This blog provides information, stories, links and events relating to and promoting the history of the Wimmera district.
Any additional information, via Comments, is welcomed.

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Lost in the Bush - Weekend in the Wimmera

On the weekend of 15th-16th August, the Lost in the Bush Weekend in the Wimmera will celebrate the unique collaboration between the early settlers and the three Aboriginal trackers who found the Cooper-Duff children. 
 Visitors are invited to participate in a heritage based pilgrimage following the extensions of the story as it draws people deep into the heart of the Wotjobaluk country.  
Some of the activities include:
A Winter Campfire & Acoustic Night with local musicians and poets entertaining campers & visitors at the Jane Duff Memorial site on Saturday evening  from 6pm (bring your own sausages & marshmallows)  
The inaugural 'McCartney's Ride' re-enactment. A small group of riders are celebrating Peter McCartney's overnight ride to fetch the trackers from Mt Elgin. The riders will reach the Jane Duff Memorial site in time for the Sepia Picnic on Sunday at 12:30pm. 
The Sepia Picnic & Bush Activities involves billy tea ,stew and damper around a campfire in the scrub where the Duff children were lost (period dress is optional) on Sunday from 12:30-3:30pm.  
The Duffholme Museum and replica Duff hut will be open from 10am-4pm on Saturday & Sunday.    

The Horsham & District Historical Society will be open on Saturday 10am-1pm with a visual display of photos & museum pieces, the new 'Horsham's Then & Now' exhibition, and  Lost in the Bush items. 
A Wudjubalug Survival in the Bush experience - Barengi Gadjin Land Council guides will conduct a bush tucker & medicine walk, based on age old traditions, at Mt Arapiles on Saturday 1:30-3:30pm.
Full details and registration forms at the Lost in the Bush website.
 A weekend to truly lose yourself in the beauty and stories of the Wimmera region.

Monday, 27 July 2015

Treasure trove of the Wimmera

Good news on the 'Wimmera in Photographs' front.

The photographs in the collection have been available on the library's website from September 2014, well now they are also available on 'Trove'.
The National Library of Australia's 'Trove' brings together online resources, books, images, historic newspapers, maps, music, archives and more from Australian libraries, museums, archives and other research organisations.
The people at the National Library are now harvesting the data from our 'Wimmera in Photographs' and displaying it on Trove, so we are up there with the collections of the likes of the Australian War Memorial, Museum Victoria, and the National Archives. 
To search for the 'Wimmera in Photographs' Collection on the Trove site  - narrow your search to the Pictures, photos, objects tab and type in "Wimmera Regional Library Corporation" in the search box then click on the Search button.


Thursday, 23 July 2015

Battling on the land

Victoria sent about 90,000 men and women to serve overseas in the First World War, about 70,000 of whom survived to return home. As the war continued, the issue of repatriating returning soldiers became increasingly urgent.  As well as providing War pensions and other financial assistance, State governments of the time set up ‘settlement’ schemes to support returning soldiers with work. These schemes involved subdividing large rural estates into smaller farming blocks and leasing them back to discharged service-people. In Victoria around 11,000 farms were created.
The Public Record Office Victoria have digitised selected documents from Victorian Government files kept on returned World War One soldiers who were approved to lease a block of farming land in Victoria. They are presented online as “Battle to farm : World War One Soldier Settlement records in Victoria”. These government records will help family and Australian history researchers understand the individual experience of a soldier settler, as well as the historical context of the Victorian Soldier Settlement Scheme.

