Memories from a Soldier Settlement
At the close of the First World War, Australia began an ambitious and controversial soldier settlement scheme, allocating small parcels of potential farming land to returned soldiers.
33,000 acres were set aside in Red Cliffs, and in 1920, the returnees started clearing the Mallee Scrub, making Red Cliffs the largest Irrigated Soldiers' Settlement in Australia.
The Red Cliffs Military Museum, part of the Red Cliffs-Irymple RSL Sub-Branch, began around 1995, when a small billiard room was used to store wartime artefacts donated by local families. By 1997 the collection had grown so much that the museum developed and started opening to the public.
The collection continues to grow and holds artefacts from the Boer War, WW1, WW2, Vietnam and East Timor, and includes diaries, albums, arms, documents and uniforms, scale models and trench art.
A range of these artefacts, and interviews with soldiers and their families, telling of life in and between the First and Second World Wars, are presented here.
Contemporary Art & Ceramics at Shepparton Art Museum
Shepparton Art Museum (SAM) holds one of Australia’s most significant collections of Australian ceramics.
Begun in 1965 with the acquisition of a simple coil pot, the museum’s collection is rich and idiosyncratic; including convict-era pottery, an archive of commercially produced domestic ware, studio ceramics from the 1920s onward and contemporary art.
Along with the ceramics collection, SAM holds a historically significant collection of Australian painting, works on paper and sculpture, and a growing collection of contemporary art.
Women on Farms
In 1990, a group of rural and farming women met in Warragul for what was to be the inaugural Women on Farms Gathering.
A group of local women had developed the idea while involved in a Women on Farms Skill Course. It was to prove inspirational, and the gatherings have been held annually ever since, throughout regional Victoria.
The Women on Farms Gathering provides a unique opportunity for women to network, increase their skills base in farming and business practices, share their stories and experience a wonderful sense of support, particularly crucial due to the shocking rural crises of the last decade. Importantly, the gatherings help promote and establish the notion of rural women as farmers, business women and community leaders.
The relationship between Museums Victoria and the Women on Farms Gathering is a model of museums working with living history.
From Here and There
From Here & There is a cultural exchange and story telling project through making.
The project connects contemporary art and design practice with traditional Indigenous cultures and artefacts to tell a story that explores the past and the present; dislocation and home; community and identity.
Designer & artist, Philippa Abbott engaged with two Victorian indigenous weavers – Master weaver Aunty Marilyne Nicholls & Journey woman Donna Blackall - to learn their process of weaving. The process entailed going out on to Country to collect materials, visiting their homes and families and tracing current cultural identity through understandings of place, of recent family movement, clan lineage and through the weaving technique itself.
By learning the weaving technique the collaboration then looks to develop a new artefact together that explores current and future story creation.
The process was a collaboration with, and documented by, Greta Costello – a Melbourne based photographic artist working in cross-cultural dialogues.
The Apinis Loom
When Latvian refugees Anna and Ervins Apinis arrived in Australia in 1950 they brought with them a loom built of wood salvaged from bombed out German ruins, along with Anna's precious notebooks full of traditional fabric designs.
Anna Strauss was born in 1913 in Latvia. She attended weaving lessons in Leipaja from 1930 to 1933 and spent hours at the nearby Ethnographic Museum recording traditional fabric designs in her notebooks.
She married Ervins Apinis, an engineer, in 1938 and they had a son but soon World War II changed their lives. Ervins was conscripted into the German army while Anna fled Latvia, finally ending up in Memmingen Displaced Persons camp in Germany in 1945. There, they were finally reunited, remaining in the camp for five years until they migrated to Australia in 1950.
When they arrived at Parkes Holding Centre in New South Wales, they were so exhausted from their long journey, they slept on a huge wooden crate containing the traditional Latvian loom they had brought with them, built of wood scavenged from bombed German ruins. This loom is now at the Immigration Museum in Melbourne.
Anna continued her weaving traditions, passing her knowledge to her daughter Anita.
Migrants Enriching Australia
Migrants Enriching Australia was born of a project to assist ethnic community groups preserve and manage their material heritage.
This story consists of 21 story objects - including videos, audio recordings, images and text - and two educational resources available at the bottom of the page.
