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Churchill, VIC

Planned West Gippsland town famed for The Big Cigar.

Churchill is a modern, purpose-built town which was constructed to provide accommodation for workers (and their families) who were involved in the construction and maintenance of the Hazelwood Power Station. Today it is a commuter suburb for people working in the surrounding district and is home to the Federation University which has 2,000 on-campus students and 400 staff.

Location

Churchill is located 161 km from Melbourne via the Princes Highway. It is 12 km south of Morwell and 140 metres above sea level.

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Origin of Name

The town was originally named Hazelwood after a pastoral run established in the area in 1844. When a purpose-built town was constructed the Victorian government, against considerable local opposition, renamed the town Churchill after the British wartime leader who was famous for his passionate speeches, his V for Victory finger sign and his penchant for cigars.

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Things to See and Do

Hazelwood Cooling Pond
Accessed from the town along Switchback Road, the Hazelwood Cooling Pond is the ideal place to sail, use a powerboat, waterski, yacht, canoe and swim. It has a number of pleasant picnic locations on the shores.  The water is constantly between 18°C - 23°C. The Hazelwood Power Station generates 1600 kw and requires 160 million litres of water per hour. The water is disgorged into an artificial lake which the enterprising power station has opened to the public.

The Big Cigar
David Clark's excellent Big Things: Australia's amazing roadside attractions explains: "Looking more like a giant fly swat, the 32 metre high Big Cigar was imposed on the town by the Housing Commission, who wanted something to symbolise Churchill's progress. Originally known as the 'spire' when it was unveiled on 21 December, 1967, it was quickly dubbed the Big Cigar by locals because of the close resemblance to a cigar and their association with Winston Churchill. The local Rotary Club erected a wall under the Big Cigar in November 1990 to commemorate the farmers whose land was acquired by the town. Over the years the cigar also became a popular nesting place for pigeons, eventually ruining the internal lighting. New external lights were built and switched on in November, 1999."

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Other Attractions in the Area

The History of the Artificial Town
Churchill was created by the Victorian Government in the 1960s to house workers and their families who were constructing the Hazelwood Power Station. It was chosen because it wasn't sitting on top of any coal, it had a genuinely pleasant location and it was relatively free from air pollution. It was also close to the larger towns and power stations in the Latrobe Valley. In fact it has evolved into a commuter suburb.
It was planned that the new town included private and Housing Commission estates. The houses were to be all brick and of varied designs. The residential areas were to be grouped around the town centre so that people could walk through parks and under main roads to the town centre. There were to be 11 neighbourhoods named after the district's pioneering families. Each neighbourhood would consist of about 600 homes grouped around parks, a school and corner shops. The proposals were ambitious. There were plans for a shopping mall, large department store, market, theatre, civic centre, cultural centre, hotels, offices, bus terminal, racetrack, golf course and area for light industry and it was hoped that the population would eventually reach 40,000 people.
Land was compulsorily acquired and house construction commenced in late 1964. The first families took up residence in late 1965. The town was first known as Hazelwood, but in February 1965, the government changed the name to Churchill to honour Sir Winston Churchill. The local response was very negative and very vocal and it wasn't until November 1966 before the issue was definitely settled in favour of Churchill.

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History

* Prior to the arrival of Europeans the area was home to GurnaiKurnai Aboriginal people.

* The Hazelwood pastoral run was established in 1844.

* Land in the area was taken up in the 1870s.

* In 1886 a branch railway line connected Morwell to the main line from Melbourne.

* In 1888 a good siding was built at Hazelwood.

* The land was broken up for soldier settlers after World War I.

* Churchill is a purpose-built town, approved in 1964 and constructed in 1964-1965 to provide accommodation for workers (and their families) who were involved in the construction and maintenance of the Hazelwood Power Station.

* The first families moved into the town in 1965.

* In February, 1965 the government changed the name from Hazelwood to Churchill.

* A Citizens Association was formed in 1966. A post office opened that year.

* In 1968 the local shopping centre was constructed.

* Hazelwood power station was completed in 1971.

* In 1972 the Gippsland Institute of Advanced Technology was opened in the town.

* In 2009 the Black Friday bushfires killed 11 people in the local area.

* The population of the town had reached 4,750 by 2011.

* In 2014 the local university changed its name to Federation University Australia Churchill.

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Visitor Information

There is no visitor information centre in Churchill. The closest is the Latrobe Visitor Information Centre, 41 Princes Street, Traralgon, tel: 1800 621 409.

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Useful Websites

The official local website is http://www.visitlatrobecity.com/pages/churchill.

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