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Dimboola, VIC

Wimmera wheatbelt town made famous by Jack Hibberd's play of the same name

Dimboola is a quiet wheatbelt service centre located on the Wimmera River at the north-eastern edge of the Little Desert National Park. It is surrounded by agricultural land where wheat, oats, barley and wool are grown. The main attractions in the area are the beautiful Wimmera River and the Little Desert National Park.

Location

Dimboola is located on the Western Highway 336 km north-west of Melbourne. It is 36 km north of Horsham and 111 metres above sea-level. 

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Origin of Name

Dimboola was gazetted and proclaimed in 1863. At this time it was named 'Dimboola' after a Singhalese word ('Dimbula') meaning 'land of figs'. Why? Because the surveyor had travelled and lived in Sri Lanka (at the time it was known as Ceylon).

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Things to See and Do

Wimmera River
Given that it flooded in both 2010 and 2011, it is easy to understand why the Wimmera River is so central to Dimboola. It is located only a short distance to the west of Lloyd Street and there is a pleasant walking track along the banks. The river is home to boating, rowing (there is a Dimboola Rowing Club), fishing (it is home to Murray Cod, Freshwater Catfish, Golden Perch, Redfin, Tench and European Carp) and is ideal for picnics and admiring the red gums. It is possible to follow the river for 7 km to Horseshoe Bend Campground in Little Desert National Park. The river was given Heritage Status in 1992 and is controlled by the Dimboola Weir which was built in 1903.

Dimboola Post Office
Located on the corner of Lloyd and Wimmera Streets, the current Post Office dates to 1885 although a non-official Post Office was established at Nine Creeks as early as 1863 with William Henry Lloyd as the Postmaster. In 1880 the Post Office was raised in status and became official. There is a very detailed history of the building and the postal service on a plaque on the side of the building.

Dimboola and District Historical Museum
Located in the Old Dimboola Courthouse (1879) at 67 Lloyd Street, the Museum has four display rooms - one for household items, one for sports equipment and trophies, one for shop displays and advertising, and the court room which has examples of local Aboriginal and Chinese artefacts, information about World War I and World War II, and local memorabilia relating to the railways and local agriculture. It is open on Saturdays from 10.00 am to 2.30 pm or by appointment. For more information check out http://www.dimboolahistory.org.au/courthouse.php, tel: 0404 021 204.

Dimboola Print Museum
The Dimboola and District Historical Society also run the Dimboola Print Museum, located in Lochiel Street, which is located in the former Dimboola Banner building. It houses printing presses and associated machinery which is all still in working order. There is also an historical collection of memorabilia. Check out http://www.visithindmarsh.com.au/DimboolaPrintMuseum. The Print Museum is open by appointment, tel: tel: 0404 021 204.

The Nolan Studio
Located in Lochiel Street, this is really just an old garage/studio with a few pieces of Nolan memorabilia. The famous artist Sidney Nolan was stationed in Dimboola during World War II. While he was in the area he became inspired by the colours and vastness of the Wimmera. This led to the creation of his famous Wimmera Landscape Series which is often credited with creating a new direction for  landscape painting in Australia. 

Reclaiming Our Heritage Arbour and Art Works
Located in Lochiel Street, this unusual development comprises an arbour made from old timbers from the town's bridge, an impressive mural and some interesting stencil art depicting the river. The arbour was constructed from reclaimed timber from the Wimmera Street bridge which had been built in 1946 and was severely damaged by flooding in 2010-2011.

Dimboola Memorial Secondary College
Located on Ellerman Street, the Memorial Secondary College was built in 1924 as a memorial to the local people who served in World War I. The memorial driveway now includes trees planted and dedicated to local people who lost their lives in World War II. There are also pieces of artillery from both world wars in the school grounds. The Matron Paschke Memorial Sun Dial and memorial plaques are further examples of the school as a war memorial.

Mechanics Institute
The Mechanics' Institute is located at 175 Lloyd Street. It is single-storey brick structure that was built in 1877 as the Lowan Shire Hall. It subsequently became the headquarters of Dimboola Shire Council from 1885-1914. It is unusual in that, unlike most Mechanics Institutes it was constructed as a residential building rather than a grand edifice. Built from locally made bricks, it was classified by the National Trust in 1974.