During the research a few people emerged who vividly carried a particular story about immigration and settlement to Victoria. These included Peter Yiannoudes who introduced Greek films to Melbourne in the 1950s. He carried his portable projector on a train and visited small country towns and even a farmhouse around Victoria, in order to share this dynamic Greek heritage with Greek expatriates.
Janina Archabuz (Pani Babscha) is a Polish grandmother who carefully designed and sewed multiple copies of intricate costumes for a Polish dance troupe in Ardeer, in Melbourne’s west. Janina is self-taught, however the costumes are exquisitely sewn and meticulously detailed. These costumes gave the Polish group visibility when performing traditional dances in the community, and contributed to their community’s transition from being Poles to being Australians of Polish origin.
The research for the Multicultural Communities’ Collection Project revealed incredibly rich collections – their photographs, documents, costumes and memorabilia from their countries of origin, their community members’ journeys to Australia and the process of settlement into this country and this state - held by community groups, each different and many reliant on individuals who valued their history and their community identity. The project was based on the idea that understanding of and control over community heritage strengthens community identity, which in turn contributes to an Australia which is enriched by diverse ethnic groups living side by side harmoniously.
The Multicultural Communities’ Collection Project began in 2011 - firstly as a project of the then Arts Victoria and later Museums Australia (Victoria). It involved visiting up to 40 ethno specific community groups and providing them with professional assistance to preserve and store their material heritage. There was also training in the documentation and digitisation of these collections, and including them in the web based cataloguing system, Victorian Collections.
Ethnic Communities Council of Victoria (ECCV) is the peak body for Victoria’s multicultural communities and have been advocating their needs and concerns to government for 40 years. It is the principle liaison point between multicultural communities, the government and the wider community. The ECCV welcomed the opportunity to facilitate these two films for Culture Victoria, to share more broadly these stories about immigrants and how they have enriched our community.
Nyernila - Listen Continuously: Aboriginal Creation Stories of Victoria
This story is based on the unique publication Nyernila – Listen Continuously: Aboriginal Creation Stories of Victoria.
The uniqueness is differentiated by two significant and distinguishing features. It is the first contemporary compilation of Victorian Aboriginal Creation Stories told by Victorian Aboriginal People, and it is the first to extensively use languages of origin to tell the stories.
‘Nyernila’ to listen continuously – a Wergaia/Wotjobaluk word recorded in the 20th century. To listen continuously. What is meant by this term. What meaning is being attempted to be communicated by the speaker to the recorder? What is implied in this term? What is the recorder trying to translate and communicate to the reader?
‘Nyernila’ means something along the lines of what is described in Miriam Rose Ungemerrs ‘dadirri’ – deep and respectful listening in quiet contemplation of Country and Old People. This is how our Old People, Elders and the Ancestors teach us and we invite the reader to take this with them as they journey into the spirit of Aboriginal Victoria through the reading of these stories.
Our stories are our Law. They are important learning and teaching for our People. They do not sit in isolation in a single telling. They are accompanied by song, dance and visual communications; in sand drawings, ceremonial objects and body adornment, rituals and performance. Our stories have come from ‘wanggatung waliyt’ – long, long ago – and remain ever-present through into the future.
You can browse the book online by clicking the items below, or you can download a PDF of the publication here.
ny like the ‘n’ in new
e like the ‘e’ in bed
a special kind of ‘n’
i like the ‘i’ in pig
Possum Skin Cloaks
CULTURAL WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander users are warned that this material may contain images and voices of deceased persons, and images of places that could cause sorrow.
Continuing the practice of making and wearing possum skin cloaks has strengthened cultural identity and spiritual healing in Aboriginal communities across Victoria.
Embodying 5,000 years of tradition, cultural knowledge and ritual, wearing a possum skin cloak can be an emotional experience. Standing on the barren escarpment of Thunder Point with a Djargurd Wurrong cloak around his shoulders, Elder Ivan Couzens felt an enormous sense of pride in what it means to be Aboriginal.
In this story, eight Victorian Elders are pictured on Country and at home in cloaks that they either made or wore at the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games Opening Ceremony.
In a series of videos, the Elders talk about the significance of the cloaks in their lives, explain the meanings of some of the designs and motifs, and reflect on how the cloaks reinforce cultural identity and empower upcoming generations.
