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Jeparit, VIC

Wimmera wheatbelt town - birthplace of Robert Menzies, Australia's longest serving Prime Minister.

Jeparit is a small town on the Wimmera River in an rural area known for its production of wheat, wool, barley and oats. Its most notable claim is that it is the birthplace of Sir Robert Menzies, prime minister of Australia from 1939-1941 and 1949-1966. The town's main attractions are the huge Wimmera-Mallee Pioneer Museum and the excellent (if it has water in it) Lake Hindmarsh.

Location

Jeparit is located 376 km north-west of Melbourne via Ballarat and 45 km west of Warracknabeal.

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Origin of Name

Jeparit probably is a corruption of a local Aboriginal word (a Gromiluk word) meaning "the home of small birds".

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Things to See and Do

Menzies Memorials
The founder of the Liberal Party of Australia, the politician Robert Gordon Menzies was born in Jeparit in 1894. His father was a local shopkeeper. Menzies was educated at the local school. Not surprisingly his life is commemorated in a small number of monuments around the town. His life is commemorated by an 18-metre grey steel column with a thistle on the top called the Robert Menzies Spire. It stands at the corner of Charles Street and Sands Avenue at the entrance to Sir Robert Menzies Park and was erected in 1966. At night it is floodlit. The inscription reads: "This spire has been erected by the people of Jeparit and district, to honour Sir Robert Menzies. The spire symbolises the rise to world recognition of a boy who was born in Jeparit and who rose by his own efforts to become Australia's Prime Minister and a statesman recognised and honoured throughout the world." The thistle at the top contains the ashes of Menzies. Neither Menzies' home nor his father's shop remain. One was burnt down and the other was demolished. Menzies Square is located where the house and store once stood at the corner of Charles and Roy Sts. There is a plaque and a gazebo.
Menzies Square is located where the house and store once stood at the corner of Charles and Roy Streets. There is a plaque and a gazebo.

Edward John Eyre Heritage River Walk
The explorer Edward John Eyre camped near Jeparit in 1838 when he was trying to find a route from Melbourne to Adelaide. This 13 km heritage walk follows the banks of the Wimmera River starting from the Wimmera Mallee Pioneer Museum.

Wimmera War Memorial and Statue
Jeparit's Memorial Avenue has a number of rare qualities. There is the white marble female statue titled Remembrance. It was rare at the time to use a woman to depict the tragedy of World War I. Usually it was a soldier. The memorial lists the 120 local men who fought in World War I. The World War II memorial was unveiled by Robert Menzies.

Wimmera-Mallee Pioneer Museum
Located at Charles Street, the Wimmera-Mallee Pioneer Museum is situated on 4 ha adjacent to the Wimmera River at the southern entrance to town. The site contains numerous interesting and unusual buildings relating to the colonial era, including log cabins from one of the area's first stations - 'Halbacutya', which stretched from Lake Hindmarsh to the northern end of Lake Albacutya. The log cabins were erected in the late 1840s and the outbuilding is in a vernacular style indigenous to the region - split Murray pine half-logs dropped between squared posts. Albacutya is furnished with period items and surrounded by various artefacts of station life - a pegless clothesline, old fences, wool presses etc. Other buildings in the complex include the Werrap hall, a blacksmith's shop from Antwerp, a straw-roofed shed, Woorak church, a chemist's shop with dispensary and patent medicines, Detpa's one-roomed country school, a lock-up, a transport shed, and the decorative ceilings, iron lacework and wide veranda of Briarley House (1909) from Mildura which serves as the entrance-administrative-sales office. An enormous machinery - reputedly the largest display of farm machinery in Victoria - includes mallee rollers, a push harvester and early tractors. There are also many beautiful antiques - a 1790 bed, Edison gramophone, cylinder player, early household equipment and musical instruments - as well as a collection of Aboriginal artefacts. The museum is open weekdays from 9.30 am to 4.30 pm (closed from noon to 1.00 pm for lunch) and between 1.30 p.m. and 4.30 p.m. on weekends, tel: (03) 5397 2101. Check out http://jeparit.com.au/Pioneer-Museum.php for more information.

