The Ghost Town – Mary Kathleen

It is interesting that a ghost town can take on a life of its own even though there is nothing there. Mary Kathleen in the Cloncurry Mineral fields, in my opinion, is one of these. Grey Nomads have made it a camping area. The owner of the land allows this as long as there are no open fires lit. The old town site now only consists of concrete slabs and roadways. Apart from the nomads that camp it is home to a herd of cattle.image

MARY KATHLEEN.

Mary Kathleen is located in the Cloncurry Mineral Fields about 56km due east of Mount ISA on the Barkly/Flinders Highway. The turn off is on the left is partly sealed and slowly deteriorating. Even though the buildings of the township no longer stand, the roadways and concrete slabs of once existing buildings still remain. It was once a thriving community of 1000 people in what was considered a very tranquil picturesque area.

The discovery of ore was the result of some three months of intensive prospecting by a syndicate of eight ,headed by Messrs Clem Walton and Norm McConachy in 1954. It was by chance that the syndicate discovered the ore body. By pushing a theory that uranium was present uncertain rock formations close to Cloncurry several Of their expeditions led them to the Mary Kathleen area. During one of these expeditions at ruck broke down in a dry creek bed and while waiting for it to be repaired one of the syndicate members switched on his Geiger counter, which immediately gave higher than normal background readings.

In July 1954, two days after the discovery ,the leases were pegged out and the deposit named Mary Kathleen  in memory of Mr McConachy’s wife who had died a short time before the discovery.

In late 1983 the contract for uranium oxide was filled and it was decided to close the mine and disband the township due to the oversupply of uranium on the world market. Operations ceased in 1984 and the township auctioned off.

 

Wonthaggi and State Coal Mine or The Evolution of Fuel

We are housesitting for good friends in Inverloch, Victoria. Inverloch is best known as a seaside town on the Gippsland coastline offering surf beaches, quiet swimming beaches and boating opportunities. They tell me that the fishing from the beach is also good. We have spent our time here exploring the area and the history of the region. The closest large town is Wonthaggi. This town is best recently known as the site of Victoria’s Desalination Plant.

The weather at this time of year is cold, wet and windy and occasionally there are days where the sun shines and it is a pleasure to be out and about. On this particular Sunday we decided to explore the closed Wonthaggi State Coal Mine. This site is managed  by Parks Victoria  and restored by the local community ( Friends of Wonthaggi State Coal Mine) for the enjoyment of future generations.

For me the interest is the history which we did not learn at school. In spite of this sounding like a history lesson, I will try to put this in perspective of the current arguments on fossil fuel and Climate Change.

Back in 1826 William Hovell ( of Hume and Hovell fame) discovered  black coal near Cape Paterson only seven kilometres from Wonthaggi. The Victorian Coal Company dug out 2000 tonne from a workable seam. This coal needed to be transported by whale boat to to larger ships anchored offshore, proving both dangerous and costly and soon any mining activity was curtailed.

Black coal, with its low moisture content, was regarded as the premier fuel for household heating, industry, and railways.

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The Victorian Railways at at the turn of the century sourced all its black coal from New South Wales. In 1909 as a result of a protracted miners strike in New South Wales saw the Victorian Government very quickly develop The State Coal Mines at Wonthaggi to supply coal to the railways. Opening on November 22, 1909 the mine dispatched its first consignment just three days later with coal transported to the port and Inverloch by bullock wagon.  Coal production peaked in 1929 at 662,159 tonnes.

 

The Nyora/Woolamai Railway was extended 22km to Wonthaggi and built in 10 weeks. ( I would like it see that happen today!)

In the 1930s, production started to decline as the large seams were worked outing the mine was hit by industrial strife and profitability declined.  In 1937 disaster struck in Shaft 20. Thirteen men lost their lives.

Disaster at Shaft 20

Disaster at Shaft 20

In order to maintain a coal supply for its locomotives Victorian Railways subsided the mine until the last regular stream locomotive operations ceased.

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I started to think and a couple of things came to mind. As stated above black coal is a very efficient energy source, so I questioned why we now use brown coal. One of the volunteers at the State Mine explained that black coal strata were quite narrow in comparison to brown coal, so the only way to remove it from the ground was by underground mining. Brown Coal strata are in excess of 150 metres thick and this allowed open cut mining.