Uncle Ivan’s daughter, Vicki Couzens, worked with Lee Darroch, Treahna Hamm and Maree Clarke on the cloak project for the Games. In the essay, Vicki describes the importance of cloaks for spiritual healing in Aboriginal communities and in ceremony in mainstream society.
Traditionally, cloaks were made in South-eastern Australia (from northern NSW down to Tasmania and across to the southern areas of South Australia and West Australia), where there was a cool climate and abundance of possums. From the 1820s, when Indigenous people started living on missions, they were no longer able to hunt and were given blankets for warmth. The blankets, however, did not provide the same level of waterproof protection as the cloaks.
Due to the fragility of the cloaks, and because Aboriginal people were often buried with them, there are few original cloaks remaining. A Gunditjmara cloak from Lake Condah and a Yorta Yorta cloak from Maiden's Punt, Echuca, are held in Museum Victoria's collection. Reproductions of these cloaks are held at the National Museum of Australia.
A number of international institutions also hold original cloaks, including: the Smithsonian Institute (Washington DC), the Museum of Ethnology (Berlin), the British Museum (London) and the Luigi Pigorini National Museum of Prehistory and Ethnography (Rome).
Cloak-making workshops are held across Victoria, NSW and South Australia to facilitate spiritual healing and the continuation of this traditional practice.
Victorian Jazz Stories
Victoria has always had a thriving jazz scene. For the best part of a century, jazz musicians young and old have enthralled audiences and pushed their artistic practice to the limits in Victoria and beyond.
What is it that makes Victoria a jazz hub and who are the people that have contributed to it over the years, from Georgia Lee to Graeme Bell's Czechoslovak Journey to Julia Messenger?
The Australian Jazz Museum has the largest collection of Australian jazz related materials in the country. Through the objects in this vast collection and the organisation's connection to the jazz scene both past and present, audiences are transported into the cool, humble and underground world of Victorian jazz.
CULTURAL WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander users are warned that this material may contain images of deceased persons and images of places that could cause sorrow.
Missions includes images and artefacts and film relating to the mission experiences of Victorian Koorie people.
It includes in this story material held at the Koorie Heritage Trust and the State Library of Victoria Library, including an account from Auntie Iris Lovett-Gardiner.
Further material can be found at the State Library of Victoria's Ergo site:
Indigenous Stories about War and Invasion
CULTURAL WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander users are warned that this material may contain images and voices of deceased persons, and images of places that could cause sorrow.
This story brings together two threads on the topic of war.
On one hand, Indigenous experiences of World Wars I and II, on the other, the Invasion of British and European settlers which began in the late 18th century, and which resulted in dispossession and devastation for the Indigenous population.
The videos include excerpts from 'Lady of the Lake'-Gunditjmara Elder Aunty Iris Lovett-Gardiner's accounts of Lake Condah Mission and Indigenous experiences there and excerpts from the film 'Wominjeka (Welcome)'.
Further resources include;
Colonial Melbourne | Ergo (slv.vic.gov.au)
John Batman's treaty | Ergo (slv.vic.gov.au)
Meerreeng-an Here Is My Country
The following story presents a selection of works from the book Meerreeng-an Here is My Country: The Story of Aboriginal Victoria Told Through Art
Meerreeng-an Here is My Country: The Story of Aboriginal Victoria Told Through Art tells the story of the Aboriginal people of Victoria through our artworks and our voices.
Our story has no beginning and no end. Meerreeng-an Here is My Country follows a cultural, circular story cycle with themes flowing from one to the other, reflecting our belief in all things being connected and related.
Our voices tell our story. Artists describe their own artworks, and stories and quotes from Elders and other community members provide cultural and historical context. In these ways Meerreeng-an Here Is My Country is cultural both in its content and in the way our story is told.
The past policies and practices of European colonisers created an historic veil of invisibility for Aboriginal communities and culture in Victoria, yet our culture and our spirit live on. Meerreeng-an Here Is My Country lifts this veil, revealing our living cultural knowledge and practices and strengthening our identity.
The story cycle of Meerreeng-an Here Is My Country is presented in nine themes.
We enter the story cycle by focusing on the core cultural concepts of Creation, Country, culture, knowledge and family in the themes 'Here Is My Country' and 'Laws for Living'.
