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Morwell, VIC

Famous brown coal mining town in Gippsland

Morwell lies at the heart of the vast Latrobe Valley brown coal area which is dotted with open cut mines and power stations. It is the largest city in the valley. The primary appeal of the area is to explore the coal history on an excellent "Power Drive Route". Beyond that are the outstanding Morwell Centenary Rose Garden with over 3,000 roses and the Morwell National Park with its impressive stands of eucalypts. The Gippsland Immigration Park, at the edge of town, is a reminder of the huge contribution made to Australia in the 1950s and 1960s by migrants who came from all over the world.


Morwell is located 151 km east of Melbourne via the Princes Highway. It is 80 metres above sea level.


Origin of Name

It is accepted that the word "morwell" is probably a GunaiKunai Aborginal word meaning "woolly possum" although some sources insist that, because it sounds very English, it is probably a word taken from an English town.


Things to See and Do

Morwell Centenary Rose Garden
This remarkable garden, first opened in 1992 and located on the corner of Commercial Road and Maryvale Crescent, is one of the finest rose gardens in Australia. The website explains: "There are now 4 acres of gardens, imaginatively landscaped with manicured lawns and over 100 beds in which are planted some 3000 roses, drawn from a professional selection of 400 varieties of recent hybrids and traditional favourites. Among these varieties are species, heritage, floribunda, tea roses, hybrid teas, miniatures, polyantha, rugosa, rambler and pillar roses. There is also a cascading rockery of David Austin modern shrub roses and a sunken garden planted with perfumed Delbard releases.
The garden features a number of significant structures that enhance and complement the roses. A central gazebo summer house supports several fine examples of Pierre De Ronsard underplanted with Iceberg shrubs. The Gazebo is surrounded by beds containing mass plantings, several of which have central towers. Upon these are trained such roses as Princess Margaret, Jean Galbraith and Handel. There are also tall decorative climbing frames, a pergola, several tunnel archways and dry wells containing well maintained tall standard weeping Crepuscules. Gravelled pathways meander throughout, leading to a magnificent tubular Arbour set within a sensory garden of perfumed Delbard shrub and climbing roses." There is a downloadable list of all the roses and their locations - check out http://www.morwellrosegarden.com.au/morwell-rose-garden-map.pdf. And also there is a very detailed and excellent website http://www.morwellrosegarden.com.au.

Immigration Park and Kernot Lake
Located on Princes Drive, the Immigration Wall, the statue of the migrant and Walk of Recognition are a complex tribute to both the GurnaiKurnai First Nation peoples who lived in the area and the rich mix of immigrants who came and lived and worked in Gippsland. The monument, the statue of the migrant and wonderfully detailed historical boards are set on parkland which surrounds Kernot Lake with its abundant bird life and walking track.

There are so many highlights:
* the statue of The Migrant with the poem at its base:
A suitcase filled with courage,
Wonder, home and dreams
In search of far horizons
For what fate and fortune brings.
I have found you land of freedom
No longer will I roam
My tomorrows are your destiny
Australia, my home.
* the detailed plaques on the early history of Gippsland
* the multicultural wonder of the Gippsland Immigration Wall of Recognition

Waterhole Creek Cultural Trail
Located on the walkway around Kernot Lake (it is just beyond the Immigration Park) is the Waterhole Creek Cultural Trail. The message of the walk is 'Give me your hand my friend' which is a translation of the GurnaiKurnai words 'Gnokan Danna Murra Kor-Ki‘. The GunaiKurnai artist Ronald Edwards created the artworks which include the Creation story of how the GurnaiKurnai arrived in the area: "The first GurnaiKurnai came down from the mountains in the North West, carrying his canoe on his head. He was Boorun, the pelican. He crossed over the Tribal River by what is now Sale and walked on alone to Tarra Warackel (Port Albert) in the west. As he walked, he heard a constant tapping sound but could not identify it. When he reached the deep water at the inlets Boorun put down his canoe and much to his surprise, there was a woman in it. She was Tuk, the musk duck. He was very happy to see her and she became his wife and the mother of us all - the Gurnaikurnai people."

Latrobe Valley Regional Arts Centre
The Latrobe Valley Arts Centre is located at 138 Commercial Road. It is recognised as one of the largest regional galleries in Victoria. It has a permanent collection of Australian paintings, prints, ceramics, glass and sculpture and often incorporates visiting exhibitions.


Other Attractions in the Area

Making sense of the Power Stations and Mines of the Latrobe Valley
Called Power Drive Route 98 the Latrobe Visitor Information Centre has created a circuit of 14 places - from Morwell to Traralgon, down towards Churchill and up to Yallourn and Yallourn North - which includes most of the essential places in this coal-rich area of Victoria. This is the way to understand fully the huge coal field and power generation that has been the Latrobe Valley since the 1870s.