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Other Attractions in the Area

Lake Hindmarsh
The road from Jeparit to Rainbow heads west then north (the Rainbow-Nhill Road) before looping around Lake Hindmarsh, a seasonal lake which floods periodically. The first white man in the area was Edward Eyre who camped here in 1838 while exploring an overland route from Melbourne to Adelaide. He named the lake after Sir John Hindmarsh, Governor of South Australia. It is recognised as the largest freshwater lake in Victoria (it covers 13,500 ha), and is known as a haven for waterbirds and a home to permanent and visiting birds including white-breasted sea- eagles, swans, ducks, terns, spoonbills, terns and colonies of pelicans. River Red Gums and the Three-nerve Wattle fringe the lake and lead into the adjoining Birdcage Flora and Fauna Reserve where Black Box, Yellow Gum and native Slender Cypress- pine provide food and shelter to wrens, honeyeaters, robins, parrots, and species such as the Bush Thick-knee (Curlew) and Gilbert’s Whistler. As you progress up the western shoreline of the lake you will pass Four Mile Beach which is a popular spot for fishing, swimming, boating and water skiing. There are camping facilities, a boat ramp and hot showers; Schulze's Beach which also has a boat ramp as well as camping and toilets which lies on the western shore; and, on the northern shore, Williamson's Beach. Beyond Outlet Creek and the camping site known as The Wattles there is the Pioneer's Gravesite (clearly marked on the map on the Visitor Guide) of John Coppock who, in 1846, became the first European settler in the area. The headstone reads: "1865. John Coppock. An honest man". There is an excellent map and useful notes on the Lake Hindmarsh Lake Reserve which can be downloaded at http://parkweb.vic.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0005/313826/Park-note-Lake-Hindmarsh-Lake-Reserve.pdf. It also provides some information on Birdcage Reserve.

Birdcage Reserve
At the north-western end of the lake, the road from Jeparit to Rainbow separates the lagoon from Birdcage Flora and Fauna Reserve which was named because of the large number of Mallee birds which live on the reserve's floodplain and in the Big Desert. Birdcage Flora and Fauna Reserve where Black Box, Yellow Gum and native Slender Cypress- pine provide food and shelter to wrens, honeyeaters, robins, parrots, and species such as the Bush Thick-knee (Curlew) and Gilbert’s Whistler.

Ebenezer Mission
Located 12 km south of Jeparit is the village of Antwerp. Continue south beyond Antwerp until you reach Ebenezer Mission Road on the right. Turn west and continue along the road. You will see on your right the white building that is the church attached to the Ebenezer Mission. Unfortunately the buildings are located behind a fence and there is no entry. However it is possible to see the buildings from a distance and there is an excellent map of the original buildings on the fence. It was produced by the Goolum Goolum Aboriginal Co-operative and the Wotjobaluk Traditional Land Council and includes locations for the homestead, the kitchen, the school, the church, the stables, the butcher's shop and other lesser outbuildings.

Ebenezer Mission was established in 1859 by the Moravian Church. The mission was staffed by two German missionaries - Friedrich Hagenauer and the Rev. F.W. Spieseke. By 1861 a total of 1,897 acres (768 ha) had been reserved by the government. It was located on a local corroboree site. "The main aim of the mission was to civilise and Christianise the aboriginal inhabitants of the area. In 1860 the first convert to Christianity, Nathaniel Pepper, was baptised. By 1892 the number of residents at Ebenezer mission station dropped to only 30 people. In 1902 the State Government of Victoria decided to close Ebeneezer mission due to low numbers and the mission closed in 1904."

Kumbala Native Garden
Located 6.5 km east of Jeparit the Kumbala Native Garden covers 2.5 hectares and s the work of Peter and Leonne Gebert. The area has been planted with natives. There are log fences and a log shed. And hollow logs have been placed around the garden to offer a home for the local birdlife, notably the zebra finches. Bookings can be made by tel: (03) 5397 2138 or 0427 972 138.

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History

* Prior to white settlement the area was occupied by the Gromiluk, a branch of the Wotjobaluk tribe.

* The explorer Edward Eyre camped at Lake Hindmarsh in 1838 while searching for an overland route from Melbourne to Adelaide.

* The land, which included the site of Jeparit townsite, was taken up by Robert von Stieglitz in 1846.

* 'Halbacutya' was established in 1846 by John Coppock.

* Bushranger Dan Morgan held up Halbacutya in 1868.

* A rabbit plague struck the area in the late 1870s.

* Selectors, many of them German Lutherans from South Australia, arrived in the 1880s. They changed the course of land usage from grazing to wheat-growing.

* A village began to develop and it was formally surveyed in 1883.

* The town was gazetted in 1889 as 'Jeparit'. That year a post office was opened.

* In 1894 Robert Gordon Menzies, who would go on to be prime minister of Australia from 1939-1941 and 1949-1966, was born in the town.

* During the great drought of 1901-1903, emus wandered the streets of the town in search of food.

* In 1916 a subterranean chamber with a hidden entranceway was discovered. Inside were German newspapers dating back to 1914. It was assumed to be the refuge of escapees from the POW camp at Langwarrin.

* Jeparit was used as the setting for Peter Carey's 1985 novel Illywhacker.

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Visitor Information

There is no Visitor Information Centre in Jeparit. The Visitor Information for the area can be found at the Hindmarsh Shire Council, 92 Nelson Street, Nhill, tel: (03) 5391 4444.

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