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The Army as Occupants – the Fifth Phase: 1950-1998
Officer Cadet School
In January 1952 the Australian Army, with whom the Quarantine Station shared the broader Point Nepean, was granted occupation of some quarantine buildings on a temporary basis to facilitate the development of the Officer Cadet School. The latter was intended to train and produce career officers for the Army, and was established at a time when the Army had overseas commitments, especially in Korea. The facility was also used to train cadets from other countries around the Asia Pacific region. The Cadet School went on to play an important role in Australia’s post World War II military history, with approximately 3,000 graduates who became career officers with the Australian Army, many involved in overseas conflicts and peace-keeping missions.71
The Army had occupied strategic land at Port Phillip the Heads since the early 1880s, with a garrison and fort constructed at the Point Nepean Head and similar facilities across the Bay at Queenscliff. Fortifications at Point Nepean were manned until the end of World War II, at which time the facility was largely dismantled with salvageable building materials stripped from the fort and sold.
From time to time the Army reserve area was also used for military camps and training, and particularly from the 1950s on the ‘Range’ area where training facilities were established by the Army, to assist with the combat and skills training of students in the Officer Cadet School.72 The training facilities outside the Quarantine Station area included the Unit Range, 25 Metre Range, 300 Yard Range, Grenade Range, Anti-Tank Range and the Spectator’s Ridge Range. Some structures, such as stores and a Range area control tower were also built by the Army.73
The initial period of occupancy for the Officer Cadet School was for a few months only, with the expectation that the Army would find a suitable location elsewhere. This did not eventuate however and in 1954, 776 acres were transferred to the Army for a nominal cost of £1 per acre. By this time, the Quarantine Station was only infrequently used, its role declining in part due to the rise in air travel (and hence the reduction in travel time to Australia).
The agreement between the Army and the Commonwealth Department of Health allowed the latter to retain control of Hospital No.2, the Isolation Hospital, the Boiler and Disinfecting House, and several other buildings, for quarantine purposes; the Army also agreed to vacate the station buildings on 24 hours notice, should they be required for quarantine.
In the early 1960s the Army began to make its mark upon the built form of the former station, constructing additional facilities to support the officer training facility. Two barrack-style accommodation wings were built – No. 3 Officer Cadet Barrack in 1963, adjacent to Hospital No. 2 (the placement of which disrupted the linear north-south line of the hospital buildings, see below) and No. 4 Officer Cadet Barrack in 1965.
A large hall and library building, named Badcoe Hall was also erected at this time, adjacent to the Administration Building, looking over what became the Parade Ground. Major Peter Badcoe VC was strongly associated with the Officer Cadet School, where he did his initial officer training, and was one of Australia’s four Victoria Cross recipients from the Vietnam War.74
The present-day entrance gates and guard house as well as the gymnasium (now demolished) were erected in 1963 and 1965 respectively. In total, over £300,000 was expended over the construction period, equipping the School, also known as Norris Barracks.75 The latter name was in fact applied to the whole of the Army occupied area, including the adjoining training ‘Range’.
During this period the school trained officers for service in Vietnam, and in January 1967, a formal visit was made to the School by Air Vice-Marshal Nguyen Ky, the Vice-President of the Republic of South Vietnam and Madame Ky, accompanied by Prime Minister and Mrs Holt and Annabelle Rankin, the Minister for Housing; during this visit the President laid a wreath at the school’s memorial.
In 1970, the new Melbourne airport opened at Tullamarine and with it international arrivals and departure terminal facilities. As a result, passengers unable to tolerate or who refused to undertake smallpox vaccination were accommodated at the Quarantine Station.
To meet this demand, additional modern accommodation was constructed in the form of the F E Cox Block (1972) and the J H L Cumpston Block (1974), informally known as Cox and Cumpston Cottages respectively. Coinciding with the commissioning of the latter, new arrivals were subsequently accommodated at Fairfield Hospital, thus rendering the period of use of the new facilities short-lived.76 They subsequently became Army residences.
In 1980, the Commonwealth declared the station surplus to requirements and closed by proclamation on 2 August 1980.77
The Army continued to conduct the Officer Cadet School, until relocating in 1984 to Canberra, to form part of the newly-established Australian Defence Force Academy.
Army School of Health
Subsequent occupation of the station was by the Army School of Health from February 1986 for just over a period of 10 years.78 This facility trained defence medical personnel and was the main establishment in Australia for the training of Army health officers. The School had previously been based in Healesville, from the 1970s. Amongst other crucial roles, Army ‘medics’ manned the field hospitals of the Australian Army when involved in combat.79
Staff of the School of Army Health staff were both military and civilian, and conducted courses for officers and soldiers ranging from 15 days to three months in health and military related subjects. The facility was also a popular location for military conferences.80
The End of Army as Occupants
In 1998, the School relocated to Bonegilla. In 1998-99, the buildings were used to house several hundred refugees from Kosovo, offered asylum on compassionate grounds as a result of the Balkan conflict arising from the break-up of the former Yugoslavia (Below).
Finally, in June 2004 the care and management of this site was vested in the Point Nepean Community Trust, until its later transfer to the State of Victoria for inclusion in an integrated National Park for Point Nepean.