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Sheep Hills, VIC

The Most Colourful Silo Art on the Silo Art Trail in the Wimmera Mallee

Sheep Hills has reached a point where it is really a non-town with, rather amusingly, a tennis club, golf club, cricket club and public hall. It is claim to importance is the exceptional art display on the disused wheat silos. The Silo Art Trail is one of those inspired ideas which started as a one-off project and has grown into six (and possibly more) impressive and huge works of public art on a series of disused grain silos in the Wimmera Mallee area of Victoria. It is a journey of over 200 km from Rupanyup in the south (it is a small town which lies to the east of Horsham) through Sheep Hills, Brim, Rosebery and Lascelles to Patchewollock in the north. The trip can be done in any direction. Each work of art stands by itself.


Sheep Hills are located 35 km north of Rupanyup and 325 km north-west of Melbourne via Ararat and Stawell.


Origin of Name

Sheep Hills was the rather unimaginative name given by Archibald McMillan to his pastoral run in 1847.


Things to See and Do

Silo Art Trail
Some Tips:
* the entire journey can be done in a day. There is no reason, apart from personal pleasure, to linger longer than half an hour at any site. What you are looking at is basically huge images of faces and people which have been painted on the sides of concrete grain silos.
* it is sensible to do the journey starting in the morning. Most of the paintings are best lit during the day. This will never be perfect. The images at Rupanyup are at a different angle to the rest of the silos and the images at Lascelles (of local farming couple – Geoff and Merrilyn Horman) can never be photographed together because they are on opposite sides of two of the grain silos.
* they are all ideal for photographers – impressive large grain silos on a flat landscape. Only tips: a wide angle lens is helpful (particularly if you want to avoid power lines at Rupanyup) and some Photoshop “transform” to correct the inevitable “lean” produced by photographing huge objects from ground level.
* There is a really excellent publication – Silo Art Trail Visitor Map – which can be obtained from the Visitor Information Centres either in Horsham or Warracknabeal. The following information has been taken from that publication.

About Each of the Murals
Located on Gibson Street (easily seen to the east of the Wimmera Highway at the northern end of the main street) this is one of the simplest of the murals. It was created by Russian mural artist, Julia Volchkova, and depicts two local sporting team members – Ebony Baker and Jordan Weidemann. It was completed in 2017 and is located on two Australian Grain Export steel grain silos. A singular difference - all the other art works are on cement silos which date from 1938-1939.

Sheep Hills
There is a sign off the Stawell-Warracknabeal Road to what is the most photographed and most admired of all the murals. It was painted by Melbourne-based artist Adnate’s (that’s his name) and I suspect that part of its appeal is that it is striking - it is in brilliant and bright colours. Historically Adnate has often painted indigenous people and when commissioned to paint these silos, which were built in 1939, he developed a relationship with the local Barengi Gadjin Land Council and, in 2016, he painted these huge images of Wergaia Elder (Uncle Ron Marks), a Wotjobaluk Elder (Aunty Regina Hood) and two children – Savannah Marks and Curtly McDonald. In the photographs I have added some people to give an idea of the scale of the work which took only four weeks to complete.

In 2015 van Helten painted 30-metre high portraits of four farmers on the disused Brim silos. They were the first and started the trend which led to the others being painted. The disused silos had been built in 1939 by GrainCorp. 
Van Helten, a Brisbane artist, used a super cherrypicker for three weeks in 2016 to create the work using spray paint and acrylic house paint. He has worked for up to 10 hours a day in temperatures which reached 40°C and strong winds to produce the mural. 
Upon seeing the result, the Brim Active Community Group president Shane Wardle, whose family has farmed in the town since 1894, reckoned it was the biggest thing to ever happen in the town of about 100 people and a welcome boost at a time of drought and shrinking population. 
The project came to Brim by accident. Van Helten has done similar giant portraits in Ukraine, Norway, Italy, Denmark and Iceland, and he asked street artist management company Juddy Roller to find him silos in Victoria.
GrainCorp came up with a disused silos at Brim, which dominate the town facing west over the highway. Funds were provided by Regional Arts Victoria and the Yarriambiack Shire Council, paint was donated by Taubmans and Loop Paints, and the local caravan park and pub provided free accommodation and meals.
Van Helten took photos of locals and mapped the work on computer, but a challenge was to accommodate the silos' curves.
Shane Wardle said the identities of the three men and one woman depicted were known but had not been publicised. "It's about the art," he said. "It's trying to capture the spirit of the local area. And he's done a great job." The amusing thing was that it started a trend. 

Located beside the Henty Highway in this tiny settlement, the Rosebery mural was painted by Melbourne artist, Kaff-eine (a woman), who came to the Wimmera Mallee with fellow artist Rone who was painting the silos at Lascelles. There are two images – one of a young female farmer in a work shirt, jeans and cowboy boots and one of a horseman in an Akubra hat, Bogs boots and an oilskin vest, with his horse. The two images are symbols of the local people who work on the farms in the surrounding area.

