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Mooroopna, VIC

Rural service town on the banks of the Goulburn River opposite Shepparton

Mooroopna is a Cinderella settlement living in the shadow of the larger city of Shepparton. It is located just across the Goulburn River from Shepparton which is recognised as the major rural service centre in the Goulburn Valley and the headquarters of the Goulburn Valley Irrigation System. Yet, with a population of nearly 8,000, and a number of attractions which are distinctively different from its neighbour, it is an important centre in its own right. The surrounding area produces fruit, vegetables, cereals and milk products. Once known for its fruit canneries, today it is a diverse regional centre with an impressive museum and gallery, a superb Kids Town Adventure Playground, and excellent walking tracks along the river banks.

Location

Mooroopna is located 192 km north of Melbourne, 5 km from Shepparton and 113 metres above sea-level.

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Origin of Name

It is accepted that "Mooroopna" is derived from a Kaieltheban Aboriginal word meaning "deep water hole" which was a description of a section of the Goulburn River.

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Things to See and Do

Mooroopna History Walk
There is an interesting and easy Mooroopna History Walk (see https://walkingmaps.com.au/walk/560 for a map and details of the locations) which passes ten places of historic interest. It is an easy 2.2 km and takes around 30 minutes. The most interesting places are:

1. Chinaman's Garden Reserve
Located on the banks of the Goulburn River, off the Midland Highway, the garden was created in 1877 by Ah Wong who sold his vegetables to people living in the area. Today it provides pleasant views across the river. In the floods of 1889 it was reported that "A Chinese market gardener, in attempting to cross this morning with his cart nearly lost his life. He clung to his cart until he was rescued some three hours afterwards by some persons in a boat. The cart and horse were carried down the torrent, and the horse was drowned"

2. Mooroopna War Memorial
A powerful reminder of the toll that World War I took on local communities. This memorial, located in McLennan Street, and marked with PALESTINE BELGIUM FRANCE GALLIPOLI has a list of 145 men and 21 nurses (all the nurses had trained at the Mooroopna Hospital) who came from the local area and served in World War I. It was erected in 1928 after the local community had contributed £1,100 to erect the monument.

4. Kialla Bridge
This historic single lane bridge was built in 1877-1878 to connect Mooroopna with the Kialli Settlement. Today it crosses a shallow section of the Goulburn River. The timbers had previously been used by George Tanner, who owned Tanner's Sawmill, to build his bridge across the Broken River near Shepparton. The bridge originally had a central drawbridge to allow the passage of paddle steamers "on their way to the wharf (now demolished) in the common, at the first bend up stream from the bridge". 

7. Flour Mill
Located on Midland Highway, the Mooroopna Flour Mill was built in 1872 by Elias Ralph who had been running the Maroopna Punt. The mill has operated continuously since that date and, until recently when it was taken over by a group of companies, it had been operated only by Ralph and, from 1886 when they bought it for £1500,  the McLennan Family. The silos were built in 1944 at a cost of £20,000. It is now home to Ridleys Agriproducts.

8. McLennan's Home
Located in Archer Street, the McLennan's home was built for Reuben McLennan in 1910. It is quite a substantial home but is now overwhelmed by the flour mill complex which is next door.

9. Punt Crossing the Goulburn River
Over the road from McLennan's home is a park which runs down to the Goulburn River. When the river is low it is possible to see the remains of the jetty which was built around 1875 and was the vital link for the punt across the river.

Jack Findlay Memorial
Located in the median strip on the Midland Highway is a monument and statue of Jack Findlay, who was born in 1935 in Northgate Street and left for England in 1958 to pursue a motorcycle racing career. After 15 years as a privateer (ie he was not sponsored or part of a team),  he won the famous Isle of Man TT and in 1975 he beat racing legend Barry Sheene to take the FIM 750cc World Championship title. The note beside the statue records: "He won three 500cc Grand Prix - Austria, Ulster in Northern Ireland and the Isle of Man.  Twice won the coveted unofficial title of Best Privateer in the world championship - 1966 and 1968.  He was also the leading 250cc Best Placed Privateer in 1966. Won the Isle of Man Senior TT in 1973.  The only Australian to achieve this.  Defeated Barry Sheene by one point to win the FIM Formula 750 prize in 1975.  In 1963 had a win on the full LeMans circuit in an international event on his McIntyre Matchless and went on to record 11 international race wins that year.
Finished third in the world 500cc championship in 1966
Finished second in the world 500cc championship in 1968
Finished fourth in the world 500cc championship in 1970 and 1971
Finished fifth five times in the world 500cc championship." The monument was designed by Phil Mune and dedicated in 2006. Findlay died in Cannes, France in 2007. For more information check out http://monumentaustralia.org.au/themes/people/sport/display/32702-jack-findlay.