So how does this relate to the current arguments. My take on it as one energy source proves unsatisfactory for what ever reason, it needs to be replaced. As black coal became more difficult and expensive to mine, it was shut down and energy needs were taken up by brown coal. Now, Victoria is blessed with an abundance of fossil fuel, so alternatives could well be more expensive however our climate is changing due to emissions  of carbon and other things into the atmosphere. It must be time to shut this industry down and replace it with renewables.

We have an abundance of sunshine in this country so the obvious thing is to utilise the sun to provide our power needs. Sure there will be pain felt by those that work in the coal industry, but why is this different from closing down the black coal industry or going back further in history the Industrial Revolution where there was a transition from an agrarian base.

 

Geocaching (or the things you learn while searching)

 

A new hobby for us while we are on the road. I should have posted this a month or so ago but was unsure how to approach it. This hobby combines my interest in history with our adventures .  While we were in Gundagai, we started caching. This is what we learnt.

IMG_1442For thousands of years this part of the Murrumbidgee River was an important ceremonial, hunting, and crossing point for the Wiradjuri people.

 

By the 1820’s European explorers had documented this crossing point. Being the main route from Sydney to the newly developed grazing lands, the Victorian goldfields and Port Phillip (Melbourne), a town soon sprung up which was colloquially known as the ‘Crossing Place’. This was in spite repeated warning by the Wiradjuri people of the risk of large floods. Gundagai was officially gazette in 1840.

 

On the night of 24 June 1852, the flooded Murrumbidgee raged through the small township drowning more than one third of the 250 inhabitants, an unknown number of travellers and destroying 71 buildings.

 

Rich agriculture and gold mining made Gundagai prosperous and a center for bushranging, giving the town a romantic bush appeal.

 

Many outback stories, songs and poems reference Gundagai, including Jack O’Hagan’s songs ‘Where the Dog sits on the Tuckerbox’ and ‘Along the Road to Gundagai’.

National School

 

 

IMG_1426An impressive three-meter high monument in Gundagai commemorates the spot where the National School once stood until a devastating flood in 1852.

After a campaign for a Government School, The National School was created on the floodplain in 1850. It was a two-room schoolhouse with a loft and included accommodation for the teachers. The teachers appointed to the school were Joseph McKenna from Ireland and his Glasgow born wife Elizabeth who arrived in Australia in 1842.

 

Since early settlement, Aboriginal people had warned Europeans of the great floods that swept the Murrumbidgee. In June 1852, the Murrumbidgee rose 12 meters in the early hours. A wall of water cascaded through the entire town. Most people were thrown into the darkness of the raging torrent. Between 80 and 100 unfortunate men, women and children were lost from a population of 250.

The torrent collapsed the walls of the schoolhouse, drowning the whole McKenna family and their two boarders.

 

 

 

 

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Yarri – Hero of Gundagai.

 

 

That is the inscription on both a tribute granite monument and headstone of an aboriginal man who rescued 49 people on the night of 24th June 1852 from the flooded Murrumbidgee River. The tribute monument is near the cache in a picturesque park named in his honor together with the nearby Yarri Bridge.

 

The massive flood of 1852 swept the town away, killing at least 78 people of the3 town’s population of 250. It is one of the largest natural disasters in Australia’s history.

 

The heroic efforts of Yarri, Jacky Jacky, Long Jimmy and one other indigenous man were incredible, rescuing over 40 people in their bark canoes at nighttime against raging torrents.

 

Yarri and Long Jimmy were awarded with Bronze medallions for their efforts. Later Long Jimmy passed away from the effects of being exposed to the freezing conditions.

 

Yarri’s is one of the most dramatic stories of Aboriginal-European interaction and certainly one of very few from an English perspective in which the Aboriginals are shown in an heroic light. More than a century after his heroic efforts a gravestone was erected in his memory in the North Gundagai Cemetery.

Captain Moonlite

 

 

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The Old Gundagai Goal started operating as a lockup in 1861. Horse, cattle stealing and larceny were common crimes for which offenders were imprisoned. Captain Moonlite became its most infamous inmate. He now lays at rest in a lone position in the Gundagai cemetery.