Victoria Hotel
The Victoria Hotel, on the corner of Wimmera and Victoria Streets, is genuinely charming hotel with grapevines hanging from the hotel's upper veranda creating a cool curtain for the lower section of the hotel. 

Steam Train in Apex Park
To celebrate the central role of the railway in the development of Dimboola, the VRI decided to purchase a train. The train was paid for by public subscription and was purchased in 1974. The train that was purchased was a J539 oil-burning locomotive, built in Lancashire, England in 1954.

Dimboola Railway Precinct
The railway reached in Dimboola in 1882 and the station buildings were completed in 1883. The precinct has the only operational manual turntable between Melbourne and Adelaide and features two pedestrian bridges. Information boards telling the history of the precinct are on the Dimboola Station's platform. 

Nine Creeks & Dimboola Common
If you continue down Lochiel Street and cross the bridge you reach the flood plains of the Wimmera River. This is the Dimboola Common which includes historical settlement sites and a Chinese camp and market gardens. It is likely, from the evidence of his journal, that the explorer, Edward John Eyre, camped at this point. "Eyre recorded in his journal that 'we came upon a large flat of rich land with very large blue gum trees growing upon it.' It seems likely that he was referring to the area around the Common and the red, rather than blue, gums that inhabit it." There are three tracks around the Common - the Nine Creeks Track (800 metres); Common Track (1.6 km) and Weir Track (700 metres) which connects to a boardwalk across the Wimmera River. The map at the beginning of the walk identifies six interesting features on the walks:
1. Expedition Camp Site (at the redgum tree) - The sign beside the track reads: "Aitken and Phillips' Camp - It was within the vicinity of the large river red gum tree to the right of this sign that, in January 1863, Alexander Aitken and Charles Phillips camped with the surviving eight camels from the ill-fated Burke and Wills expedition. The party left Adelaide in December with orders from A.W. Howitt (who had previously found and recovered the remains of the two explorers) and the Exploration Committee in Melbourne, to take the remaining camels to the Longerenong homestead, one of the Wimmera properties owned by the Wilson brothers, Charles and Samuel ... the local Aborigines were understandably startled by the appearance and noise of the camels and donkeys."
2. Historic Chinese camp site - the Common was home to the area's Chinese community for over fifty years.
3. Old Weir and Chinese Gardens
4. Historic Canoe Tree - the scarred canoe tree was largely destroyed by fire in 1980 but a well preserved canoe tree can be seen on the west side of the river opposite the football clubrooms.
5. Dimboola Weir - the Dimboola Weir was constructed in 1903.
6. Fallen Giant Redgum
The location of the Common beside the Wimmera River means that it has many different plant and animal species including the large river red gums, a wide variety of birds, and native animals including kangaroos and echidnas.

Dimboola - the Play
Jack Hibberd's play, Dimboola, put the tiny town on the cultural map. Hibberd had grown up in Warracknabeal and understood the Wimmera as only a local can. He knew of the great Protestant-Catholic divide which was so overwhelming in the 1950s and the play, basically a celebration of the wedding of Protestant Morrie McAdam and Catholic Reen Delaney in the Mechanics' Institute Hall in Dimboola, was one of those inspired theatrical ideas where real life is used as a theatre to explore the dynamics of a country town. The two families come together for the wedding and, of course, all hell breaks loose. Hibberd described the play, which was first performed at the Pram Factory in Melbourne, as "the testing of strengths of the newly conjugated tribes". The family members are eager to preserve social grace and dignity. But this cannot last. The inevitability of too much alcohol leads to mayhem and humour. The families exchange insults and punches as their true feelings and raw emotions are exposed. The play is performed every year by a group of locals with the money being used for local causes and community groups. To find out about the next performance check out http://dimboola.com.au/index.aspx?PageID=40.