The cycle continues through ceremony, music, dance, cloaks, clothing and jewellery in 'Remember Those Ceremonies' and 'Wrap Culture Around You'. Land management, foods, fishing, hunting, weapons and tools follow in 'The Earth is Kind' and 'A Strong Arm and A Good Eye'.
Invasion, conflict and resilience are explored in 'Our Hearts Are Breaking'. The last two themes, 'Our Past Is Our Strength' and 'My Spirit Belongs Here', complete the cycle, reconnecting and returning the reader to the entry point by focusing on culture, identity, Country and kin.
Visit the Koorie Heritage Trust website for more information on Meerreeng-an Here Is My Country
Ash Wednesday 30
On 16 February 1983 the Ash Wednesday bushfires burned approximately 210,000 hectares of land, 2,080 homes were destroyed and 75 people, including 47 Victorians, lost their lives.
Among the 47 Victorians killed were volunteer Country Fire Authority (CFA) firefighters from Panton Hill, Nar Nar Goon, Narre Warren and Wallacedale brigades.
Many businesses, stores, equipment, machinery, stock and other assets were lost. The total cost of the property damage in Victoria was estimated to be over $200 million.
These web pages were created to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Ash Wednesday Bushfires in 2013.
The Victorian Government invited people to share their stories of recovery, healing and hope as a tribute to those who experienced a natural disaster, and as an inspiration to all Victorians.
A collection of selected stories and short films have now been published here.
Melbourne is an expanding city, with a growing population and sprawling urban development. It is predicted that by 2056 an additional 4 million people will settle in Greater Melbourne, increasing the population from 5 million to 9 million people over the next 30 years (1). While some expansion is vertical, in the form of high-rise developments, much of this growth is across the peri-urban fringe, described simply as ‘areas on the urban periphery into which cities expand’ (2) or ‘which cities influence’ (3).
In Melbourne, these peri-urban areas of most rapid growth are currently the local government areas of Cardinia, Casey, Hume, Melton, Mitchell, Whittlesea and Wyndham. With population growth comes the inevitable expansion of infrastructure, services and transportation. As the fringes of the city continue to sprawl, what was once the urban fringe and green edge of the city has to be negotiated, as it is increasingly encroached upon.
The artists and photographers in Urban Fringe examine these spaces on the fringe of the expanding city of Melbourne, where urban and natural environments meet, clash and coexist. Beginning with white colonisation and the myth of ‘terra nullius’, these artists discuss the treatment of the Greater Melbourne environment over time, consider the cost of progress, and explore protest and the reclamation of space.
Making Do on ‘the Susso’: The material culture of the Great Depression
There are currently 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic in our oceans. The demands on renewable sources like timber, clean water and soil are so great they are now being used at almost twice the rate that the earth can replenish them. Finite resources like fossil fuel are consumed at an alarming rate, changing the earth’s climate and pushing animal species to the brink of extinction. Current patterns of consumption are exceeding the capacity of the earth’s ability to provide into the future.
All over the world, environmental movements concerned with sustainability have sprung up in response. Conscious consumers are advocating for their right to repair their own electronic devices, fighting a culture of planned obsolesce and disposability. Others are championing the repair, reuse and recycling of clothing and household goods to extend their lives. Reducing waste in the kitchen and promoting food options with lower environmental impact has become increasingly popular.
Climate change may be a uniquely twenty-first century challenge, but sustainability has a history. In 2021 many people are making a conscious choice to embrace anti-consumerism, but during the Great Depression of the 1930s it was necessity that drove a philosophy of mend and make do.
In 1929 stock markets crashed and sent economies around the western world into free fall, triggering the Great Depression. Australia’s economic dependence on wool and wheat exports meant that it was one of the worst affected countries in the world. The impact of the Depression on the everyday lives of Australians was immense. Not everyone was effected with the same severity, but few escaped the poverty and austerity of the years 1929-1933 unscathed.
At the height of the Depression in 1932 Australia had an unemployment rate of 29%, and thousands of desperate people around the country queued for the dole. Aboriginal Australians were not eligible for the dole, and had to rely solely on government issued rations.
When WW1 brought Australians face to face with mass death, a Red Cross Information Bureau and post-war graves workers laboured to help families grieve for the missing.
