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Newcastle Herald

Events and escape rooms: 'Sea' history aboard a restored Shepherd flagship

Vessel for knowledge: Kerrie Goodall alongside former Sea Shepherd vessel the MV Steve Irwin. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers

EDUCATION, events and escape rooms lay ahead for the former Sea Shepherd flagship currently docked in Newcastle harbour.

Built in 1975 as a patrol for Scottish fisheries, the MV Steve Irwin served as Sea Shepherd's flagship for more than a decade from 2007.

Retiring in 2018, after leading 17 campaigns and preventing the deaths of over 6000 whales, the Steve was destined for the scrapyard before being picked up by Kerrie Goodall - who saw the vessel as a platform for education - in 2019.

"I took the ship on as a lease for one summer. I just wanted to set the bar up, get it going so somebody else could come along," Ms Goodall said. "Our arrangements with Sea Shepherd changed and they essentially said I could have it. So they sent me a bill of sale for $10.

"Despite COVID we have had around 10,000 people through the ship so we have had some pretty big events."

Ol' sea dog: Kerrie with rescue dog Admiral aboard the MV Steve Irwin. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers

Now part of her Ship4good project, Ms Goodall said around 400kg of rust has come off the vessel and close to $300,000, as well as thousands of volunteer hours, have gone in.

"I sold my house, my charter boat and my business to make sure this ship could fulfill its potential. To continue to inspire people about nature conservation and be used as an educational tool."

Until now the Steve has been docked at Melbourne's Seaworks - which Ms Goodall and her father helped establish - as an event space and floating museum.

MS Goodall said the boat was bought to Newcastle thanks to the efforts of its former captain Rob Anderson.

While in Melbourne the vessel hosted live music gigs of around 100 people, complete with a bar and plant-based kitchen, as well as tours showing Australia's "modern nautical history".

"People's faces light up. They want to know more about Sea Shepherd," she said. "We don't tell anyone how to think or feel. We just want you to come along and make your own mind up."

Due to harbour politics and infrastructure issues, Ms Goodall made the decision to leave Melbourne and relocate to Eat Street in Brisbane.

At the moment Ms Goodall, who lives on the Steve, plans to stay in Newcastle for two or three months. Continuing restoration efforts and re establishing the event spaces in the first instance and then "hopefully" opening up to the public.

"We want to to do two or three big events while we are here as well as being open for tours but there is still a fair bit of work to do," she said. "I'd love to relocate to somewhere like Queens Wharf for events. We will just have to wait and see what happens.

"We have someone converting one of the cabins into an escape room and we plan to have that complete while we are still here."

The Steve Irwin is located at Thales in Carrington, alongside other vessels currently being restored.

Ms Goodall was full of praise for both Thales and Newcastle councillors.

"Everyone here has been so accommodating and willing to help. The infrastructure here is incredible and the council are open to ideas and willing to listen which you don't get very often."