall, has been sold to hucksters on the taxpayers’ dime (and I don’t mean the time John Wren of Power Without Glory fame owned it).

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In the words of Brian Houston himself:

Are you in Melbourne right now? Are you in Victoria? You need some good news in Victoria, don’t you? Well, we’ve got some phenomenal news. Since early 2019, we began to talk about Festival Hall. It’s an iconic venue in Melbourne. The Beatles played there, pretty well everyone’s played there… it’s a youth movement. It’s an amazing venue and by God’s grace… we’ve been able to purchase Festival Hall. It is going to become the city location of Hillsong Melbourne… and so we’ve started an entity called, um, (looks to Bobbie Houston) something venues.


“I don’t know.”


“Community Venues! That’s it! Community Venues. And so it’s Community Venues that have been able to acquire Festival Hall and Hillsong Church will be the anchor tenant… I just wanted you to know that during a pandemic, we’re not just splurging out… we want a renovation, two or three floors, a kid’s ministry.”

Trust me, it gets worse. Way worse. It’s like watching a shareholder’s meeting for a company who are worried about ICAC or a royal commission. What it doesn’t look like is anything holy. If you’ve never seen a Hillsong video, get ready. Please play some music you love whilst watching.

 Now, where were we? Memory. What was and what is now, gone into a fiery white pit.

Every memory of every band you ever saw, every kiss you had, every drink, every scuffle, every girl or boy you smiled at, every bit of mildly illicit behaviour you indulged in, is being washed away with soft rock and vivid white paint.

I admit to being a strange creature. Yes, I’m a theist. I believe in God, but not in Hillsong. I’m strictly non-denominational. I also like jazz.

Festival Hall, every plank, every nail, used to ache when the place was thumping with the music of the people. It moaned, it ached and it felt like the floor could fall in. It felt, dare I say it, dangerous. If you loved that lyric enough, if those words spoke to you in a way that logic didn’t and you had a thousand people feeling the same way, it felt almost spiritual. Maybe it was.

And now, it’s gone. Gone like so many things that 2020 seems to be so great at gobbling.

Festival Hall. It’s all gone to hell.

‘It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.’ ~ Matthew 21:12–13.

Rhys Muldoon is an Independent Australia columnist, actor, writer and director. You can follow Rhys on Twitter @rhysam.

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Hillsong Church buys Melbourne’s iconic Festival Hall

Pentecostal megachurch Hillsong has bought iconic Melbourne concert venue Festival Hall, the church has announced.

The West Melbourne concert hall, which has hosted artists ranging from the Beatles to Ed Sheeran, was put up for sale almost three years ago.

At the time, owner Stadiums Limited said it couldn’t compete with newer venues.

In a YouTube video announcing the purchase on Sunday, Hillsong state pastors Tim and Nicola Douglass said the West Melbourne building had been bought after a years-long search for a home in the city.

“This journey of purchasing this incredible facility started about 18 months ago,” Mr Douglass said.

“We just happened to hear about that it was for sale and started inquiring, thinking that it was a long shot. I mean, we’ve been looking for seven or so years and come up empty-handed.”

Panic! at the Disco performed at Festival Hall in 2017.(Flickr: Joseph Nguyen)

Mr Douglass said the proposal appeared to fall through around Christmas last year, but “through a roller coaster of events”, the church managed to buy the building this year.

“The cool thing about purchasing Festival Hall is it’s going to continue to be Festival Hall,” he said.

“It has served the people of this city in different events over the years and it’s going to continue to do that.

“We just get to be the church that purchases it and continues to serve, but also gets to see it be the house of God on Sundays.”

Seating surrounds a circular stage.
An artist’s impression of how Festival Hall could look after its purchase by the church.(YouTube: Hillsong Church)

Performers that have graced the venue’s stage include Frank Sinatra, Liberaca, Johnny Cash, the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Justin Timberlake, the Foo Fighters and Lorde.

It has also hosted wrestling and boxing bouts featuring the likes of Lionel Rose and Anthony Mundine, and an indoor tennis exhibition with John McEnroe.

It was destroyed by fire in 1955 — 40 years after it opened. But it was rebuilt in time to host the gymnastics and wrestling at the Olympic Games the next year.

Fans line up for tickets to The Beatles concert at Melbourne's Festival Hall in 1964.
Fans line up for tickets to The Beatles concert at Melbourne’s Festival Hall in 1964.(ABC News)

Hillsong founder Brian Houston said the building needed a lot of work, and the church was hoping to renovate it.