There are also 6 "Soldiers' Stories" with photos and video, in addition to the paper files.
William & Rebecca
One of these is William Edward Bradshaw, who was born at Clarendon near Ballarat on 5th  June 1888. In his teen he worked as a telegram boy in Ballarat.
William married Rebecca Ralston on 21st April 1917. Their children were Edward, Shirley, Evelyn, Alfred, Dorothy (died at birth), William (died at 6 months), and William.
William enlisted with the Australian infantry in 1917 and fought in the battle of the Somme in France from 1917 until 1918. A qualified engineer before the war, he was recruited to work as a signaller or ‘sapper’ on the battlefields. Signallers were required to be proficient in morse-code signalling on flag, lamp and heliograph, as well as in map reading (note the flag patch on his right forearm). 
William had ambitions to be a farmer on his return to Australia and leased a soldier settler block at Wallaloo on the Avon Plains near St Arnaud in 1920. 
Things didn’t go as planned, despite working on a pretty good block he sold his lease. On a good year he harvested 930 bags of wheat and 800 bags of oats. Working two teams of eight horses left him physically incapacitated, and as a sufferer of acute neuritis by 1924 he had to abandon the land, and sell in November 1924.
The farmhouse at Wallaloo
William might have held onto the farm if he could have afforded to hire labour during his recovery. The costs and the poor timing of this farming scheme meant many farmers couldn’t make it work. The government’s large-scale purchase of land had inflated prices, which inflated the repayments on the leases soldier settlers signed. As the war ended the world-wide supply of agricultural goods and labour increased and therefore the value of the soldier’s investment in land and stock started to fall. Soldier settlers frequently became deeply in debt to stores and suppliers as well as to the government. William’s wheat, which in 1919 would have sold for 7.5 shillings, by 1929 was selling for 3.17 shillings. As the Great Depression set in, the value of all agricultural capital acquired by soldier-settlers was greatly diminished, and was often worth less than half its purchase value in 1929.
William’s story is one of thousands of cases whereby the blocks were transferred to other leaseholders due to either ill health or poor financial returns.
William died of pneumonia in Queensland on 7th August 1935.
William’s story is just one from the PROV site.
You can access the individual records of thousands of  World War One returned soldiers who leased farming land across Victoria between 1919 and 1935. Enter a settler’s name in the search box or search by geographic location through the digital map, to zoom to parts of Victoria and click on a name to access their digitised official settlement record files.
The Bradshaws on the verandah

Monday, 13 July 2015

History skills

Good to see history seminars and workshops being run locally.
Deep Lead's Pioneer Memorial
 Royal Historical Society Victoria have "A day of practical skills development" on offer at Stawell.
 The seminar covers: 
  • 'Web development' - sharing, engaging & building your community in the virtual world
  • 'Aboriginal history' - how to write an Aboriginal history & its challenges
  • 'Aboriginal heritage' - managing & promoting Victoria's Aboriginal cultural heritage
  • 'Protecting heritage places' - protecting, managing & adapting significant sites
  • 'Facebook' - building your society membership via your Facebook presence 
    Lock-up at Great Western
    The seminar will be held in the old Shire of Stawell Hall on the Western Highway at Stawell West (next to the Stawell Historical Society building), on Saturday 8th August from 9:30am to 3:15pm.
  • The $15 cost covers morning tea and a light lunch. To book email or Phone 03 9326 9288.
Rock art Bunjil shelter, Black Range

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Patching Patche

Great news this week that VicTrack's Heritage Program will be funding the repair of Patchewollock and Kaniva railway station buildings.
Patchewollock - end of the line
The very dilapidated Patchewollock station building will be re-clad, the roof and walls repaired and painted and new guttering and downpipes installed. The Goods Shed will be restored by re-stumping, painting, new guttering and downpipes and structural repairs.
Kaniva's Goods Shed from the station platform
The work on Kaniva's station building and goods shed will commence shortly.
Donald-based heritage restoration firm Onley's Holdings will undertake the task. 

Below: The Patche line still open in 1966, taken from Nick Anchen's 'The right way, the wrong way & the railway : great Victorian railway stories'. It includes a story of crews battling through sand drifts to reach the remote Patchewollock terminus, passing families along the line, who would stop the train in the middle of nowhere, by waving a lantern, to receive their provisions.

