Major rural service centre in the Goulburn Valley
Shepparton is the major rural service centre in the Goulburn Valley and the headquarters of the Goulburn Valley Irrigation System. 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 art gallery, a genuinely multicultural community which welcomes new residents, a wide range of excellent restaurants and a superb local park - the Victoria Park lake precinct.
Shepparton is located 190 km north of Melbourne and 113 metres above sea-level.^ TOP
Origin of Name
In 1843 a settler, Sherbourne Sheppard, took up the Tallygaroopna run on which the town later developed. The town was first called Macguire's after the man who established a punt service across the Goulburn River but the name had been changed to Sheppardtown (after Sherbourne Sheppard) by 1855 when the first survey was conducted.^ TOP
Things to See and Do
Victoria Park Lake
In recent years millions of dollars have been spent on Victoria Park (there is a new Shepparton Art Museum due to open by 2020) and the lake currently has excellent facilities for rowing. The lake was constructed in the 1920s on land that was once swamp. Boating and swimming are popular and there is an island in the middle occupied by native birds. The western shore is flanked by Tom Collins Drive which has some lovely picnic spots. When I visited, on a balmy evening in summer, I was overwhelmed by the richness of the multiculturalism of the town and duly wrote: "when I walked beside Victoria Lake I had one of those magical, unforgettable experiences that restore faith in humanity and the essential decency of people. You see, the people of Shepparton and a reminder that multicultural Australia is alive and well.
There were hundreds of people around the lake’s shoreline. Huge parties of people from the Indian subcontinent all laughing and enjoying the warm evening; African kids from Sudan and the Congo showing off their skills at the skateboard rink; Afghan refugees, decked out in the hijab, and promenading arm in arm through the park.
Shepparton is an area rich in low skill jobs courtesy due to the superb irrigation and rich soils which have turned the area into vineyards and orchards. It has always welcomed new arrivals to Australia.
“The most recent census shows more than 13% of Shepparton’s population was born outside Australia; 9.9% from countries where English is not the first language.
“In recent years, the number of people born overseas has increased dramatically, as has the number of people from non-English speaking backgrounds.
“There’s an estimated 4,500 Iraqis, 1,600 Afghanis, 1,050 Sudanese and 280 Congolese living in the town. In Shepparton close to 5% of the population was born in either India, Afghanistan or Iraq.”
These are people who have embraced, and been embraced, by Australia. They are richly diverse, and essentially good, people who are integrating with the local community, contributing to the economic well-being of the region, and yet retaining their social fabric with their extended families and their love of gatherings in the cool of the evening. It felt a little like a park in Kabul before the war or the beach front in Lebanon before the troubles."
Located around the city, in places as diverse as the banks of the river, gardens, parks, footpath and public spaces, these brightly coloured fibreglass cows - there are 90 of them around the city - are happy symbols of the importance of the local dairy industry. They can be easily located by going to https://www.facebook.com/MooovingArt.
Shepparton Museum and Heritage Centre
The local museum, which is part of the larger Heritage Centre, contains displays relating to local industry, clothing, transport, communications, shopping and local agriculture. The building also houses the 19th century four-faced post office clock which is still in working order as well as a wedding dress from 1860 and a 16th century baronial chair. It is open from 10.00 am to 4.00 pm Monday to Saturday, tel: (03) 5831 2317. The museum is located in the former Foresters Hall (1873) at the corner of Welsford and High Streets. Adjacent is the 'Historic Precinct' which is closer to the Goulburn River. It contains an Aboriginal canoe tree, the remains of a wharf (1880), an old timber wagon, water pumping machinery and the site of the punt around which the town grew.
Shepparton Art Museum (SAM)
Located at 70 Welsford Street, and open from 10.00 am - 4.00 pm daily (it is due to move to new premises opposite Victoria Park Lake in 2020), the Shepparton Art Museum's "collection includes a significant collection of Australian and International Ceramics, historic and contemporary Australian landscape paintings, prints and works on paper, and a growing collection of Australian contemporary art." It was established in 1936. The SAM website (http://www.sheppartonartmuseum.com.au/collection) notes of its Ceramics Collection: "Shepparton Art Museum holds one of Australia's leading collections of historic and contemporary Australian ceramics. The collection includes objects made by the first convict potters, and a large collection of domestic and decorative ceramics made by early commercial potteries in Australia such as Bendigo Pottery, Lithgow Pottery, Hoffman Brick Company and Premier Pottery. Ceramics by Merric Boyd, one of Australia's earliest studio potters is strongly represented in the collection alongside pottery, paintings and works on paper by artists associated with the Arthur Merric Boyd Pottery at Murumbeena, including John Perceval, Arthur Boyd and Mary Boyd. Australia's leading contemporary ceramicists are represented in the ceramic collection in bodies of work by Gwyn Hanssen-Pigott, Stephen Benwell and Deborah Halpern. Contemporary artists engaging with the ceramic medium or reworking traditions are also represented by Aleks Danko, Penny Byrne, Renee So and Brendan Huntley. SAM holds a unique collection of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island ceramics, including work by the late Thapich Dr Gloria Fletcher AO, Hermannsburg Potters, Janet Fieldhouse and Danie Mellor. Indigenous Australian ceramic work is acquired biennially through the Indigenous Ceramic Art Award." For more information check out http://www.sheppartonartmuseum.com.au/collection or tel: (03) 5832 9861.