“But we’re going to continue running it as a community venue,” he said.

When it initially put the building up for sale in 2018, Stadiums Limited had applied for a permit to demolish it and replace it with two 16-storey apartment towers.

But that proposal was thwarted when the building was heritage-listed.

An artist's impression of two apartment towers proposed to replace Festival Hall.
Two apartment towers were proposed to replace Festival Hall before it was heritage listed.(Supplied)

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Delhi’s iconic buildings to be demolished for Central Vista project

The project envisions a new Parliament House, a new accommodation for Prime Minister Modi and more

New Delhi: Raksha Bhavan, which houses the accommodation suites of officers attached with the prestigious National Defence College (NDC), as well as Transport Bhavan (office of the road transport & shipping and tourism ministries) and Shram Shakti Bhavan (which houses the labour, water resources and power ministries), are all set to be demolished under the controversial Central Vista project.

Transport Bhavan and Shram Shakti Bhavan will make way for chambers for MPs next to the proposed new Parliament building, while Raksha Bhavan will be replaced by the common Central Secretariat (CCS) buildings that will house the offices of all Central ministries, top sources aware of these development told this newspaper.


The much criticised Central Vista project — which envisions the building of a new Parliament House, a new accommodation for the Prime Minister and offices of all Central ministries at the 3 km stretch between Rashtrapati Bhavan and India Gate — entails shifting the entire staff of these ministries as well as officers’ suites of the NDC to the under construction Grameen Vikas Bhavan, which was earlier supposed to be the new address of the rural development ministry.

The entire cost of shifting the staff of the ministries as well as that of the NDC officers’ suites to the under-construction erstwhile Grameen Vikas Bhavan and its fresh construction will come to around Rs 350 crores, the sources added. They claimed that this cost woill be less than the cost of building the new office of the rural development ministry.


The proposal has been approved by the urban affairs and the defence ministries, the sources said.

The erstwhile Grameen Vikas Bhavan will be known as General Pool Office Accommodation (GPOA) building.

The proposed Grameen Vikas Bhavan, which had been sanctioned by the rural development ministry in November 2018, as its new address, and whose construction had begun in July 2019, was abruptly stopped after it was decided in December 2019 by the Centre that all ministries will be accommodated in the CCS buildings under the Central Vista project.

At the time of halting its construction, the government had already spent around Rs 12 crores on Grameen Vikas Bhavan, sources privy to the details said.


Subsequently, according to highly-placed sources, it was decided that the under-construction Grameen Vikas Bhavan or the proposed GPOA building will now house the twin offices of all these five ministries as well as suites for the NDC officers.

Keeping security aspects in mind, the GPOA building will have separate entry and exit points for civilian and military establishments, and even the basement parking area will be partitioned by walls so that there is no intermingling of ministries’ staff with that of the NDC officers.

The Central Vista project has been shrouded in controversy ever since it was officially announced in September last year. It has faced allegations ranging from seeking hasty approvals, lack of transparency and absence of public consultation, and seeking the advice of experts as well as not taking the all-important approval of Parliament, and going ahead with it despite the fact that the coronavirus pandemic is raging in the country.


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Lion to close iconic SA brewery West End

Beverage giant Lion is shutting down its 160-year-old West End brewery in South Australia, saying the national beer market has been in long-term decline for the past decade as drinkers turn to other tipples like wine.

Citing Australian Bureau of Statistics figures, the company said per capita beer consumption had plunged around 20 per cent over the past 10 years.

“Our input costs have continued to rise against this backdrop of declining volume, and a further drop in draught beer sales as a result of the pandemic,” Lion said on Wednesday.

As a result, the brewery had been operating well below its full production capacity for some time and was no longer viable.

Lion said it was a sad day but the closure was the best way to ensure a sustainable brewing network for the future.

“This is no reflection on the dedication or capability of our team at West End and their contribution to this brewery and our brands over many years.

“We recognise this is very difficult news and it comes at a particularly challenging time for our people.”

Lion said around a third of staff – around 40 workers – would remain with the company in SA across sales and sponsorship roles.

A spokeswoman said about 94 staff would be made redundant.

The company says they will have access to outplacement support and a re-skilling fund of up to $1 million on top of any potential redundancy payments.

“We will work with the SA Government to optimise this support package,” the company said.

The spokeswoman said popular SA-only brands West End Draught and Southwark Bitter would continue to be made at Lion’s other breweries, which also produce national brands like Hahn Super Dry, Hahn Premium Light, many of the core James Squire range and cider.