Some more serious criminals were only ever held in the goal for short periods in transit to larger goals or waiting to face court.

 

In 1879, Andrew George Scott, better known as Captain Moonlite, held up a farmhouse at Wantabadgery, half way between Wagga Wagga and Gundagai. Over 3 days Moonlite and his gang took 35 hostages and thus began a siege that would go down in Riverina history.

 

One of the hostages managed to escape and return with 9 policemen. A battle followed and one policeman and 2 of Captain Moonlite’s gang were shot dead.

 

Two of the gang were jailed for life. Moonlite and one of his gang were tried and hanged. On January 20, 1880 just before he faced the hangman’s noose at Sydney’s Darlinghurst Goal, Captain Moonlite wrote, “ I want to rest in the grave of my friend. Gratify my last wish if you can. Do it in the cheapest possible manner. I have 1 hour to live.”

 

In January 1995, Moonlite got his wish. 115 years after his death, his remains were moved from Sydney’s Rookwood cemetery and laid to rest meters from the unmarked graves of his friends James Nesbitt and Augustus Wernicke at Gundagai.

 

 

 

Gundagai Lookout

 

 

IMG_1438What more can you say? It is a great view over the Murrumbidgee flood plain.

The historic Prince Alfred Bridge and the timber railway bridge dominate the landscape.

The Prince Alfred Bridge was built in 1866, the first major crossing spanning the Murrumbidgee River. The Prince Alfred Bridge is the longest timber viaduct in Australia and has bee classified by the National Trust as a structure whose preservation is essential to Australia’s heritage.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dad and Dave

 

 

 

IMG_1432Dad and Dave, Mum and Mabel were created by Steele Rudd, and became household names throughout Australia with the broadcast of the popular radio serial ‘Dad and Dave’.

The links to Gundagai were forged when Jack O’Hagan’s ‘Along the Road to Gundagai’ was used as the serial’s theme tune.

 

In all we learned a bit more about this town and the part it played in Australian history. We are looking forward to finding out more as our hobby progresses. Not promising anything, but I may do the occasional post about other things we learn by geocaching our way around the country.

 

 

 

Stone the Crows – Thursday April 2, 2015

We survived the first full day at the festival.

I had an early start at the Morning Show where Jim Haynes, Grant Luhrs and the O’Donoghue family (Katelyn, Liam and Kasey) started the morning off with Aussie Humour, Verse and song. They were ably supported by Irvine. We saw Vinnie as he is now known at the first Stone the Crows, reciting his own brand of bush poetry. His verse about the Check up is extremely funny, and brings tears to your eyes, especially if you are a male.

Then there were seminars, and information sessions. We chose to learn a bit more about diabetes and blood sugar levels. This was followed by a talk on Family History. Not how to trace a family tree but what we can do now to help our great grandchildren create stories about our time now. The interesting thing to note was that records need to be kept in a media that will last the test of time. Paper has been around for thousands of years and is still the most reliable way to preserve history. Of course you need to store it properly.

The afternoon was taken up by catching up on some  reading , but there was a good session talking about Preprogrammed digital camera settings.

Has the day finished yet. This retirement is getting tiring. No there was the evening entertainment. This variety concert showcased Jim, Grant and Katelyn  but the absolute stand out was Jamie Way as  The Great Pizzarotti. Jamie had entertained us yesterday and agreed to come back tonight.   Just think this guy sang Elvis and other rock songs yesterday and tonight opera ( with a touch of comedy). When it was announced that the full Great Pizzarotti  show will be included in next years festival the assembled flock cheered and clapped wildly.

Jamie was greeted with a standing ovation at the end of his segment. Here is a YouTube video of this talented performer.

 

 

A good night’s sleep and we will be ready for another day. At this rate we will need a holiday to recover.

Stone the Crows Festival, Wagga Wagga- Easter 2015

It has been some time since I sat down and made a serious effort to record our adventures on the road. I must admit to be shamed in to resuming this activity at a recent seminar at the Chapter rally in Numurkah.

