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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2018 Week 01 Hansard (Wednesday, 14 February 2018) . . Page.. 224 ..

National Trust heritage walks—Mt Stromlo

MR STEEL (Murrumbidgee) (6.35): On 21 January I had the great privilege of attending the Mount Stromlo heritage walk. The heritage walks are a new initiative by the ACT National Trust. The walks are held on the fourth Sunday of each month and attract many attendees. The National Trust is a leading organisation for conservation in Australia and raises awareness for the conservation of built and natural sites across Australia.

This particular walk was around Mount Stromlo Observatory, one of Canberra’s most significant cultural and scientific institutions. It also happens to reside in my electorate of Murrumbidgee. Mount Stromlo Observatory has a fascinating and varied history, ranging from being the site of a World War II munitions factory to being the current workplace of the Nobel laureate Brian Schmidt. Mount Stromlo also boasts spectacular views of Canberra, the Murrumbidgee and the Brindabellas. The Mount Stromlo Observatory dome, which housed the Oddie telescope, was the first commonwealth building in the ACT and represented a massive piece of national infrastructure for the Commonwealth of Australia as well as being an important part of Canberra’s history.

The heritage walk was led by Dr Bradley Tucker, an astrophysicist and cosmologist who is a research fellow at the Research School of Astronomy & Astrophysics at the Australian National University. Dr Tucker led a group of around 30 of us through the Mount Stromlo heritage trail. We stopped at sites of historical significance as he explained the rich and varied history of Mount Stromlo, as well as future innovations and research happening right now at the Mount Stromlo Observatory and other institutions.

The walk included a tour of the historic Mount Stromlo director’s residence, which was ravaged by the Canberra bushfires 15 years ago. Since then, the property’s facade has been restored and the residence is now open for public visitors. But perhaps the most notable attraction of the heritage walk was the burnt shell of the Mount Stromlo Observatory telescope. The telescope remains melted in place at the site, a reminder of the fires that ravaged the area.

Soon after the fires, the ANU released plans to rebuild Mount Stromlo Observatory in stages. It has since been announced that the final stages of rebuilding are over, and we are now looking forward to the future. In 2016 Mount Stromlo’s visitor centre was opened, signalling the completion of the restoration at Mount Stromlo, featuring a new cafe and interactive exhibits. The ANU facility there is now much more diverse and features Wombat XL, the only space simulation facility in the Southern Hemisphere. The facility is also the only Australian facility that has the capability to engage in pre-launch satellite testing from initial design to launch. Mount Stromlo is also now the home of MSATT, a teaching telescope which is used by our local high schools and our famous local high school teacher, Geoff McNamara from Melrose High School.

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