Some Background on the Mines and Power Stations
Although coal is rapidly being replaced by renewable sources, the Latrobe Valley has, historically, been at the centre of Victoria's coal industry. It contains one of the world’s largest coal deposits and nearly 90% of Australia’s brown coal reserves. Three coal mines (all of them open cut) provide coal for four major power generating stations (Loy Yang B, Hazelwood and Yallourn). The coal field runs eastwards from Yallourn  for over 60 km and is between 8 and 20 km wide. The coal is between 15-50 million years old. In geological terms it is young coal, which explains its soft, crumbly texture and high moisture content. It is characterised by the thick seams close to the surface which make it relatively cheap to extract.
Coal was first discovered in the Latrobe Valley in 1873 and mined on the north side of the Latrobe River by the Great Morwell Coal Mining Company and later by the Victorian Government. The State Electricity Commission (SECV) was formed in 1921 and by 1924 power was being sent to Melbourne. The Morwell Power Station opened in 1958, Hazelwood Power Station in 1964, Yallourn W in 1973, Loy Yang A in 1984 and Loy Yang B in 1993. Today they are slowly being replaced by renewables.
There is an excellent map and guide to the power stations and open cut mines in the area. It is downloadable through the Latrobe Visitor Information Centre website. Check out http://www.visitlatrobevalley.com/pages/scenic-driving/ and click on Power Drive 98.

A Circular Route from Morwell - The Power Station and Mines of the Latrobe Valley
There is a Figure 8 route from Morwell which allows the visitor to see all the major power open cut mines, pondages and power stations in the area. It basically heads down from Morwell to Churchill, goes around Churchill and Hazelwood then travels west along the M1 and heads north past Yallourn Open Cut to Yallourn North and then back to Morwell via Morwell North. It can continue east to Loy Yang Power station south of Traralgon.
The route from Morwell is as follows (the numbers relate to the download brochure at https://visitlatrobecity.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/A3-Power-Drive-Mar-2019.pdf):

9. PowerWorks Visitors Centre
The PowerWorks Visitor Centre is a coal and power museum  which was operated by the Latrobe Valley power generation operators until it was closed in 2012. It was gifted to the community by AGL Loy Yang, GDF Suez Hazelwood and Energy Australia Yallourn. It has since been reopened with volunteers who curate the exhibits and interactive displays and it offers lots of information about the changing nature of power generation. It provides good views over the Morwell open-cut mining operation. The main feature is Dredger 21, the huge No. 21 Bucket Wheel Dredger which was the first of its type to operate in the Morwell mine and was originally used to remove the overburden. The sign records: 'The postwar years brought about radical change to mining methods and the use of this kind of bucketwheel technology is now commonly used throughout the Australian mining industry.' Open Friday, Saturday and Sunday 10.00 am – 3.00 pm. For more information check out  http://www.powerworks.net.au.

7. Energy Brix Australia
On the left as Monash Way heads south from the Princes Freeway, is Australia's largest co-generation manufacturing complex. Between 1956 and 2014 it produced both electricity and brown coal briquettes. At its peak Latrobe Valley Coalfields produced about 300,000 tonnes of briquettes each year. It was progressively demolished starting in 2017.

6. Morwell Terminal Station
The Morwell Terminal Station can be viewed from Monash Way north of Churchill and south of the Princes Freeway. It is the main source of supply for a major part of south-east Victoria including all of Gippsland. The geographic coverage of the station’s supply area spans from Phillip Island to Bairnsdale and Mallacoota.

3. Hazelwood Mine
The mine had a surface area of 300 ha and at its peak it employed five dredges extracting 19 million tonnes of brown coal each year. The coal was carried on conveyor belts to the power stations. In recent times there has been talk of allowing the mine to fill with water and using it as a picnic and bird watching facility with a walking track, wetlands and a waterfowl refuge.

4. Jeeralang Power Station
If you head north towards Morwell on Tramway Road you pass the Jeeralang Power Station which was opened in 1971 and is currently controlled by Ecogen Energy. It is a gas turbine peaking station which operates on natural gas from Bass Strait. Within 12 minutes the station can supply an extra 449 MW to the state's power grid. Jeeralang consists of seven gas turbines configured to operate in single cycle mode. The plant is divided into two stations, "A" Station which consists of four gas turbines with a combined capacity of 220 MW and "B" Station comprised of three gas turbines with a combined capacity of 240 MW.

5. Hazelwood Power Station
The Hazelwood Power Station was closed down in April, 2017. It was supposed to close in 2005 but was privatised and the government allowed it to keep operating. At its peak, when it was Victoria's second largest power generator, it had  a capacity of 1600 megawatts and required 160 million litres of cooling water. Hazelwood used thermal brown coal. It commenced operations in 1964 and had eight boiler-turbine units. When it was operating water left the plant at up to 50 °C and cooled as it travelled to the Pondage.

8. Morwell Open Cut Mine
Located to the south of the Princes Freeway this huge open cut mine was the second to be established in the Latrobe Valley. It is hard to stop (as it is a freeway) but if you look south you can see dredges which, at their peak, extracted 19 million tonnes of brown coal each year. The mine is expected to continue operating until 2030. The best viewing point for the mine is at the PowerWorks Visitors Centre.