The unprecedented death toll of the First World War generated a burden of grief. Particularly disturbing was the vast number of dead who were “missing” - their bodies never found.
This film and series of photo essays explores two unsung humanitarian responses to the crisis of the missing of World War 1 – the Red Cross Wounded and Missing Enquiry Bureau and the post-war work of the Australian Graves Detachment and Graves Services. It tells of a remarkable group of men and women, ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances, who laboured to provide comfort and connection to grieving families in distant Australia.
Isaac Douglas Hermann & Heather Arnold
Carlo Catani: An engineering star over Victoria
After more than forty-one years of public service that never ended with his retirement, through surveying and direct design, contracting, supervision, and collaborative approaches, perhaps more than any other single figure, Carlo Catani re-scaped not only parts of Melbourne, but extensive swathes of Victoria ‘from Portland to Mallacoota’, opening up swamplands to farming, bringing access to beauty spots, establishing new townships, and the roads to get us there.
Lighthouses: The romance and the reality
Everybody loves a lighthouse. The image of the shining light in a tall tower seem to stir something in everyone’s imagination. We imagine a romantic life in one of these isolated outposts. Away from the hustle and bustle, in a sublime and wild setting, at one with the elements…
The reality was a little different. Lighthouses were built on remote sections of the Victorian coast or on islands, some only accessible by sea. Light keepers and their families relied on infrequent supplies brought in by ships. During emergencies there might be no help at hand and the consequences could be tragic.
Over 600 shipwrecks are recorded along the treacherous Victorian coastline with the loss of many lives. Many of the wrecked ships were bringing people from all over the world to try their luck on the goldfields. The establishment of a series of Lighthouses along Victoria’s coast from the mid 1800’s didn’t stop the wrecks altogether; human error was often a contributing factor in these disasters.
Lighthouse keepers had their part to play, sometimes helping shipwreck survivors and communicating news of these disasters to the outside world.
Adventurous travellers have been visiting lighthouses since soon after they were built. They are now iconic destinations that most people can access and they haven’t lost their romantic appeal.
Talking Shop: Ballarat in Business & City Life at Ballaarat Mechanics' Institute
Between January and April 2019, the Ballaarat Mechanics' Institute hosted the exhibition Talking Shop, exploring a world of Peters ice cream cones, milk bars, vintage advertising, historic photographs and ephemera.
This nostalgia was complemented by contemporary photographs and creative responses exploring Ballarat’s shops and businesses. Community events throughout the exhibition invited the people of Ballarat to contribute their images and memories to the BMI collection, and are shared here in this story.
This exhibition was curated by Amy Tsilemanis at the BMI who worked with artists Pauline O'Shannessy-Dowling and Margie Balazic, collector John Kerr and Ballarat businesses, council, and schools to create a 'generative' exhibition where material and collaborations could grow.
Wanting to know more about Ballarat’s booming business history? Take a digital tour of the exhibition here: https://invictoria.com.au/talking-shop-exhibition
Collecting Fire: A new kind of practice
The fires of February 2009 left an indelible mark on the histories of Victoria’s community collecting organisations; whether through blackened ash markings or by the absence of once cherished objects and ephemera.
This exploration of Victoria’s collecting response to the Black Saturday bushfires is inspired by Liza Dale‐Hallett, Rebecca Carland and Peg Fraser’s reflections on the Victorian Bushfires Collection project, in 'Sites of Trauma: Contemporary Collecting and Natural Disaster'.
Jary Nemo and Lucinda Horrocks
Collections & Climate Change
The world is changing. Change is a natural part of the Earth’s cycle and of the things that live on it, but what we are seeing now is both like and unlike the shifts we have seen before.
Anthropogenic change, meaning change created by humans, is having an impact on a global scale. In particular, human activity has altered the composition of the Earth’s atmosphere, causing the world’s climate to change.
Already in the state of Victoria we are seeing evidence of this change around us. In the natural world, coastal waters are warming and bringing tropical marine species to our bays. Desert animals are migrating to Victoria. Alpine winters are changing, potentially putting plants and animals at risk of starvation and pushing species closer to the margins. In the world of humans, island and coastal dwellers deal with the tangible and intangible impacts of loss as sea levels rise, bush dwellers live with an increased risk of life-threatening fires, farmers cope with the new normal of longer droughts, and we all face extreme weather events and the impacts of social and economic change.