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Other Attractions in the Area

Pink Lake
Located 9 km north-west on the Western Highway between Dimboola and Nhill, is the district's famous Pink Lake. It is accessible and easily viewed from the rest stop on the highway.  It has been worked for salt since 1981. Unlike most of Australia's pink lakes it is produced by artesian springs. The pink colour of the water (there are a number of lakes like this in the wheatbelt) comes from a pigment of microscopic algae. The intensity of the pink varies with the amount of water in the lake and on overcast days in particular it reflects a deep pinkish hue. Salt from the lake was commercially harvested for many years.

Picnic Bend
Located 7 km south of Dimboola via Horseshoe Bend Road, and on the edge of the Little Desert National Park, Picnic Bend is designated for water sports - predominantly water skiing.

Snape Reserve
Located 5 km west of Dimboola on the Old Racecourse Road, the Snape Reserve is 754 ha which was purchased in 2002. The idea was to create an area to preserve both wildlife and native vegetation. There is a self-guided walk and boardwalks to protect the environment.

Little Desert National Park
To the south and west of Dimboola is Little Desert National Park, covering 132,000 ha and stretching across to the South Australian border, it is the second-largest national park in Victoria. The first reserve was created in 1955 to protect the mallee fowl and the park was declared in 1968. There is a useful brochure with detailed maps which can be downloaded at http://parkweb.vic.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0007/315772/Visitor-Guide-Little-Desert-National-Park.pdf.
Despite its name, the dry hot summers and sandy soil, this is not a true desert. The park receives 400 mm of rainfall per annum (mostly in winter) and supports a range of fauna including over 220 bird species, and 670 plant species. 
It has extensive heathlands with tea-trees, banksia and she oak and many spring wildflowers. Wildlife includes possums, the black-faced kangaroo, the silky desert mouse, reptiles such as the bearded dragon and the short-tailed snake. Perhaps most famous of the fauna is the mallee fowl which is indigenous to this area. Its presence is signified by a mound up to five metres in diameter and one metre high. It lays its eggs inside the mound which it adjusts each day to maintain its temperature at 33° Celsius.
The eastern section, lying south of the Western Highway between Dimboola and Nhill, is the most interesting and accessible. There are five campgrounds - Horseshoe Bend, Ackle Bend, Mallee Walkers Camp, Kiata Campground, Yellow Gums Walkers Camp - and a 7 km gravel road from Dimboola along the Wimmera River. The route is signposted. There is a network of walking tracks with heavy concentrations of waterbirds and kangaroos by the river and adjacent woodlands. A short distance from Horseshoe Bend is the start of the short Pomponderoo Hill Nature Walk. 

Pomponderoo Hill Nature Walk
This walk is located on the park’s northern boundary, 4 km south of Dimboola. It loops around typical desert vegetation. A lookout provides excellent views of the park, the Wimmera River and the surrounding area. It is an easy walk, is only one kilometre long and takes 30 minutes return.

Little Desert Discovery Walk
Horseshoe Bend is a suitable starting place for the Desert Discovery Walk (marked with signposts and track markers). The total distance is 74 km but the circular track which heads west to the Kiata Campground and eventually returns to Ackle Bend and Horseshoe Bend Camp grounds. It is possible to take a single day walk or to do the entire walk (it is estimated to take a total of 25.5 hours) over a period of two to four days. The Parkweb website describes the pleasures of the walk as including: "This walk is ... especially colourful in spring. The park has 670 species of native plants and over 220 bird species recorded ...  find beauty in the small things. From the myriad of insects such as the Jewel Beetle, one of the deserts pollinators, to the nocturnal inhabitants like the bats and pygmy possums ... Keep an eye out for shingle-back lizards, skinks and brown snakes ... and don’t forget to look up ... for Wedge-tailed eagles." 
There are detailed track notes and a map on ParkWeb. Check out http://parkweb.vic.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0011/694757/LittleDesert-DiscoveryWalkTrackNotes.pdf. The notes also provide detailed information on camping and staying overnight in the park.