Aboriginal History Walk
Starting at the Chinaman’s Garden Reserve and covering 4.3 km on a path which is well signposted and has a number of interesting signs, this History Walk is an introduction to the history of the local Yorta Yorta Aboriginal community. It tells the story of the Yorta Yorta families who were involved in the Cummeragunja ‘Walk Off’ on 6 February 1939 and how this particular area was chosen as a place to settle because the Yorta Yorta had a long, traditional association with the area which was in close proximity to the Kaiela (Goulburn River). It tells the story of how, by September 1946 there were 130 people aged from 8 days to 80 years  living on the ‘flats’ in 29 dwellings, 22 of which were made of tin or hessian bag huts and the rest were tents. It explains how they survived because the river was rich in crayfish, red fin, yellow belly and cod, and the surrounding area was a rich source of possums, turtles, turtle eggs, swan, duck, crane and other birds and their eggs. The women predominantly fished whilst the men would hunt for rabbits. It tells of how every year, when the river flooded, everyone would move to higher ground on Daish’s paddock, which is now the site of the KidsTown Adventure Playground.
The story of the Cummeragunja ‘Walk Off’ is told on a sign at the flats: 
“The area known as ‘The Flats’ was settled after the Walk off from Cummeragunja at Barmah on 4 February 1939. The first ever mass strike of Aboriginal people, the Walk Off was due to the increasingly restrictive controls upon the movement and activities of the people, the poor rations and cruel treatment they received and the increasing removal of children. Jack Patten, with the help of William Cooper, encouraged the people of the mission to leave, resulting in some residents walking off to The Flats, and other relocating to the Echuca/Moama district.
“Both Jack Patten and William Cooper were spokesmen for the dispersed Aboriginal communities of Central Victoria and Western New South Wales. The Walk Off was so significant it brought about changes to the Aborigines Act of New South Wales. Jack Patten received a gaol sentence for his part in enticing the Aborigines to leave the Cummeragunja Reserve.”

Mooroopna Museum and Gallery
Located at 30 Park Street the Mooroopna Museum is open Wednesdays 11.00 am - 3.00 pm and Sundays 1.30 pm - 4.00 pm. It is located in the former Grutzner House behind the old Mooroopna Hospital. The museum specialises in local history with documents and photographs of Mooroopna, local family histories and a history of the town's two main industries - McLennan's flour mill and the Ardmona Foods factory. They also have an impressive Hospital and Medical Museum. For more information check out http://www.hsm.org.au or tel: 0428 252 144.

Moooving Art
Located around the Mooroopna, in McLennan Street (Turtle Cow) and at SPC Kidstown (Zaidee Cow, B2, Bat Cow, Clownfish Cow, Iron Cow), these brightly coloured fibreglass cows - there are 90 of them around Greater Shepparton - are happy symbols of the importance of the local dairy industry. They can be easily located by going to https://www.facebook.com/MooovingArt.

SPC Kids Town - Adventure Playground
Located at 7287 Midland Highway, the SPC Kids Town - Adventure Playground is spread across five acres (2.23 ha) and, as the website explains, "features fully fenced play spaces, giant slides, train rides and a sensory fruit bin and dairy maze both paying tribute to the orchard and dairy industries that have flourished in the Goulburn Valley. Designed to entertain, stimulate and educate children through play. Children and parents alike will delight at the creative, imaginative and, most of all, safe play available to children of all ages and all abilities.  The playground includes some wheelchair accessible equipment." For more information check out http://kidstown.org.au/aboutkidstown, tel: (03) 5831 4213. It is open from dawn to dusk.

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Other Attractions in the Area

Gemmills Wildlife Reserve
Located off Echuca Road, the Gemmills Wildlife Reserve is 170 ha of floodplain on the banks of the Goulburn River. It is characterised by Red Gum forests and tall spike rush wetlands. It provides habitat for some of the state's rare and vulnerable mammals, birds and reptiles including the squirrel glider, turquoise parrots and superb parrots. It is also possible to see flocks of pelicans, ibis, swans, egrets and ducks in the area. There are viewing platforms and walking tracks. For more information check out https://parkweb.vic.gov.au/explore/parks/gemmill-swamp-w.r.

