Drought Stories... farming...Audio: Faye Smith talks about the impact of drought on farming in the Wimmera...Bob McIlvena, retired water industry worker, primary producer and local historian, talks to Faye Smith about the impacts of the ongoing drought on him and farming generally in the Wimmera....“The social impact it has is huge, but the footy club survives," says Charlie Gillingham, mixed farmer from Murrabit. In this story the community talks about drought: its social impact, resilience, changes to farming practises, changing weather ...
“The social impact it has is huge, but the footy club survives," says Charlie Gillingham, mixed farmer from Murrabit.
In this story the community talks about drought: its social impact, resilience, changes to farming practises, changing weather patterns and water trading.
The median annual rainfall of the Wimmera and northern plains of Victoria is 420mm. But this median does not convey the deluges that sometimes double the figure, or the dry spells that can halve it. Like semi-arid places elsewhere, the climate cycle of this region is variable.
Aboriginal people have had thousands of years to adapt to the fluctuations, whilst recent settlers are still learning.
The introduction of the Land Act of 1869 accompanied by the high rainfall La Niña years of the early 1870s brought selectors to northern Victoria and the Wimmera. A series of dry years in the 1880s initiated storage and channel projects to assist them to stay.
Irrigation was introduced in 1886 to settle the northern plains and was expanded under closer settlement legislation. The drought years from 1895 to 1902 came to be known as the Federation Drought. Water supplies dried up completely in the El Niño years of 1914 and 1915 and people took the opportunity to picnic in the empty bed of the River Murray.
Drought hit again during World War Two, and then in the period 1965-8. The drought of 1982-3 was short but devastating. Our most recent drought, lasting more than a decade, broke late in 2010 with extensive flooding.
Policy responses have changed over the years and with the recent onset of human induced climate change, continual adaptation will be required.
In 2009, the History Council of Victoria captured resident’s experiences in the project titled Drought Stories: a spoken and visual history of the current drought in Victoria. There were two aims to the project: to create a historic record of the experience, and to strengthen community capacity in rural and regional areas through telling and listening to local stories.
Two types of collections were produced: Drought Stories Local Collections, held by historical societies, and the Drought Stories Central Archive, a selection of interviews held by the State Library of Victoria.
The History Council of Victoria believes that the project material provides a rich resource to assist researchers understand Australian society at a crucial and revealing stage of adjustment to the Australian environment.
Legislation and other land records are held at the Public Record Office Victoria.
Women on Farms... farming... that we enjoy our future and our children and grandchildren can enjoy their future by unlocking the doors. Opening new avenues from our commodities and our markets and our future in Australian farming." - Val Colbert...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 ...
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.
Savoy Ladies Group... farming... and the Ovens Valley in the 1850s sparked a wave of migration from around the world, including thousands of Chinese miners from the Guangdong Province. Tobacco and hops farming in the Ovens and King Valleys was begun in the nineteenth century by Chinese settlers... with settled second, third and fourth generation Italian families. Tobacco farming was a lonely experience for many of the Italian women who migrated to Myrtleford. Unlike their husbands, the women stayed largely on the farms and lacked social contact outside ...
The Italian community of Myrtleford, in the picturesque Ovens Valley in alpine North Eastern Victoria, arrived mainly to work in the tobacco industry which once thrived in the area. The region now has a distinctive Italian-Australian culture with settled second, third and fourth generation Italian families.
Tobacco farming was a lonely experience for many of the Italian women who migrated to Myrtleford. Unlike their husbands, the women stayed largely on the farms and lacked social contact outside of their immediate circle. Once their children grew up and mechanisation changed the labour requirements on the farms, women were frequently on their own.
The Myrtleford Savoy Ladies Group was founded in 1983 by nuns concerned about the social isolation of women in the area. It has been a great success, forming a network of companionship amongst women of Italian heritage to this day.
Cultural Warning: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander users of this website are warned that this story contains images of deceased persons and places that could cause sorrow.