The brewery, which is the company’s oldest in the state, will shut its doors in June.

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Bill Waterhouse: Iconic horse racing bookmaker dies aged 97

Family patriarch Bill Waterhouse, once the biggest bookmaker in the world, has died at the age of 97.

The father of high profile bookmaker Robbie Waterhouse and father-in-law of leading trainer Gai, Waterhouse’s death was confirmed by his son via Twitter on Friday.

“Very sad that we have lost my father, Bill Waterhouse,” Robbie Waterhouse said. “He left us peacefully with his family by his side. He was in great spirits till the end.

“He enjoyed a great day with all his great-grandchildren last Sunday.” Born William Stanley Waterhouse, the qualified barrister was a colourful racing figure who carved his name as a bookmaker, particularly during the 1960s and 70s.

Bookie Bill Waterhouse pictured at Randwick Racecourse before retirement.Source: News Limited

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Iconic Goulburn Lilac City Festival goes virtual | Goulburn Post

news, local-news,

The Goulburn Lilac City Festival is going ahead this year but in a different format. The Lilac committee met recently and took the decision to make the 69th year of the festival a no-contact event in the wake of COVID-19. Lilac Queen April Watson said that the committee is still looking at “keeping the festival alive” and Goulburn safe. READ MORE: Preparations are on for Goulburn Lilac City Festival Goulburn Lilac City Festival is bigger and better than ever Goulburn Lilac City Festival: Fun, colour and return of parade “We will continue to run some events virtually and with zero contact. The opening of the festival will be pre-recorded and shared on our social media pages like Facebook,” she said. “Events like Lilac baby will be held in a COVID safe way this year. Last year, I visited the hospital and met the parents of the baby. This year, it won’t be possible to do that so we have decided to hold the event online. “Hope the 70th year brings a big and beautiful festival.” Meanwhile, events like dressing up of the windows in lilac and garden competition are going ahead. “It doesn’t require us to gather and judging can take place from a safe distance. The winners will be announced on our Facebook page,” she added. Other events like the markets and Joyland carnival have also been cancelled for this year. Established in 1951, Lilac City Festival is Australia’s longest continuously-run community festival. In 2019, the festival marked the re-incarnation of the street parade which was missing for the few years and has a long history of community involvement. The festival was named the Lilac City Festival because lilacs grew all along the back of Belmore Park and near the railway station at that time. The three-day festival is held over the October long weekend. Did you know the Goulburn Post is now offering breaking news alerts and a weekly email newsletter? Keep up-to-date with all the local news: sign up below.


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Iconic Hawkesbury River property ‘Berry Hill’ with 188 year-old cottage for sale

Built by the son of a First Fleet convict, 1832 River Road at Leets Vale is offering buyers a rare opportunity.

A 30.35ha property on the Hawkesbury River with roots to the First Fleet is on the market after being owned by the same family for 40 years.

Known as Berry Hill, the incredible landholding has 20.23ha of arable farming land, 2km of river frontage and a charming homestead built in 1832.

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The Leets Vale cottage was built by the Everingham family after Matthew Everingham was granted the site in 1816 by the Colony of NSW.


Berry Hill has 20.23ha of farming land.

His father, also called Matthew, was a convict on the First Fleet after being sentenced to 7 years transportation at age 16 for stealing in London.

No. 1832 River Road at Leets Vale is now set for a new chapter in the property’s enduring history when it goes to auction on September 19 with Lumby Hampson’s Will Hampson and Kate Lumby.

Set to sell for more than $3 million, the last time it went to auction 40 years ago, businessman Dick Smith was the underbidder.


The country-style kitchen has stone floors.


The property also has 10ha of bushland.

Mr Hampson said Berry Hill is one of the most unique properties he has come across on the Hawkesbury River.

“To get a waterfront parcel with 2km of river frontage and 20ha of cleared arable land is so rare to find out here,” he said.

The lush fields have been used by the current owners for holding cattle and before that were used as an orange orchard. Mr Hampson said not only is the land suitable for horses, but an urban farmer could easily turn the landholding back into an orchard due to the fertile soil.


The wraparound veranda has sweeping district views.


Character charm of yesteryear can be found inside.

“This could appeal to someone who wants to have a small farm that could sell produce to local restaurants or at the market,” he said.

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three-bedroom residence retains plenty of character including decorative ceilings, stone floors and stained windows. Described as the “ultimate lifestyle property”, the estate has elevated river views, a gated boat ramp and a small citrus orchard.

