Historical information

Mrs. Valerie (Val) Mason (1927-2019) was a local sheep farmer, business-woman, Beechworth shire councillor, and mother to five children. With her husband, Charles, Mrs. Mason developed and managed the Big Valley farm estate, at Everton, which is now part of a vineyard and farm stay.

Mrs. Mason was instrumental in introducing a 'paddock to plate' philosophy and business model, opening a butcher shop on the farm in 1973. Concerned with improving infrastructure and developing economic opportunities in the region, Mrs. Mason successfully stood as a local council representative for South Riding in the United Shire of Beechworth, and later become the first woman Shire President in 1979. Mrs Mason was a member of the local Business and Professional Women's Club for 37 years.

This oral history recording was part of a project conducted by Jennifer Williams in the year 2000 to capture the everyday life and struggles in Beechworth during the twentieth century. This project involved recording seventy oral histories on cassette tapes of local Beechworth residents which were then published in a book titled: 'Listen to what they say: voices of twentieth century Beechworth.

These cassette tapes were digitised in July 2021 with funds made available by the Friends of the Burke.


Mrs. Mason's story is historically significant for understanding economic and social changes in the Beechworth region during the latter half of the twentieth century. As a council representative, issues such as road and infrastructure modernisation and the transition from traditional government employment sectors, like Beechworth's care institutions, were challenges for local government. As a farmer and local employer, Mrs. Mason's story is testimony to the region's economic diversification as businesses like Big Valley farm shop helped shape the region's contemporary character. Mrs. Mason was among the first women to broach the traditionally all-male Beechworth Council Chambers and her story is socially significant for understanding the changing role of women in rural and regional Australia. This oral history recording offers interpretive capacity for social history themes and may be compared with other oral histories in the Burke Museum's collection.

This oral history account is socially and historically significant as it is a part of a broader collection of interviews conducted by Jennifer Williams which were published in the book 'Listen to what they say: voices of twentieth-century Beechworth.' While the township of Beechworth is known for its history as a gold rush town, these accounts provide a unique insight into the day-to-day life of the town's residents during the 20th century, many of which will have now been lost if they had not been preserved.

Physical description

This is a digital copy of a recording that was originally captured on a cassette tape. The cassette tape is black with a horizontal white strip and is currently stored in a clear flat plastic rectangular container. It holds up 40 minutes of recordings on each side.

Inscriptions & markings

Mrs Val Mason /