Located off Sunraysia Highway, and easily seen from the road, are these two images of local farming couple, Geoff and Merrilyn Horman. Painted by Melbourne artist, Rone (a man), it was completed in 2017 using the GrainCorp silos which had been built in 1939. They are intentionally low key (which is typical of Rone’s work). He added water to the paint to give both images a ghostly, slightly transparent and monochrome effect.

Completed in late 2016 I worry about this mural. It appears to be peeling and chipping but this was intentional. It was painted by Fintan Magee, a Brisbane artist, who, after meeting a number of locals, decided that he wanted to paint a local sheep and grain farmer, Nick ‘Noodle’ Hulland. Magee chose Hulland not only because he saw him as a symbol of the local farmer (sun-bleached hair, flannelette shirt) but, very conveniently, because he was tall and lean, a frame that would easily fit on the 35-metre grain silo.



* Prior to the arrival of Europeans, the area was home to people from the Wergaia and Wotjobaluk Aboriginal group.

* In 1847 Archibald McMillan took up a pastoral run in the district which he named Sheep Hills.

* In 1866 a large homestead was built on the Sheep Hills property 

* By the mid-1870s the area had been broken up into smaller holdings some of which were taken up by German Lutherans who had moved from South Australia.

* By 1875 a Lutheran school, named Bangerang, had been established in the settlement.

* A state school opened in 1877.

* In 1886 the railway from Warracknabeal to Minyip passed through the district and the settlement and station were named Sheep Hills.

* A Mechanics Institute was opened in 1888.

* The Anglican Church was built in 1889.

* By 1900 the town had four churches - Episcopal, Presbyterian, Wesleyan and Roman Catholic.

* By 1903 the town had a population of 350.

* The town's grain silos were built in 1939.

* The Anglican Church was moved to Halls Gap in 1970.

* The local school closed in 1985.

* The GrainCorp silos were closed in 2003.

* In 2016 Melbourne artist Adnate painted the silos with images of local Aborigines.


Visitor Information

Warracknabeal Tourist Information Centre is located at 119 Scott Street, Warracknabeal. It is open seven days from 9.00am - 5.00pm, tel: (03) 5398 1632.
Horsham and Grampians Visitor Information Centre is located at 20 O'Callaghan's Parade, Horsham, tel: (03) 5382 1832 or 1800 633 218.


Useful Websites

The Yarriambiack Council Community Directory has information about Sheep Hills. Check out https://yarriambiack.vic.gov.au/about-yarriambiack-council/community-directory/sheep-hills.

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5 suggestions
  • I have a book created for my family history. I have been comparing the notes from this book to your notes. They are fairly similar. The town Sheep Hills was named after the station Sheep Hills, but the actual name of the Station was KIngungwell Station.

    It says that the McMillan Bros bought Sheep Hill Station in the year 1855. There were five McMillan brothers who bought several stations.

    I am a descendant of the Heath family of that area. My great Great Grandfather and Great Great Grandfather and Great Great Uncles farmed the land at Sheep Hills at one time early in their lives.

    The book that I am referring to was compiled by a lady who I would suggest would be quite elderly as she compiled this in 1975 and it says her husband was born in 1935.

    Kathy Harrison
    • I have visited Sheep Hills on several occasions on my travels from Perth and am interested in any information regarding the history of the local area. Kathy Harrison above refers to a book that was written by a lady in 1975. Would that book have been published and if so, what is its Title and the name of the Author? Any information is much appreciated.

      Eva Furtner
      • I suspect the book you may be enquiring after is “The William Heath Family In Australia” which was written by Pat Heath for a Heath Family reunion held in Sheep Hills on 4th September,1983. I have a copy as do many others who attended the reunion. If you would like a copy let me know and I will copy it for you.
        Last year I published a book” Pioneers of Sheep Hills (1865-1956)” This contains a lot of early history of Sheep Hills recorded by the Stainthorpe Family and William Candy. Much of what has been written in other books of the Wimmera and Warracknabeal come from the above mentioned families.Copies of the above mentioned books are in the Warracknabeal Library and the Historical Centre in Warracknabel.

        Anne Heath
  • I’m chasing information on the Bunge family from Sheep Hills left there about 1960’s
    Athol & Jean Bunge and their children. Looking for information on where they lived in the area

    Bernadette Bunge
    • Athol and Jean Bunge are in Anne Heaths second book on Sheep Hills just been released
      My great grandfather was RH Stainthorpe
      Archibald McMillan started Sheep Hills run in 1847 Godfrey his son took on Sheep Hills Kate McMillan when died in 1881 still owned it as Sheep Hills.

      Julienne Schofield