For the last couple of years we have spent Easter in Wagga Wagga at the Stone the Crows Festival or the Stone the Crows website.Basically a celebration of Grey Nomads. You need to be at least 50 to attend. Linda and I just qualify 😉

We arrived at the the festival grounds on Wednesday April 1. It was after 12 noon so no pranks could be perpetrated. The line if vehicle was long and it took us just on an hour to enter the grounds and set up at our allocated spot.

The afternoon was spent in setting up and getting our registration package, entering the disc bowls tournament and just catching up with friends. We also ended up on a trivia team made up of people we had played with at Numurkah.

The entertainment at this festival is top class. I will tell you about this as it happens. ( Well that is one one to stay on top of the blog posts). Happy Hour came and before you knew it it was time for dinner. The Charities for this Festival are The Wagga Wagga Men’s Shed and Wagga Wagga Breast Cancer Support Group. The Men’s shed cooked up sausages and steak.

The entertainment for the night was provided by Jamie Way. He is a performer, writer, photographer and student based in Wagga Wagga. He won the Elvis sound alike competition in Parkes in 2007. He was selected to play in a movie ,a story about a boy you sounds like Elvis Presley. He is entered into the Parkes competition and wins it. The only way that the movie could be convincing is by actually entering Jamie into the contest. He won. A story of life imitating art.Jamie did readily admit that 7 years and 30 kilos was not conducive to wearing the Elvis costume. His voice was amazing. He entertained us with a mixture of Elvis and the favourites from the 60s and 70s.

I have attached 2 short video clips of his performance so you can judge for yourselves whether he sounds like Elvis or not.

 

 

 

 

A Worthwhile Way to Spend Some Time

On Christmas day 2014 a fire that had previously been contained flared up at Creightons Creek about 10 kilometres from the town of Euroa

Location of Creightons Creek, Victoria
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As chance would have it, we were looking for somewhere to stay for a few weeks before pet sitting for our daughter and our annual sojourn to Bright. I had been looking at the BlazeAid web pages and noted that a camp was about to open at Longwood, not too far from the recent fires at Ruffy and Creightons Creek. We immediately contracted the Camp Coordinator and made the necessary arrangements.

BlazeAid was born out of the 2009 Black Saturday fires when there was a need to quickly rebuild fences. Kilmore East farmers, Kevin and Rhonda Butler, were among those whose fences were burnt. Needing to quickly secure their 1,500 sheep, they sought assistance from family, friends and local volunteers to help rebuild their fences.Within a week, the fences were completed – a task that would have taken them months to do on their own. Grateful for the assistance they received, Rhonda and Kevin decided to try to help a few others with their fencing.

Thus, BlazeAid was born.

We had worked with BlazeAid up in Queensland last year. We spent a month on Cannington Station. This was different, we would be at a central camp with other volunteers. Being just after Christmas, we were the first volunteers at Longwood, several others arrived in the days following. The first team went out to clear fences on a property at Creightons Creek on 30 December. The temperatures in those early days were in the high 30Cs, but all in all over the next week we took out the burnt boundary fences and one of the internal fences. The terrain was described as undulating. There was certainly variety.

The reward for doing this was priceless. The property owners could not thank us enough. The hugs as we departed were emotional. I am really a softy and tears rolled down my face unashamedly. It felt good to have helped.

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Linda and Maurie Rolling up a fence

Linda and Maurie Rolling up a fence

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It’s not flat around here , is it?

 

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The team enjoying country hospitality

 

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Persons at Work

 

What do you do?

How many times have you been asked this question?

Since retiring and especially now that we are travelling the countryside without any real plans I find the question being asked quite regularly by friends that are still working.

Usually I answer  with comments such as reading or fishing, riding my bike (although that has been rather irregular) or just sightseeing. But recently I decided that my photography could use some improvement.

I find that once people start to discuss aperture,shutter speed and depth of field my eyes glaze over and I tune out. Well not any more! I discovered the wonderful world of MOOCs. You might ask ” What is a MOOC?” or just do what everybody does these days  – ask Google.

But for those still reading this a MOOC is a Massive Open Online Course. In other words an online course of study open to everybody. Many courses are offered through well known education institutes. There are no formal qualifications offered but you can receive certificates of achievement or better still end up with knowledge that you did not previously have.

Getting back to the point, I found a 4 week course developed through RMIT University titled “The Art of Photography”.  The course work is not too onerous but the videos and additional  reading are worthwhile.