William Barak... Aboriginal farming...When farmer John Batman first rowed down the Yarra River (the Birrarung), he was excited to see acres of lush green land – ideally suited, he thought, to farming. In 1835, at the age of 12 years, Barak witnessed the first and only bid for a '...-sufficient Aboriginal farming community in Healesville. Barak campaigned to protect Coranderrk, worked to improve cross-cultural understanding and created many unique artworks and artifacts, leaving a rich cultural legacy for future generations. CULTURAL ...
Diplomat, artist, story-teller and leader, Wurundjeri (Woiwurung) man William Barak worked all his life to protect the rights and culture of his people, and to bridge the gap between settlers and the land’s original custodians.
Barak was educated at the Yarra Mission School in Narrm (Melbourne), and was a tracker in the Native Police as his father had been, before becoming ngurungaeta (clan leader). Energetic, charismatic and mild mannered, he spent much of his life at Coranderrk Reserve - a self-sufficient Aboriginal farming community in Healesville.
Barak campaigned to protect Coranderrk, worked to improve cross-cultural understanding and created many unique artworks and artifacts, leaving a rich cultural legacy for future generations.
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.
Further information on William Barak can be found at the State Library of Victoria's Ergo site.
John Teasdale – Chronicle of a Country Life... farming...These little films from Victoria's Western Plains are about the actual and the everyday. They have no hint of sensationalism in them. They are plain and utterly honest. They tell us about tractors and farming machinery. About fire and flood and snow ...
These little films from Victoria's Western Plains are about the actual and the everyday.
They have no hint of sensationalism in them. They are plain and utterly honest. They tell us about tractors and farming machinery. About fire and flood and snow. We glimpse Anzac Day and are touched by the irony of people remembering in a time and place few people remember or think about today. But there is no sentimentality in these films either. They are just plain good. - Martin Flanagan.
John Teasdale (1936 – 2004) was a farmer at Rupanyup in the Victorian Wimmera. He was also a keen and highly accomplished cinematographer, filming consistently for over 50 years to create a long-term record of working life on a family farm and of community life in a particular part of rural Victoria.
When television arrived in Australia in 1956, John successfully applied to the ABC to become a 'stringer' cameraman, shooting regional footage that was frequently included in state-wide news broadcasts and in segments produced particularly for regional viewers. John continued in this role for thirty years, until changing technology eventually made the role of 'regional stringers' obsolete.
The Teasdale film collection constitutes a nationally significant record of working and community life in a small Australian dry-land farming community, reflecting enormous changes in farming practices as well as transformations in the character and scale of community life in and around Rupanyup. At a time when many dry-land farming communities are actively reinventing themselves as their underlying social and economic structures change dramatically, John Teasdale’s films provide a critical point of reference and affirmation.
Artist and filmmaker Malcolm McKinnon, with the support of John Teasdale’s family, is undertaking ongoing work to interpret and celebrate this rich and resonant archive.
Australian Racing Families... farming... outside Sydney and survived the harsh years of colonial farming .William grew upon the farm, and at eighteen headed off to experience the outside world. He spent some years whaling at sea, and travelled through Victoria in search of gold. In 1858 he ...
A study of families involved in racing reveals that racing is very much in the blood. This photographic essay captures the spirit of this phenomenon and showcases the lives of four families with racing in their blood: Hoysted, Chirnside, Hutchinson, and Inglis.
The blood horse or thoroughbred is a horse especially bred and trained for racing whose ancestry can be traced back with out interruption to forebears recorded in the General Stud Book. Every thoroughbred in the world today traces its male line back to one of three foundation sires: Byerly Turk, Darley Arabian or Godolphin Arabian, who were bred in the late 17th and early 18th centuries. The bloodlines of the horse are the backbone of thoroughbred racing. Horses are always referred to in the context of their lineage, particularly their sires and dams, and family is all important.
