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A lasting legacy

A WOODEN dinghy lovingly restored by Risdon Prison inmates has been officially unveiled in Hobart, and has found a new home – returning to the family of the man who first sailed it more than 100 years ago.

The Howrah Rotary Club and a team of Risdon inmates spent nine months working together to return the 10-foot Huon pine dinghy –believed to have been built in Cygnet in 1915 – to its former glory after decades of neglect.

Named in honour of the late Dr Vanessa Goodwin, a former Rotarian and MP who worked tirelessly on a number of prison rehabilitation projects during her time in parliament, the ‘Vanessa G’ was unveiled by Premier Will Hodgman at the opening of last month’s Australian Wooden Boat Festival.

“Vanessa was very passionate about prisoner rehabilitation, and this is a poignant tribute to her work in this area,” Mr Hodgman said.

Howrah Rotary Club secretary Glen Woolley said the Vanessa G was one of five boats auctioneer Hank Petrusma put under the hammer during the festival, with a buyer from Mole Creek placing the highest bid of $6,500.

In a surprise twist, the buyer then sold the dinghy back to its original owners, the Archer family, for the same price he’d just paid.

“They’re planning to make it a bit of a family heirloom, and teach their grandkids to sail and fish in the little dinghy like they did,” Mr Woolley said.

“I think Vanessa would be very humbled by the whole project, and quite chuffed that the boat has gone back to the original family.

“She’d be really proud that something which bears her name now has a legacy with that family.”

Profits from the sale will be donated back to the Department of Justice’s inmate woodwork scheme, with the Howrah Rotary Club keen to establish an ongoing boat restoration program in partnership with the prison.

“We’ll talk to the prison about what we can do with those profits, and hopefully we might be able to start up a new project,” Mr Woolley said.

Caption: Rotary members, from left, Rob Warren, Glen Woolley, Basil Murray, Ray Pickett and Bec Gibson at the unveiling of the Vanessa G.