10. Yallourn Mine Lookout
Drive west along the Princes Freeway and turn north to Yallourn and Yallourn North. On the road north there is an excellent viewing area looking over the Yallourn Open Cut. Coal has been mined here since 1921. There is a map at the lookout which shows where the town of Yallourn, which was built in 1921 and which once had a population of  5,000, stood until 1971 when it was dismantled and moved so that the coal underneath could be accessed.

11. Yallourn Power Station
Located to the east of the road to Yallourn North, this huge open cut mine started in 1924 and was the site of Victoria’s first permanent power station. The Yallourn East Coal Field river diversion provided access to new reserves which means the mine can keep operating for another 30 years.

13. Yallourn North and Old Brown Coal Mine Museum
The small town of Yallourn North was created as a Brown Coal Mine and now has, as its major attraction, the Old Brown Coal Mine Museum which is located on the corner of Third Street and Latrobe River Road. The museum explores the history of the town which known as “Brown Coal Mine”. It is open Sunday from 10.00 am to 4.00 pm and Monday-Tuesday 10.00 am - 2.30 and shorter times in winter. Check out http://yallournnorth.vic.au/old-brown-coal-mine-museum or tel: (03) 5167 1046.

1. Miner's Lookout
Drive from Yallourn North to Traralgon (Yallourn North Road and the Princes Freeway) and at Traralgon follow the C482 (Traralgon Creek Road) road south towards Loy Yang. The Miner’s Lookout offers an excellent view of the Loy Yang Open Cut Mine with the Power Station to the south of the mine.

2. Loy Yang A & B Power Station
Continue on Traralgon Creek Road and the Loy Yang Power Station is clearly visible on the eastern side of the road.  Construction began in 1977 and it started producing electricity between 1984-1988. It currently has an output of 2,200 MW and its two chimneys are 260 metres high. Construction of Loy Yang B commenced in 1985 and it came online in 1993, when the first of its two 500 MW generating units began operation. The second commenced commercial operation in 1996. It produces 1000 MW of electricity. For more information check out http://www.gdfsuezau.com/about-us/asset/Loy-Yang-B-Power-Station.

Morwell National Park
Located 16 km south of Morwell, the Morwell National Park a flora and fauna reserve of Tasmanian blue, mountain grey and manna gum, messmate, tree ferns and orchids, including the rare butterfly orchid. The primary attraction is the Fosters Gully Nature Walk which is located off Jumbuk Road at the Fosters Gully Visitors Area. It is a 2.3 km walk which takes around an hour. There are a number of signs along the route. They are all described in great detail on the downloadable brochure available at http://parkweb.vic.gov.au/explore/parks/morwell-national-park. The walk includes giant Mountain Grey Gums, the presence of lyrebirds, an old quarry dating from the 1920s, and native orchids "Pink Fingers and Waxlips in the spring; Hyacinth orchids and Cinnamon Bells in the summer; and Parson’s Bands and Autumn Bird orchids in the autumn. They thrive in this light sandy soil and open forest."



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

* The Morwell River was reached by Count Paul Strzelecki in 1840.

* Two runs, Hazelwood and Maryville, were taken up by 1844.

* A bridge was built across the Morwell River in 1847.

* In 1858 a hotel was built beside the river.

* A town named Maryville, situated at a stopping point on the old coach road, had become the main settlement in the region by 1861.

* A track from Lang Lang was cut as a cattle route through the area c.1860-62.

* By 1865 Maryvale developed as a supply centre for the Tanjil and Walhalla goldfields.

* Brown coal was discovered by a prospector as early as 1873.

* Morwell was surveyed in 1876

* Land in the town was sold in 1878.

* The rail line from Sale was extended to Melbourne in 1879.

* A railway branch line to Mirboo North was opened in 1885.

* In 1888 Maryville was changed to Morwell.

* The Great Morwell Coal Mine Company commenced mining and opened a briquette plant in 1889 but it closed in 1894.

* A butter factory was opened in the town in 1890.

* Open-cut mine reopened in the area in 1916 and supplied the fuel for the State Electricity Commission's (SEC) Yallourn power station.

* By 1919 plots of land were being allocated to soldier settlers.

* Yallourn power station opened in 1924, and a briquette factory opened in the early 1920s.

* The Maryvale Pulp and Paper Mill was established to the north of the town in 1939.

* Morwell's brown coal also supplied Melbourne with gas between 1956 and 1969, until it was supplanted by offshore natural gas.

* By the 1950s the Housing Commission had built 2000 homes in the town.

* Morwell Power Station was built between 1958 and 1962 with a new briquette plant opening in 1960.

* Hazelwood Power Station commenced operations in 1971.

* In the 1980s Loy Yang power station was operating.

* By 2011 the population had reached 13,691.

* In 2014 the state's worst coal mine fire broke out at Hazelwood. It blanketed Morwell in smoke for six weeks.  


Visitor Information

There is no Visitor Centre in Morwell. The nearest is the Latrobe Visitor Information Centre, The Old Church, Southside Central, Princes Highway, Traralgon, tel: 1800 621 409.


Useful Websites

There is a useful site at http://www.visitvictoria.com/regions/gippsland/destinations/morwell which offers information about the town.

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