Friday, 5 June 2015

Into the land of the Lowan

Its time for another 'Wimmera  in Photographs' Collection Day.
This time it will be held in the Hindmarsh Shire. The Shire covers the pre-amalgamation area covered by the Dimboola and Lowan Shires - in the south from the Wimmera River north to Lake Albacutya and west beyond Nhill - so a fertile area for historic photographs.
The abandoned Detpa Store, adjacent to the railway station
Some of the pastoral stations established in the region were: Albacutya in 1848, Horatio Cockburn Ellerman at Antwerp in 1847, Ballarook from 1847, Lake Hindmarsh (Pine Hills & Tullyvea) to Stieglitz in 1847, Lorquon in 1851, Mt Elgin and its subdivision Lawloit, Nhill in 1847, Upper Regions (Bonegar & Lochiel) in 1848, Woraigworm in 1849, and Yanac-A-Yanac in 1847...over 160 years of history.
As well there have been some significant events - the 1897 storm which nearly flattened Nhill; Big Lizzie's traverse from Outlet Creek along the west shore of Lake Hindmarsh and through the eastern Little Desert; the RAAF base at Nhill in World War 2 - all great photo opportunities, and hopeful there might be some prints or negatives show up during the Collection Day.
Interior of the Woorak West Methodist Church, built in 1886
The Collection Day is Friday 12th June at the Dimboola Library from 10am to 12:30pm then the Nhill Library from 2pm to 5pm.People with historic photos, negatives, and/or slides are encouraged to bring them for scanning. Appointments are necessary. To book, call in at Dimboola Library Phone: 5389 1734 or Nhill Library Phone: 5391 1684.

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Honour Roll launch

A momentous day for the Library today, with the launch of the 2015 Victorian Aboriginal Honour Roll road show in the Horsham Library.
Standing: Emma Kealy (Member for Lowan), Aunty Nancy. Front: Cr Mark Radford (Horsham City Mayor),  Uncle Kevin (holding the Honour Roll book), Minister Natalie Hutchins
 After a Welcome To Country speech by Aunty Nancy Harrison from the Barengi Gadjin Land Council Aboriginal Co-operative, the Hon Natalie Hutchins MP (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Minister for Local Government and Minister for Industrial Relations), introduced Victorian Aboriginal Honour Roll inductee Uncle Kevin Coombs OAM.
Along with Lester Marks Harradine and Johnny Mullagh, Uncle Kevin Coombs OAM is one of three Aboriginal people from the Wimmera region to have been inducted to the Honour Roll. He was inducted in 2012, now one of 64 people to have been honoured.
A Wotjobaluk Elder, Uncle Kevin's ancestors lived on the Ebenezer Mission station at Antwerp. Kevin was born at Swan Hill. He became a champion wheelchair basketballer and Australia's first Aboriginal Paralympian in Rome in 1960. Over the next twenty years he went on to represent Australia at another four Paralympics. He also won gold medals for Australia at the Far Eastern South Pacific Games in 1977 and 1984.
Back: Emma Kealy MP, Aunty Nancy, Cr Leo Tellefson (WRLC Chairman). Front: Cr Mark Radford, Uncle Kevin, Natalie Hutchins MP.
Among his many achievements and honours Kevin has received the medal for the Order of Australia, an Australian Sports Medal, induction to the Basketball Hall of Fame, a Deadly lifetime achievement award and a NAIDOC award. Most recently he was inducted to the Australian Basketball Wall of Fame.
Today he is known across Victoria for his work in Aboriginal health and justice. He is a patron of the Onemda Koori Health Unit at Melbourne University and sits as an Elder on the Broadmeadows Koori Court and the Children's Koori Court.
The Honour Roll book and exhibition will remain on display at the Horsham Library until 11th June.