Whilst the forebears of the humans involved with racing today may not be listed in a General Stud Book, and the line is sometimes more tenuous, their 'ancestry' is no less impressive and enduring. A study of families involved in racing reveals that racing is very much in the blood. Punter, trainer, owner, jockey, breeder or bookmaker - irrespective of profession or level of involvement, racing, in one form or another, can often be found flowing from generation to generation. Family histories are enriched with colourful tales of great uncles who trained the outside chance, cousins who almost rode the champ, and big wins and tall tales.
This is an edited version of an essay 'In the Blood', written by Annette Shiell and Narelle Symes. The full text of the essay is provided in the attached section of this story.
The full series of essays and images are available in The Australian Family: Images and Essays published by Scribe Publications, Melbourne 1998, edited by Anna Epstein. The book comprises specially commissioned and carefully researched essays with accompanying artworks and illustrations from each participating institution. It was part of the exhibition project ‘The Australian Family’ which involved 20 local museums and galleries.
Wimmera Stories: Murtoa Stick Shed, Enduring Ingenuity... farming ...
Colloquially known as the Stick Shed, the Marmalake Grain Store Wheat Storage Shed is the largest building in Murtoa, out on the Wimmera plains between Horsham and St Arnaud.
The Stick Shed is a type of grain storage facility built in Victoria during the early 1940s. The Marmalake / Murtoa Grain Store No.1 was built in 1941-42 during a wheat glut, to store wheat that could not be exported during World War II. It is the earliest & last remaining example of this particular grand Australian rural vernacular tradition.
The Stick Shed is 265 metres long, 60.5 metres wide and 19-20 metres high, supported by 560 unmilled mountain ash poles. Its vast gabled interior space and long rows of poles have been likened to the nave of a cathedral.
The Stick Shed demonstrates Australian ingenuity during a time of hardship, it was added to the Victorian Heritage Register in 1990.
Find more stories and photographs about the Stick Shed on the Way Back Then blog.
Murray Darling Palimpsest #5... farming ...
Mildura is situated just south-east of the confluence of two of Australia’s great rivers: the Darling and the Murray.
As water and land use creep up to the top of our national agenda, the Mildura region emerges as one of Australia’s most contested places, with small ‘block’ farmers, multinational companies, State and Federal politics, among others, entering the debate.
As such, it was perhaps the most natural place for the biennial Palimpsest expositions and symposiums to arise. Following on from Mildura’s famous sculpture triennials, Palimpsest plays on the idea of the landscape as palimpsest, written and rewritten over both physically and with layers of meaning. Palimpsest engages directly with land, land use, water and issues of sustainability, involving artists, and scientists and other experts, spearheading the creative exploration of key environmental issues.
Digital Stories of the Land... farming ...
Stories of the Land is a collection produced as part of the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) digital storytelling program.
These stories explore the land as a thread that connects people to their surroundings. The personal narratives provide a way for understanding place on its own terms and often those terms can be challenging; drought bushfires and isolation for those who live on the land.
People across Victoria have shared stories as part of this ACMI collection capturing the essence of the land as a setting to their lives inextricably linked to the experiences and events that have shaped them.
Made in Bendigo, Cold Beer!... farming ...
In 1857 at the height of the gold rush, with people pouring into Central Victoria from all over the world, three brothers from Denmark – Moritz, Julius and Jacob Cohn – founded a small cordial factory in the booming town of Bendigo.
They went on to build an empire and, through introducing lager, which is served cold, to the country, changed the drinking preferences of Australians.
Cordial was a necessity at the time as water was considered unpalatable. The Cohn cordial products were successful and the brothers went on to produce other staples such as fruit preserves. The Cohn Brothers were canny businessmen and at the peak of their success Cohn products were sold across the country and exported to the United Kingdom and Asia. The brothers went on to hold prominent positions on the local Council, and were part of the group that founded the Bendigo Land and Building Society, which became the Bendigo Bank.
Traces of the impact that Cohn products had on the daily lives of Australians, particularly those in Central Victoria, can be found in vintage bottles, wooden crates and signs that have been collected and preserved.