Little Desert Lodge
The Little Desert Lodge, located 16 km south of Nhill at 1457 Nhill-Harrow Road, offers a range of accommodation options and is devoted to "nature tourism experiences". It offers a Malleefowl discovery experience at the property's Malleefowl Aviary; nocturnal wildlife experiences where sugar gliders, brush-tailed bettongs and bushstone curlews can be sighted; excellent bird watching and a number of trails for bushwalking. In season the wildflowers are superb with over 670 species of native daisies, rare orchids and flowering tea trees. For more information check out http://littledesertlodge.com.au/experiences.

Ebenezer Mission
The Ebenezer Mission is located 2 km off the main road between Jeparit and Dimboola about 1 km south of Antwerp. In 1858 two Moravian missionaries, Brother Hagenauer and Brother Spieseke, arrived in Victoria to work among the Aborigines. In 1859 they moved to the Wimmera and chose a site about 3 km south of Antwerp station on the Wimmera River. The government provided 1,897 acres for the Ebenezer Mission Station. The aim was to Christianise the local Aboriginal population. Conditions could be harsh. Only those Aborigines who attended church were entitled to rations. The graves at the ruins of the church are particularly interesting. There are graves of both Aborigines and Lutheran missionaries. The missionaries had been born in places like Bohemia and Prussia. The mission was closed in 1904 and over the next 20 years many of the Aborigines were forcibly moved to the Lake Tyers Mission in Gippsland. There is a very detailed history of the mission at http://www.germanaustralia.com/e/ebenezer.htm.

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History

* Prior to the arrival of Europeans the district was occupied by the Wotjobaluk Aboriginal people. 

* In 1852 it was estimated that there were some 1200 Aborigines living in the area.

* The first station in the district was established in 1846 by Horatio Ellerman and George Shaw. 

* By 1859 Europeans were calling the area 'Nine Creeks' because of the many branches of the Wimmera River. A simple bush village grew up to serve the local squatters.

* In 1859 the Ebenezer Mission was established at Antwerp.

* By the early 1860s Nine Creeks had a school hut, church, grog shanty and store. 

* A town site was surveyed in 1862. 

* Dimboola was gazetted and proclaimed in 1863. The post office was opened that year. It was still called Nine Creeks.

* By 1868 there was a constable in residence and a butcher's shop. 

* In 1871 the population was recorded as 78. 

* By 1873 selectors began to take up land. The majority were Germans moving from South Australia, though there were also Irish and Scots. 

* The town became the administrative centre of Lowan Shire in 1875.

* A state school opened in 1875. 

* A flour mill was opened in 1876.

* A brick shire hall was completed in 1877. That year also saw the building of the Mechanics' Institute.

* By the 1877 census 103 Aborigines, many of them at Ebenezer mission, were living in the area. 

* A flour mill was established and a local newspaper, the Dimboola Banner, went into print in 1879. 

* By 1880 a combination of drought and a rabbit plague had decimated the early settlers.

* In 1882 Dimboola became the railhead for the district when the railway was extended from Horsham.

* Dimboola Shire was created in 1885. 

* The line to Serviceton opened in 1887.

* A eucalyptus oil distillery was established in 1882 and salt was refined from the lake near Lochiel. 

* By the early 1880s agricultural machinery especially tailored to dealing with the Mallee scrub - the stump-jump plough - was being manufactured in the town.

* The Dimboola Weir was built in 1903.

* The Star Picture Theatre was opened in the 1920s.

* In 1942 famous painter Sidney Nolan was stationed at Dimboola while on army duty in World War II. He painted a series of works about the town.

* Jack Hibberd used the town as the setting for his play Dimboola in 1969.

* A rail freight changeover facility was opened in 1991.

* In 2009 the town celebrated 150 years since the first store opened in the town.

* In 2010 and 2011 the town experienced severe flooding.

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Visitor Information

The library operates as a Visitor Centre, tel: (03) 5391 4452 and there is information at the Hindmarsh Visitor Information Centre, centre of the median strip in Victoria Street, Nhill, tel: (03) 5391 3086.

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Useful Websites

There is a useful local website. Check out http://dimboola.com.au. The official local brochure can be downloaded at http://www.visithindmarsh.com.au/content/images/brochures%20forms/Dimboola_VistorGuide.pdf.

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