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There are endless possibilities. I found a couple that are of interest to means intend to pursue a couple over the next few months.

So now if anybody asks, I can add studying a MOOC.

The Camel Races at Boulia

We had meant to go to the Boulia Camel races in 2012. We arrived in Winton but over the next few days it rained rather heavily. The road is only a single strip of bitumen, so when meeting oncoming traffic (especially road trains) one vehicle is required to leave the road . This is not recommended when the dirt of each side of the bitumen is wet. So we stayed in Winton for their camel races. We did hear later that some of the racing was cancelled and many vehicles got towed out of the mud.

Fast forward to 2013. We had finished our stint at Cannington Station and with good weather in the offing we headed to Boulia after a shopping stop in Mt Isa.

Boulia-Camel-Races We arrived at the racecourse onTuesday, plenty of time to get settled and chose a nice camp spot. For $50 each we had camping until a week after the races as well as entry to all three days. The bonus is that there are hot showers and toilets. Our chosen site was close to the amenities block.

Friendly neighbours and campfires were the highlight of the pre race period. According to some who had been here in previous years,camping numbers were down. This however did not dampen the enthusiasm during the weekend.

The Friday evening started with DJ Richo and JoJo Magician wandering around the tables doing various magic tricks. The kids followed him around like the Pied Pipe. He had shows during the weekend as well as wandering through the crowd.

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Racing started in earnest on Saturday, 4 heats of 400m and 4 heats of 1000m. In order to get to the finals a camel needed to finish in the top 3. We had a punt on each race, but did not make our fortune.

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Camels can be unpredictable and this one just simply stopped  about 20 metres short of the finish line. Courtney,the jockey, had a hard time in getting him up.

 

There was an upset during in the 1000m races. The winner of last year’s cup, Chief, was eliminated. This was the first time a defending champion was not in the Cup. Our money was on Chief, a camel owned and trained by Glenda Sutton, a Victorian. There are articles about her on the ABC  and also this video made several years ago by Public Radio International.

The on track announcer made a big deal about Glenda but he should remember that there are other owners involved in the sport with credentials just as impressive .

For the locals a high point was the form of local camel Uncle Bob. He flew home in his heat  with the fastest time of the day.

After the races we were treated to a camel barrel race.

barrel-raceAt the various rodeos we have attended this is an exciting horse riding event. But camels are not really known for there agility. There was a time limit of 5 minutes to complete the course. Glenda Sutton showed how it could be done in a time of just over 30 seconds. One or two of the other camels took much longer and gave the crowd plenty to laugh about as they refused to go in the right direction.

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That night the was a spectacular fireworks display , followed by Guitarist Laurence Sorbello, entertaining the crowd with a mix of country music and rock’n roll. This capped off a great day

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday and it was back to the serious stuff of Camel Racing. A couple of consolation races for camels of involved in the cups and two finals ( 400m Flyer and the 1500m cup). The course announcer got very excited when he described Boulia event as the Melbourne Cup for camels. 1500m would certainly test out the ten runners. Our money was on Ace (a Glenda Sutton camel). Unhappily for us Ace was not up to the task. It was the local camel ,Uncle Bob , that saluted the judges in a canter.

That was the end of the racing, sort of. There was still some novelty donkey racing and the serious business of gems of 5 pulling a Prime Mover over a measured distance. The winning time was a group of grey nomads lead by one of our neighbours. Each member of the time winning $20.

Before leaving the course and going back to our camp, we decided that it was our turn to have a camel ride. The ride itself was like rocking in a hammock. The hard part was when the camel stood up and went down to the kneeling position. You really did need to hold on.hanslinda-on-a-camel

In the Riverina or it stopped raining and we found the sun

We had left Melbourne on Friday afternoon in the rain , Saturday morning we stopped in Numurkah  in the rain and we needed to buy a large umbrella.  But as we crossed over the border at Tocumwal, the rain stopped and we saw sun.

We stopped in the small NSW town of Finley, the local showgrounds was welcoming and Vic, the caretaker, gave us the lowdown on the cheapest fuel in town and also recommended the Mother’s day lunch at the local Returned Services club.  This time last year we were having Mothers Day lunch in Cobar.