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Honouring Lester

The 'Victorian Aboriginal Honour Roll' is coming to the Horsham Library.
The Honour Roll recognises the many and varied contributions of Aboriginal people to the identity of Victoria.
Another local Honour Roll inductee is Lester Marks Harradine. A Wotjobaluk Elder who lived at Dimboola, Lester was a sportsman, a returned serviceman, and a film star.
Though he was born in Bordertown, his family had a long association with the Ebenezer Mission Station at Antwerp. Lester was only 8 months old when brought to Dimboola in 1920 to be raised by his aunt. He attended school at Dimboola and Lillimur, and was aged 13 when he left to work on the commercial vegetable gardens that lined the Wimmera River during the Depression.
With the outbreak of the Second World War, Lester enlisted with the 19th Machine Gun Regiment and was transferred to Darwin. He was there when the Japanese bombed the town in 1942. By the end of the war he was stationed at Tarakan in Borneo. After the war Lester became  member of the R.S.L. and was actively involved through Legacy with supporting local war widows. Lester married Leila in 1958 and they had 4 children, he was employed by Victorian Railways where he got his driver's certificate in 1951 and worked until retirement in 1980. Lester died in 2010.

Lester was heavily involved in sport with the Dimboola Football Club, Wimmera Football League, Dimboola Bowling Club, and fire brigade competitions.
A keen cyclist he would ride from, Dimboola to Lillimur to visit family (a 175km round trip).
 In 2010 the Wimmera Football League granted Lester 'Legend' status, he had played for Dimboola in the 40s, 50s and 60s, including 2 senior premierships in 1946 and 1959, as well as a number of Reserves premierships in the 1960s. The Lester Marks Harradine Medal is awarded to the best & fairest in the Indigenous Recognition round.

Lester as Red Cap - still from the film
In 1973, Lester was one of the actors in the 'Lost in the Bush' film. He played the role of Red Cap, with Bill Tregonning who played King Richard, and Ronnie Marks as Tony. (Red Cap was one of the Aborigines brought from Mt Elgin station to help search for the three Duff children in 1864. He was also a member of the 1868 All-Aboriginal Cricket team which toured England).
Bill & Lester during filming
In his later years, Lester shared the stories and the culture of his ancestors with talks to school children, tours of Ebenezer. and donations to the Dimboola Historical Society. He played a key role in the recognition of native title in the Wimmera. Lester was induced into the Honour Roll posthumously in 2012.

The Aboriginal Honour Roll will be launched in the Horsham Library on 4th June at 11am, and will be on display in the Library until the 11th.

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Honour boards & memorials

"Looking after War Memorials and Honour Rolls" is a Heritage Skills Workshop presented by the Heritage Council of Victoria, Heritage Victoria in the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, and the Victorian Department of Premier and Cabinet.

The ageing, flaking sandstone headstone of John Bell of Antwerp Station, 1861
Situated in the Horsham Cemetery
This workshop is aimed at owners and managers of War Memorials and Honour Rolls in the Wimmera and Southern Mallee area, and would be useful to members of Cemetery Trusts, local museums, and community halls.

Jeparit's War Memorial


The workshop includes sessions on:
• Documentation and records
• DPC - Veterans Affairs Branch grant programs
• Materials: stones, mortars, inscriptions, gilding, metals
• Care, including cleaning and graffiti removal
• Care of timber honour boards
There will also be a tour of relevant sites to inspect practical examples from the course

Workshop Presenters are David Young OAM, Adjunct Associate Professor at the University of Melbourne, an experienced heritage consultant specialising in building materials conservation, and Jenny Dickens Heritage Victoria’s Materials Conservation Officer.
Mitre State School Honour Board now in the Mitre Hall
The workshop is on Friday 29th May from 9am to 5pm (registration from 8.45am). 
The venue is the Horsham RSL, 36 McLachlan Street in Horsham. Lunch, morning and afternoon tea is included.
The workshop is free, but Bookings are essential as places are limited, email (including dietary requirements). Enquires 9208 3622