This Collections and Climate Change digital story explores how Victoria’s scientific and cultural collections help us understand climate change. It focuses on three Victorian institutions - Museums Victoria, the Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria and Parks Victoria. It looks at how the information gathered and maintained by a dedicated community of researchers, curators, scientists, specialists and volunteers can help us understand and prepare for a hotter, drier, more inundated world.
The story is made up of a short documentary film and twenty-one examples highlighting how botanical records, geological and biological specimens and living flora and fauna provide a crucial resource for scientists striving to map continuity, variability and change in the natural world. And it helps us rethink the significance of some of Victoria’s cultural collections in the face of a changing climate.
Alana Bennett Mazzilli
Prisoner of War & Internment Camps: Tatura and Rushworth
Australia, like many other countries, ran internment camps throughout the war years in both New South Wales and Victoria.
During this period, there were two significant camps in country Victoria’s Goulburn Valley region, at Tatura and Rushworth. A total of seven camps were spread between the two regional communities, housing Prisoners of War, enemy alien migrants and civilians living in Australia or other Allied territories and countries.
Summon the Living
Prior to the advent of electronic sound systems, bells were heard ringing throughout the day.
Large bells were attached to buildings. Handheld bells sat on tables and mantel pieces. Bells rang for morning prayer, school time, half time, and dinner time. Bells announced a fire in town or the death of a local. Some bells were passed around within their local community, or re-purposed as presentation gifts, being easily engraved and potentially useful.
This story was originally inspired by Graeme Davison’s book The Unforgiving Minute: How Australia Learned to Tell the Time.
The Dolls of Victoria: An unveiled toy story
Our attachment to dolls – beyond them being simply an idealised smaller version of a human figure – reflects many aspects of human behaviour and cultural practices.
Dolls have long been attributed with magic powers, associated with religious beliefs, and connected to family rituals and traditions. Whether used as common toys, instruments of storytelling, educational tools, or to provide comfort and support to people during times of distress – dolls have maintained a significant place in many cultures.
Examining their function and use across place and time can reflect major global developments, social changes and the impact of major historical events such as immigration and war. This story looks at the manufacture, use and enjoyment of dolls held in cultural collections throughout the state that have been catalogued here on Victorian Collections.
Making & Using Transport on the Goldfields
During the nineteenth century, horse-drawn vehicles were an essential part of life in rural Victoria.
In Ballarat, local coachbuilding firms assisted with the town’s growth in more ways than providing passage to the diggings. Horse-drawn vehicles were vital for the delivery of goods, responding to emergencies and often symbolised one’s social standing.
The Gold Rush ushered in a period of incredible growth for colonial Victoria. Ballarat’s escalating population and burgeoning industries highlighted the need for horse-drawn transport – not only for getting to the diggings, but also for delivering goods and building material, responding to emergencies and performing significant social rituals.
In the early nineteenth century, the goldfields were dominated by vehicles either imported from England or English-style vehicles built locally. Coaches, carriages and carts were typically constructed part-by-part, one at a time. As a result, each vehicle was highly unique.
By the mid-1850s, the American coachbuilding tradition had arrived on the goldfields. The American method, which had been developing since the 1840s, relied on mass-produced, ready-made components. In comparison to English designs, American coaches were known to be more reliable for goldfields travel; they were primed for long-distance journeys on rough terrain and were less likely to tip over.
As the nineteenth century progressed, a plethora of English, American and European vehicles populated Ballarat – both locally made and imported. The abundance of coaches, carriages and carts – and their value to the Ballarat community – can be seen in photographs and objects catalogued here on Victorian Collections.
Tides of Change: Women of the Melbourne Metropolitan Board of Works (MMBW)
In the lead up to International Women’s Day held on the 8th of March 2018, Melbourne Water celebrates and shines a spotlight on the past and continuing achievements of women within the organisation. Please join us in exploring the major milestones and social change within the MMBW, Melbourne Water and the Victorian Public Service.
Melbourne Water’s predecessor, The Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works (MMBW), was formed in 1891 to take responsibility for the city’s water supply and treatment. Initially, female employees were appointed to administrative and clerical positions. It wasn’t until 1939 that women stepped into more official, technical and specialist roles. These included positions such as chemistry assistants, machine operators and assistant drafts women.