Belstack Strawberry Farm
Belstack Strawberry Farm is located at 80 Bennetts Road at Kialla West to the south of Shepparton. You can pick your own strawberries from November, and there are farm tours, river walks, a small orchard and a farm shop selling produce. It is open daily from October to May or by appointment, tel: (03) 5823 1324.

Furphy Museum
Located at Emerald Bank Leisure Land, 7717 Goulburn Valley Highway, the Furphy Museum explores 150 years of the famous Furphy blacksmith and wheelwright business with displays relating to the famous Furphy Water Carts, the Circular Quay Furphy Fencing, the Furphy patented harvester, early farm implements and a blacksmith's shop. John Furphy, a blacksmith and wheelwright, arrived in Shepparton in 1873 and by 1878 had established a foundry. By 1880 he was manufacturing water carts which became hugely popular around the country. Such was their popularity that when war broke out in 1914 they were ordered in large numbers by the Australian Army and were used in camps where the local water supply was unreliable. It is said that the word 'furphy', meaning a rumour or tall tale, came into existence because soldiers used to gather around the water supply and it was there that rumours were shared and spread. 
John Furphy was joined in Shepparton by his more famous brother Joseph. Joseph had been a farmer in the Riverina but had been bankrupted by a drought. He worked with his brother for 21 years and it was during this time that he wrote the great Australian novel, Such is Life. The novel was published under the pseudonym 'Tom Collins'. The Museum is open weekdays from 10.00 am - 4.30 pm. For more information check out https://www.furphyfoundry.com.au or tel: (03) 5823 5833.

Shepparton Motor Museum & Collectibles
Located at 7717 Goulburn Valley Highway and open seven days a week from 10.00 am - 4.30 pm, the Shepparton Motor Museum opened in 2012 and now has extensive, and constantly changing, displays of historic cars (over 100 classic and vintage cars), bicycles, motorcycles, trucks, pedal cars and even an Australian beer can collection. For more information check out http://sheppartonmotormuseumandcollectibles.com.au or tel: (03) 5823 5833.

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History

* The area is thought to have been inhabited by the Kaieltheban group of the Yorta-Yorta people prior to white settlement. 

* The first Europeans to venture onto the townsite were Joseph Hawdon and Charles Bonney who camped by the Goulburn River while overlanding cattle to Adelaide in 1838.

* There were 50 Kaieltheban Aborigines living in Mooroopna in 1841.

* Mooroopna's punt service attracted custom from travelling gold prospectors travelling to Beechworth. 

* In 1860 William Simmonds Archer purchased land in the area. 

* In 1865 Mooroopna became part of the Shire of Waranga.

* A local post office opened in 1873.

* The town's first school was opened in 1874. A bank also opened in that year.

* The Mooroopna Hospital opened in 1876.

* The railway from Seymour reached the town in 1880

* A major expansion of agricultural production and of the local population occurred after 1912 when irrigation really got under way with water from Lake Nagambie. 

* Dairies and orchards proliferated after World War I. 

* In 1917, the Shepparton Preserving Company (SPC) was formed. 

* The Ardmona cannery in Mooroopna opened in the 1920s. 

* By the late 1930s SPC had become the largest fruit processing plant in Australia.

* In 1936 Yorta Yorta families walked off the Cummeragunja Mission and settled on 'The Flats' at Mooroopna.

* Cleckheaton Woollen Mill was established in 1948 in a transfer of operations from Leeds in England.

* The Mooroopna Historical Society was established in 1983.

* In 1994 Mooroopna became part of the City of Greater Shepparton

* SPC and Ardmona were merged in 2002.

* SPC Ardmona were bought by Coca Cola Amatil in 2005.

* The old hospital was destroyed by fire in 2011. That year saw the SPC Ardmona processing plant close down.

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Visitor Information

The Greater Shepparton Information Centre, 33-35 Nixon Street, Shepparton has information about Mooroopna. It is open daily from 9.00 am - 5.00 pm, tel: (03) 5832 9330 or 1800 808 839.

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Useful Websites

The official local website can be found at http://greatershepparton.com.au/visitors/vic. 

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