The legacy of their business and civic activities are told through interviews with their descendent, Helen Bruinier, Bendigo Art Gallery Curator, Sandra Bruce, and Frank Barr, the sign painter of the Cohn’s Cordial sign in Bridge Street, Bendigo.
Chinese Australian Families... farming ...
Dreams of Jade and Gold: Chinese families in Australia's history
From the 1840s onwards, Chinese people have come to Australia inspired by dreams of happiness, longevity and prosperity - of 'jade and gold' in a new and strange land. For most of that time, Chinese people in Australia have been predominantly male. Most of them were temporary sojourners who came to earn money for their families back in the village - most did not intend to settle in Australia.
Despite the predominance of male sojourning, a small proportion of Chinese men in nineteenth-century Australia brought their wives and children to live with them, or married here. As Australian-born children of these families grew to adulthood, their parents would seek brides and grooms on their behalf amongst other Chinese families in Australia.
The majority of post-1905 Chinese brides of Chinese-Australian sons were never able to settle here. Some children were born in China or Hong Kong. Some were born in Australia. Families like this were split for decades, until immigration laws were relaxed.
In the nineteenth century, many of the Chinese men who wanted wives in Australia married or lived de facto with non-Chinese women. At least 500 European-Chinese partnerships are estimated to have occurred before 1900.
Despite repeated waves of racism and official discrimination from the 1840s to the 1970s, a sizeable number of families of Chinese background have put down roots in this country.
In 1973 the Whitlam government abolished racist provisions in immigration laws. Since then, the number of ethnic Chinese migrants has increased dramatically. They have come primarily as family groups - not as sojourners, but as permanent immigrants. They come not only from China and Hong Kong, but also from Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam, Cambodia and Indonesia, as well as from further afield. The Chinese are now a highly visible and generally accepted part of the Australian community of cultures.
The text above has been abstracted from an essay 'Dreams of Jade and Gold: Chinese families in Australia's history' written by Paul Macgregor for the publication The Australian Family: Images and Essays. The full text of the essay is available as part of this story.
This story is part of The Australian Family project, which involved 20 Victorian museums and galleries. The full series of essays and images are available in The Australian Family: Images and Essays published by Scribe Publications, Melbourne 1998, edited by Anna Epstein. The book comprises specially commissioned and carefully researched essays with accompanying artworks and illustrations from each participating institution.
Unearthing a 19th Century Chinese Kiln... farming ...
When gold was discovered in Victoria in 1851, stories of treasures of mythical proportions quickly flowed across the world. Desperate to support their families, Chinese men turned to the new opportunities available at ‘Tsin Chin Shan’ - the land of the New Gold Mountain. The majority of Chinese migration to the Bendigo goldfields occurred during the mid-1850s when 16,260 males and one female arrived at Guichen Bay in South Australia and walked overland to Victoria.
By the end of the Bendigo gold rush, many miners were drawn away from Bendigo by news of gold elsewhere in Victoria, Australia and New Zealand. As mining became less profitable, market gardening became a common Chinese occupation, with miners adapting their agricultural skills learnt in China to Australian conditions.
From the 1850s, up to 1,000 Chinese populated an area called Ironbark Chinese Camp. It was reported in 1859 that the large camp had greengrocers, butchers, barbers, doctors, gambling houses, a wine shop, and a joss house. That same year the A’Fok, Fok Sing and Company constructed their brick kiln near the southern end of the camp. The kiln was in operation until it was abandoned in 1886, when the site was transformed into a market garden. The camp area was occupied by Chinese people from the 1850s for at least a hundred years.
In 2005, a section of the mid 19th century Chinese brickmaking kiln was unexpectedly discovered. To determine the condition and extent of the kiln, Heritage Victoria archaeologists conducted a preliminary excavation, with support from an expert in South-east Asian kilns, Dr Don Hein, and support from numerous students and volunteers.