 

Monday morning and it was time to move  on. The morning fog did not look as if it was going to burn off anytime soon, so it was a delayed departure. Never a problem when  there is no timetable to follow. We were only heading as far as Hay.

After about 50km we came to the town of Deniliquin. This town is listed in the Guiness Book of Records for the most utes mustered in on location. It deservedly claims the tile of Ute Capital of the World.

The local art community have decorated two utes, one covered by mosaic tiles and the other shows a ute up a pole.  We found the mosaic ute outside the Information centre.

Deni-Ute

 

We continued to Hay.  This town is located on the Murrumbidgee River and surrounded by vast open plains.

The local landscape is flat and this is one of the reasons that Hay was selected as a location for POW camps during the Second World War. The town was also at the end of the railway line, and far from the sea, an ideal location for an internment camp.

It is here that the Dunera Boys were interned. This article from the BBC commemorating the 70th anniversary, describes it much better than I could

As the storm clouds of war gathered in the late 1930s, thousands of German refugees – either Jewish or politically opposed to the Nazis – fled to Britain for sanctuary.

Little did many of them know they would soon be deported to Australia in one of the more notorious incidents in British maritime history, later described by Winston Churchill as “a deplorable mistake”.

These were later followed by Italian and Japanese internees. The Local Historical Society have collected many items, that are on display in two train carriages at the now closed railway station..

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The Dunera Boys have been the subject of a 1985 series, with a cast that included Bob Hoskin and Australian actor John Meillon. It was awarded two Australian Film Institute awards in 1986. Here is a clip from Episode 3.

There was also a documentary that screened on SBS titled  When Friends were Enemies: The Story of The Dunera Boys

I especially wanted to visit this exhibition. I had seen the movie many years ago and parts of it linger. Without wanting to preach, it is one of the horrors of war, where people that have lived in your community for many years are suddenly treated as prisoners of war, just because their ancestry was different.

 

North to Numurkah?

I know that it does not have the same ring as the song title ( North to Alaska) suggests, but it was good to get back on the road. In our case we were going to follow the sun , North.
If you has been following our Facebook page, you would know that we have been waiting patiently for a new water tank. We wanted to double our capacity to 200 litres, a must when travelling through the Outback.

On the Friday before Mother’s Day the tank was finally fitted and we were off. The Friday night saw us get about 100km out of Melbourne along the Hume Highway. There is a good rest area called Grass Tree. It is well off the highway and you cannot hear much road noise. Around 10pm it started to rain. We do like the sound of rain on the roof, but if made for a restless night sleeping.

Saturday morning over breakfast we decided on a route north. We would go through Shepparton, cross the NSW border at Tocumwal, through Finley and Hay, follow the Cobb Highway to Hay and then to Hillston and up to Cobar. This would lead us to the western area of Queensland. The exact routing to Julia Creek could wait until later.

I digress from the reason of writing this post. In the many years I have cycled throughout Victoria I have obviously seen water wheels that pump water through the irrigation channels. Not once have I known their actual name. Today in the centre of Numurkah I found out.

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The Dethridge Water Wheel was invented in 1910 by Mr J S Dethridge- Commissioner of the then State Rivers & Water Commission. The wheel is the standard means of measuring water deliveries to irrigated farms throughout Australia and to 1700 irrigated farms in the Murray Valley irrigation area.

The water supply for the district is stored in the Hume Dam – capacity 3,038,000 megalitres and the Dartmouth Dam – capacity 4,056,000 megalitres. The water is delivered via the Mulwala Lat at Yarrawonga.

The Murray Valley irrigation area, consisting of 120,000 hectares was proclaimed on October 17, 1938 and the first water from the weir at Yarrawonga flowed into the main channel on October 3,1939. This channel now delivers 365,000 megalitres through 3218 Dethridge water wheels via 1000 kilometres of open Channel.

The irrigation water used on these farms produces a wide range of dairy products, irrigated grain,sunflowers, soya beans, maize, lucerne, wine, stone and citrus fruits, vegetables, prime cattle and lambs. The annual value of this production is in excess of $150,000,000.

Here as elsewhere throughout this country WATER IS LIQUID GOLD.