A PROJECT to build a museum showcasing a key role Mildura played during World War II is on the runway and awaiting the all-clear for takeoff.
After plans for a Kittyhawk Memorial Hall at Mildura Airport received a $150,000 boost in the State Budget, a business case will now be prepared.
The hall would commemorate the Mildura 2 OTU school that trained students during the war, mostly on P-40 Kittyhawk planes.
Most of the fighter pilots who flew in the Pacific theatre were trained at the site, but it’s a story not as well known as it could be − even among locals.
Mildura 2 OTU Heritage president Anthony Koch said the group first started presenting the project to councillors and the airport in 2016.
He said storytelling would be a key component, with the hall to be built inside the Bellman Hangar, one of the original hangars used for the school.
Concept plans have already been drawn up.
“The idea is to have a theatrette, we want to have an education room to tell the story, and of course we want to display all the artefacts and all the stories in a really unique way … so any visitor that comes here has an experience,” Mr Koch said.
Member for Mildura Ali Cupper said the benefits to the project would be twofold, both making the training school story more well known and attracting visitors to the region.
“One is to be able to link us back and anchor us to a really key part of our history – it’s important for us all in building a sense of identity and belonging as part of the Mallee that we know these stories and can celebrate these stories,” she said.
“The other part of is, this is going to be an exceptional tourism drawcard.
“War tourism trails are a thing, they are a major drawcard for people and we have other spots around the Mallee, at Nhill for example, at Lake Boga … this would place us as part of a war history trail.”
Ms Cupper said the business case would involve Regional Development Victoria (RDV) putting together a project reference group, which will be able to draw from a preliminary business case already completed with the support of the airport.
She said RDV would put a “Treasury lens” over the project and she hoped the business case could be completed within the next six months.
Ms Cupper praised the volunteers behind the project, who she first encountered as a councillor.
“There has been an incredibly committed group of volunteers who for a very long time have told this story, but they’ve done it on the smell of an oily rag,” she said.
“It’s really just been with with some some in-kind support from the RSL and the airport, but certainly not with the the funding and the support from the State Government and the Federal Government that this story deserves.”
RAAF Museum re-opens
The Mildura RAAF Memorial and Museum is delighted to announce that they are back in operation and will be open every Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 10am to 2pm.
The museum documents the history of Number 2 Operational Training Unit at Mildura and other wartime activities during World War 2.
For more information contact Paul Mensch on 0409 049 290.
– MICHAEL DIFABRIZIO