In the beginning, the buildings now accommodating the varied activities and display of the Port Stephens Community Arts Centre Trust were constructed in 1942-43 for a very different purpose.
In June 1942 a military aerial inspection was undertaken of the eastern coast seeking sites for training bases. Port Stephens was chosen because it offered good shelter from the Japanese submarine menace and was sparsely populated with less than 200 people who were mainly occupied with professional fishing. Approval was granted by the War Cabinet for the Navy to establish a Naval Training Centre to be named “HMAS Assault”. On 3rd September 1942 the HMAS Westralia arrived to serve as accommodation until the establishment ashore was completed.
It was during this period that the sick bay (Arts Centre), sister buildings, mess hall and several other buildings were constructed by the Allied Works Council. HMS Assault trained boat crews, beach parties and signal teams. Between September 1942 until October 1943, 100 officers, 100 coxswains, 120 beach Commanders, 453 boat crews, 250 stokers and 40 signalmen were trained by HMAS Assault.