The diverse offering is drawing a cross section of parties from farmers to boating enthusiasts and buyers after a weekender.

“We’ve had people with helicopters and seaplanes also come out and inspect the property,” Mr Hampson said.


The current owners have lived at the property for 40 years.


A mixed bag of buyers from farmers to those after a weekender have inspected the house.

Mr Hampson said the coronavirus pandemic is seeing a growing number of buyers look to trade cramped inner city homes for expansive properties like Berry Hill that are still within proximity to the city.

“People wanting to put lifestyle and family first are increasingly looking to move to areas like Leets Vale where they can still easily access Sydney once or twice a week,” he said.

While the cottage is heritage listed, Mr Hampson said the new owner could build a new residence on the property and use the current one as a guesthouse.

Berry Hill also features 10.11ha of elevated bushland on the other side of River Road, a 300,000L water tank and a county style kitchen.


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Delhi’s iconic Indian Coffee House battles massive slump in business, unable to pay salaries for months

Sales in most branches of Indian Coffee House down by up to 60%; Delhi Society asks NDMC to waive rent, says govt. should step in to save chain

Wearing a white turban and uniform, 48-year-old Ranveer Singh holds a round steel tray full of Indian Coffee House signature crockery.

It is 2 p.m. in Connaught Place. A major part of the famous restaurant remains locked and only four tables have customers.

“Business is badly hit because of which we have not received salaries since March. I have not been able to pay rent for the last three months and have taken out ₹50,000 in loan since the lockdown. I will have to take more this month,” Mr. Singh told The Hindu.

Due to COVID-19 and staggered lifting of curbs, business at the iconic Indian Coffee House in different cities have been hit badly and salaries of employees of at least eight branches in five cities of north India under The Indian Coffee House Workers’ Co-operative Society Ltd., Delhi, (Delhi Society) have not been paid for the past five months.

Like Mr. Singh, many workers said they have borrowed or taken money from their provident fund to meet their expenses.

The deputy general manager (DGM) of Delhi Society said sales of all their eight branches were down by about 60% and Delhi by 70%.

Across the country

“The situation is same in other States as well. We have kept the salary of five months pending and whenever funds are available, we will pay the employees. I talk to Indian Coffee House societies in Kerala and Madhya Pradesh and they are also going through a tough time. The government should help us,” said DGM Devender Negi.

The Delhi Society, founded on October 27, 1957, has written to the New Delhi Municipal Council to waive the rent of ₹1.19 lakh per month for the lockdown period of their Connaught Place branch. However, the NDMC has not agreed to this, said the Society.

Mr. Singh, who has been working at the ICH for the past 22 years, said this is the first time that they were not getting salaries. “I have two children — one in Class 10 and another in Class 6 — and I am not even in a position to pay their school fees, which will be around ₹10,000 for three months. Almost everyone else is in a similar position,” he said.

Bharat Joshi, 34, who has been working at the ICH for the 14 years, said he has exhausted his savings. “I get ration from the government, but there are other expenses also. How will we meet them?” he asked.

President of the Delhi Society, Dinesh Singh Gusain, said: “I have taken ₹50,000 from my PF fund as I was not getting my salary. Now, I will have to take money again from my PF.”

Flipping through the pages of the account’s book of the ICH in Connaught Place, the branch manager, Bhuvanesh Kumar, said: “Today, till 2 p.m., we have only had a business of around ₹1,000. Before the pandemic, we used to have a sale of around ₹25,000-₹30,000/day. We are giving advance salary to many workers. But the business is too low even for it.”

After reopening on June 8, there was a revenue of ₹33,836 in June, ₹53,956 in July and about ₹80,000 in August, the records showed.

“Earlier, we used to have a business of around ₹9 lakh-12 lakh a month. The government should help us. The business is less than even the rent,” he added.

A letter written to the NDMC by the Society on August 9 read, “During the lockdown period due to COVID-19, the Indian Coffee House was totally closed from 22/03/2020 to 08/06/2020 and during this period the NDMC has not given any permission to enter the premises of the building. The Society shall be highly thankful to you, if on humanitarian grounds you will not demand the licence fee for the period.”

An NDMC official said that they do not have any provision to waive rent.

‘Will meet CM’

“We are planning to meet Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and request him to help,” Mr. Kumar said.

Almost all employees, including the manager and the DGM said that the government should help, as ICH is no ordinary restaurant chain. “Many political leaders used to come to ICH. In the 80s, when I was a waiter, I had served [L.K.] Advani ji when he visited here,” Mr. Kumar said.