Not only were women’s roles at MMBW based on their contribution to the operations of the organisation, many women were involved in social, recreational and cultural activities. Perhaps the greatest legacy of women at the MMBW was their efforts in building communities, enriching and empowering the lives of those around them.
Victorians & Native Birds: An evolving relationship
The people of Victoria have had a constantly changing relationship with their native birdlife.
Ever-present and iconic, we’ve put Australian birds on official state heraldry and on tomato sauce bottles and biscuit packets. There has always been an immense fondness and respect for our unique birds. However, attitudes towards wildlife generally and birds specifically have undergone seismic paradigm shifts over the last few hundred years.
Looking at objects catalogued here on Victorian Collections, we can map this change and trace the ways that Victorians have interacted with birds, from Indigenous spirituality to citizen science programs.
Wind & Sky Productions
Many Roads: Stories of the Chinese on the goldfields
In the 1850s tens of thousands of Chinese people flocked to Victoria, joining people from nations around the world who came here chasing the lure of gold.
Fleeing violence, famine and poverty in their homeland Chinese goldseekers sought fortune for their families in the place they called ‘New Gold Mountain’. Chinese gold miners were discriminated against and often shunned by Europeans. Despite this they carved out lives in this strange new land.
The Chinese took many roads to the goldfields. They left markers, gardens, wells and place names, some which still remain in the landscape today. After a punitive tax was laid on ships to Victoria carrying Chinese passengers, ship captains dropped their passengers off in far away ports, leaving Chinese voyagers to walk the long way hundreds of kilometres overland to the goldfields. After 1857 the sea port of Robe in South Australia became the most popular landing point. It’s estimated 17,000 Chinese, mostly men, predominantly from Southern China, walked to Victoria from Robe following over 400kms of tracks.
At the peak migration point of the late 1850s the Chinese made up one in five of the male population in fabled gold mining towns of Victoria such as Ballarat, Bendigo, Castlemaine, Beechworth and Ararat. It was not just miners who took the perilous journey. Doctors, gardeners, artisans and business people voyaged here and contributed to Victoria’s economy, health and cultural life. As the nineteenth century wore on and successful miners and entrepreneurs returned home, the Chinese Victorian population dwindled. However some chose to settle here and Chinese culture, family life, ceremony and work ethic became a distinctive feature of many regional Victorian towns well into the twentieth century.
By the later twentieth century many of the Chinese relics, landscapes and legacy of the goldrush era were hidden or forgotten. Today we are beginning to unearth and celebrate the extent of the Chinese influence in the making of Victoria, which reaches farther back than many have realised.
Breaking the Mould: The First Police Women in Victoria
The story of Victoria’s Police Women begins in 1917 when Madge Connor and Elizabeth Beers were appointed as police agents. They had no uniform and were unarmed. Their work was to be similar to that of a social worker; looking after neglected children and protecting vulnerable women.
By 12 November 1924 the number of agents had increased to four; they were sworn into the force as police members. Police women now had powers of arrest and equal pay. However, there were still many challenges ahead for them, including battles for equal opportunities and training.
The onset of World War II saw the role of women change in the work force in Australia. Record numbers of women filled jobs traditionally held by men. Victoria Police faced a shortage of staff due to men enlisting in the war. As a result the Women’s Auxiliary Force was formed in 1942.
Since then, Victorian police women have gone on to many great achievements including: Anne Wregg (nee Cursio) being the first police woman in Australia to be awarded the Queen’s Gallantry Medal for bravery; and Christine Nixon being appointed the first female Chief Commissioner.
In 2017 Victoria Police celebrates 100 years of women in policing. Today women make up a quarter of Victoria’s Police employees. Their struggles and achievements over the last century are acknowledged and celebrated through a new exhibition ‘Agents of Change’ and by the objects and photographs collected and shared by the Victoria Police Museum.
Victorian Collections Team
Celebrations are underway for the remarkable landmark digitisation of 100,000 objects accessible through Victorian Collections.
We are taking this opportunity to reflect back on the early days of the program; reminiscing about how it began, the milestones along the way and all the incredible achievements of the Victorian Collections community.
We are thrilled with the success and interest in Victorian Collections and excited to see the next 100,000 objects.