The excavation provided an insight into the size of the kiln, how it operated and a vivid illustration of the transfer of Old World technology to a new country. The A’Fok, Fok Sing and Company kiln is the only known example of a Chinese brick making kiln outside of China. In addition to the kiln, numerous artefacts related to the camp and its activities were discovered, including a variety of food jars, handmade gardening tools, buttons, combs, bowls, gambling tokens, and Clydesdale horseshoes (the horses were used to plough the fields).
The archaeologists covered the excavated section of brick kiln with sand and plastic to protect its fragile fabric. Another excavation is required to uncover the kiln’s working floor and investigate its flue and firing chamber. Only then will we be able to tackle the multitude of questions that still remain to be answered.
The kiln is listed on the Victorian Heritage Register. For more information on the kiln or other heritage sites visit The Victorian Heritage Database
Drouin: A Small Town at War... farming ...
A collection of photographs of the dairying town of Drouin in West Gippsland Victoria taken during the Second World War.
In 1981, two packets of old photographs were returned to Australia by the New York office of the Australian Information Service. Inside these packets were images from the dairying town of Drouin, in West Gippsland, taken during the Second World War.
Presenting the ideal picture of a prosperous and hard-working Victorian town dealing with rationing and manpower shortages caused by the war, these photographs were part of the Department of Information's war effort publicity campaign.
Photographer Jim Fitzpatrick was commissioned to take the photos in 1944 and 1945, and he concentrated on images of healthy and industrious women and children, as well as soldiers on leave and men working in the town. The photographs appeared in the bimonthly South West Pacific which was distributed free to overseas press, and was designed to promote Australia to her allies, particularly the United States.
The images that make up this story now form part of the Drouin Town and Rural Life During World War II collection at the National Library of Australia.
Geelong Voices... farming ...
Stories of World War 1, World War 2 and the Vietnam War as told by Geelong residents.
During World War 1 and World War 2 Geelong residents - whether joining the Armed Forces as soldiers, nurses, pilots, or helping out at home on projects such as the Australian Women’s Land Army - were swept up in the action. Motivated by youthful enthusiasm, the desire for adventure, and intense feelings of patriotism, they joined in hordes. For many, however, the war was not what they expected.
The Geelong Voices Oral History Project was established in 2001. The project collected recordings of diverse programs broadcast by a range of groups - including multicultural groups, women’s groups, trade unions, Aboriginal groups, youth groups and Senior Citizen’s groups - on 3YYR, Geelong Community Radio from 1988 to 2000.
Keeping in Touch and Koori Hour were two such programs. Keeping In Touch was a nostalgic program hosted by Gwlad McLachlan. Gwlad conducted interviews delving into historical aspects of Geelong and Geelong West, including world scale events such as WW1 and WW2, that shaped both the city and its people.
Koori Hour was a Wathaurong Aboriginal Co-operative Radio Program hosted by a range of people including Richard Fry and Gwenda Black, and consisted of talk about community activities, messages to friends and family, music and discussions about current events. One such event was the launch of “Forgotten Heroes” a book about the overlooked contribution of Aboriginal people to the Australian Armed Forces.
Over 200 of these interviews were recorded off the radio by Gwlad’s neighbour and her husband, Colin. Many of these recordings have been preserved and are available to listen to in digital format at the State Library of Victoria and the Geelong Heritage Centre.
Isaac Douglas Hermann & Heather Arnold
Carlo Catani: An engineering star over Victoria... unaccustomed to physical labour and had little or no farming or drainage experience. Their wives especially led isolated lives. While some new settlers were successful farmers, others could only rely on their drain digging pay. By the cessation of the scheme... 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. ...
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.
Jary Nemo and Lucinda Horrocks
Collections & Climate Change... threat of disappearing due to rising sea levels. Oral histories form part of the Invisible Farmer collection at Museums Victoria. Interviews with modern farming women form part of a collection of personal narratives seeking to redress the historical...THE INVISIBLE FARMER "We care about the environment we live in." Amelia Bright describes herself as a "non-generational farmer," having married into a farming lifestyle. She is one of the owners and operators of Amber Creek Farm ...
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.