At the society’s Delhi office in Kamala Nagar, the office-bearers were enthusiastic as they flipped through photos of other political leaders who had come to the restaurant.

One of the photos was a black and white photo of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi outside an Indian Coffee House van, which used to sell food on the roadside in Delhi. “We used to sent food parcels to Indira Gandhi’s home. Even Modi ji visited the coffee house in Shimla two years back. This is not any other restaurant chain,” Mr. Negi said.

“In Shimla, relished coffee at the Indian Coffee House and reminisced old days. The coffee tastes as good as it did two decades ago, when I would frequent Himachal for party work,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted in December 2017 with two photos of him outside the ICH in Shimla.

After opening the first branch in 1957, the ICH, which is run by a cooperative of workers, opened multiple branches in the city, but currently has only one branch in the city, which was opened in 1969.

Meanwhile, at the branch in Mohan Singh Place in Connaught Place, Mr. Singh and others pray that more customers will start coming soon. “When customers come, then only we get our salary. We work like that,” they said.

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Carnarvon’s iconic OTC Dish that played a part in Moon landings may be set for demolition

An iconic dish which played a key role in NASA’s first Moon landing 50 years ago faces an uncertain future at its home in the remote WA town of Carnarvon.

The 30-metre-wide dish has been an integral part of the town’s skyline for decades, ever since the parabolic reflector antenna was commissioned in 1969 to assist in the US space program.

It sits on a hill outside the Carnarvon Space and Technology Museum and attracts tens of thousands of visitors each year.

But the Shire of Carnarvon has warned its future may be in doubt with an expected remediation bill of $1.7 million over five years.

“This level of expenditure is beyond the current Shire of Carnarvon financial capacity, and without significant additional funding the future of the dish is in doubt,” the report said.

A structural engineering review estimated remediation works on the aging OTC Dish in Carnarvon would cost $1.7 million.(Supplied: Shire of Carnarvon)

Dish neglected for years

Carnarvon Space Museum chairman Phil Youd said the Overseas Telecommunications Commission (OTC) Dish was the only one of its type in WA, and only the second in Australia alongside Ceduna’s facility in South Australia.

Mr Youd said he had been raising concerns about the lack of maintenance on the Shire of Carnarvon-owned dish for many years.

“I think it’s great that finally the dish is being recognised that it does need some work,” he said.

The Carnarvon Space and Technology Museum viewed from a drone
The tracking station lives on today as the Carnarvon Space and Technology Museum.(ABC News: Chris Lewis)

“We’ve been trying, me personally and the museum’s been trying for years to get something done.

“When I was on council I proposed a budget be set for it, even if its 20 grand a year or whatever, just put some money aside because at some point you are going to need to do some serious maintenance on it.

“Unfortunately the money that was originally allocated ended up getting used in a different project.

“So once again the dish misses out and hey presto, here we are looking at a $1.7 million bill that obviously the council can’t afford.”

Mr Youd said demolition should not be considered and the cost of that would be “horrendous” — both in terms of the physical cost as well as the hit to tourism.

‘Slipping through the cracks of history’

Last month, the OTC Dish and the Carnarvon Space and Technology Museum drew 11,000 visitors.

Space to play or pause, M to mute, left and right arrows to seek, up and down arrows for volume.
Watch the 1964 ABC News report on the newly-opened Carnarvon Tracking Station

“It came into working just after they landed on the Moon, and basically what it was set up for was all the command and all the main instructions sent via that dish directly back to Houston.

“NASA realised prior to the landing on the Moon that they needed some better communication … back to Houston and that’s what the dish was built for.”

He said it was disappointing the dish was slipping “through the cracks of history” while other places like the Parkes Observatory in NSW had received wide acclaim.

“The dish in Parkes, there was a movie based around it, and that’s where it’s got a lot of focus in the past 20 years,” Mr Youd said.

“Poor old Carnarvon, as normal, misses out on the limelight, even though the base that was in Carnarvon had a far greater role than Parkes ever did.

A large satellite dish at the Carnarvon Tracking Station pointed skywards.
The Carnarvon Tracking Station measured complex telemetry data from space.(Supplied: State Library of WA)

The Shire of Carnarvon will discuss the report at its meeting today.

It has recommended councillors vote to establish a working group with the support of the shire, the Gascoyne Development Commission, and the Space and Technology Museum to establish a strategy for the dish.

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