IT'S sailed half-way around the world, survived a shipwreck 130 years ago and is valued at more than $4 million. Now the Loch Ard peacock has finally been included in Victoria's heritage register.
The life-size Minton porcelain artwork statue, which is the centrepiece of Warrnambool's Flagstaff Hill maritime history display, is insured for $4 million and kept in a padded glass case with electronic security.
Heritage Council of Victoria chairman Daryl Jackson described the peacock as a "very significant" object for Victoria.
"It is associated with a number of important events in the history of Victoria: the Loch Ard shipwreck, the exhibition of 1880-81 and the opening of the Royal Exhibition Building," he said.
The statue was shipped to Australia in the Loch Ard from England in 1878, destined for the official opening of the Melbourne exhibition building. But it only made it as far as the rugged coastline near Port Campbell when the ship was wrecked in one of Australia's worst maritime tragedies.
It sank in just 15 minutes with the loss of 52 lives.
Two days later a wooden packing crate containing the peacock was washed onto the beach at what is known as Loch Ard Gorge. It was found by local resident James Miller and remained in his family until 1943.
It came to Flagstaff Hill in 1975 after a local committee, the city council and Fletcher Jones organisation chipped in about $4500 to buy it through a Melbourne auction house.
The precious statue made the trip to Warrnambool in the back seat of a car.
Yesterday's heritage listing announcement was the culmination of months of work by retired teacher Ron Sproston a Flagstaff Hill Maritime Village volunteer who compiled an extensive document for Heritage Victoria on the peacock's history and significance.
"I see it as symbolic of the strivings for marvellous Melbourne and of the trials and tribulations of the migrants who came out on ships," he said.
"It is very satisfying to have recognition for the peacock. It's irreplacable."
Flagstaff Hill manager Peter Abbott said the recognition boosted the case for the Warrnambool venue to be declared a state maritime history centre.
"We are not just a little regional museum, we have a significant cultural collection with items dating back to 1622," he said.
"Next week we will host the national maritime museums conference.
"However, we get no recurrent government funding. Melbourne-based museums get $38 in government funds for every visitor while we get only 25 cents," he said.
Mr Abbott said there had been an informal request for the peacock to be taken to the national museum for a major Australian-Irish exhibition next year.
A formal request would have to be approved by the city council.