The Statue of Joseph Furphy (Tom Collins) - Joseph Furphy Memorial Park
Located on Welsford Street, just down from the Museum, the statue of Joseph Furphy is a simple representation of a man boiling a billy and holding a book. The plinth behind him has an unusual dedication: " JOSEPH FURPHY writer using the pen-name TOM COLLINS (a spreader of rumours and yarns) he lived and wrote here (where a small cottage overlooked a bend of the Goulburn River) while working by day in his brother John's foundry. These trees a wilga and a kurrajong he brought back from his outback journeys as a bullock driver and carrier in the northern Riverina of New South Wales. His novel SUCH IS LIFE uniquely expresses his love of learning life of hard work egalitarianism and the humour and narratives of an almost vanished AUSTRALIA It has always been loved by the wise."
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.
Communication Lookout Tower
Located off Maude Street Mall, the telecommunications tower, built in 1967-1968, offers excellent views across the city from the observation deck which is 35 metres above ground level. It is particularly impressive with a view that includes the Victoria Park Lake. There are 160 steps. It is open from 9.00 am - 3.00 pm.
SPC - Factory Sales
The Shepparton Preserving Company (SPC) was established in 1917 after irrigation reached the district and became, by the 1980s, one of Australia's best-known brands of canned fruit. At its height Shepparton SPC complex was one of the world's largest fruit canneries which employed 1500 people in season (picking fruit for the cannery) and produceing around half a million cans, predominantly peaches and pears, a day. At its height it accounted for around 40% of the country's tinned fruit and exporting to 60 countries around the world. In 2002 it was merged with Ardmona and became SPC Ardmona. It was subsequently, in 2005, taken over by Coca-Cola Amatil who, in 2013, asked the Federal Government for $50 million to modernise. The request was agreed to by the Rudd government, rejected by the Abbott government, and subsequently the Victorian government provided $22 million. In 2014 Woolworths agreed to by an extra 24,000 tonnes of local product. There used to be tours of the factory but today the only way to experience the miracle of SPC is to go to the Factory Sales outlet at 197-205 Corio Street, Shepparton which is open from 9.00 am - 5.00 pm Monday to Friday and 9.00 am - 6.00 pm Saturdays and Sundays. It sells in bulk (ie 12 cans of peach slices etc) at discount prices. Check out the bargains at http://www.spcfactorysales.com.au.
Walks Around Shepparton
Six walks are recorded, complete with maps, at the excellent Walk in Greater Shepparton site (http://greatershepparton.com.au/assets/files/documents/community/recreation/Walk_in_Greater_Shepparton_guide_-_final_version_May_2013.PDF). In total there is over 40 km of shared pathways in Greater Shepparton.
* Bangerang Cultural Centre Walk
Starting at the Bangerang Cultural Centre on Evergreen Way this is a 1.9 km loop walk and winds around the lake and gardens from the Cultural Centre. It is open from 9.00 am - 4.00 pm and passes beside Shepparton's sporting precinct.
* From the Bustle to the Bush
This is a simple 1.6 km walk from the Shepparton CBD (ie Maude Street Mall and the Telstra Tower) to the Joseph Furphy Memorial Park, the Museum and Heritage Precinct and down to the Goulburn River.
* Goulburn River Walk
This 3.6 km walk goes from the Shepparton CBD to the Goulburn River, along the banks of the river at McGuire Reserve and across to Victoria Park and around the north-western shoreline of the lake to Jordan's Bend.
* History Walk
A short 800 metre walk from Victoria Park Lake to the Shepparton Memorial Park up Welsford Street. It includes stops at the Hawdon and Bonney Cairn, the Shepparton Urban Water Works, the Forester's Hall (Museum), old Shepparton wharf, Joseph Furphy monument, rose garden and Shepparton Memorial Park.
* Public Art Walk
This 1.25 km walk includes Moooving Art (the 3D cows), War Memorial Helping Hand sculpture, SAM (Shepparton Art Museum), the ceramic pathway, the Mechanics Institute mural, the Common Ground mural, the Shepparton story wall, the City Walk mural and the Joseph Furphy Memorial Park.
* Victoria Park Lake
This is a 1.8 km circuit around the lake which includes the swimming pool, the Aquamoves gymnasium, the Lake Sculpture, the wetlands, the skate park and the island which is home to Barking Marsh Frogs and long necked turtles.
Other Attractions in the Area
Belstack Strawberry Farm
Belstack Strawberry Farm is located at 80 Bennetts Road at Kialla West just to the south of Shepparton. You can pick your own stawberries 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.
* The area is thought to have been inhabited by the Yota-Yota people prior to white settlement.
* The first Europeans to venture onto the townsite were Joseph Hawdon and Charles Bonney who camped here by the Goulburn River while overlanding cattle from Albury to Adelaide in 1838.
* In 1843 Sherbourne Sheppard took up the Tallygaroopna run on which the town was eventually created.
* In the 1850s Pat Macguire started operating a punt on the Goulburn River and a town grew up around the punt. It was called Macguires.
* The town's name was changed to Sheppardtown in 1855 when the first survey was conducted.
* There were only 30 recorded residents and a half-dozen buildings in 1871.
* Mooroopna became the more important of the two settlements as its punt service attracted more custom from travelling gold prospectors.
* Between 1871-1881 the population of the town grew to over 1,000.
* A private township was established there in 1874.
* The Furphy foundry was opened by John Furphy in 1878. It was here that the famous Furphy water-cart was manufactured.
* Shepparton developed rapidly with the arrival of the railway 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, engendering a period of rapid growth.
* In 1917, the Shepparton Preserving Company (SPC) was formed.
* The Ardmona cannery in Mooroopna which opened in the 1920s.
* Shepparton became a borough in 1927.
* By the late 1930s SPC had become the largest fruit processing plant in Australia.
* Cleckheaton Woollen Mill was established in 1948 in a transfer of operations from Leeds in England.
* Shepparton became a city in 1949.
* Campbell's Soups opened its factory in 1962.
* SPC and Ardmona were merged in 2002.
* SPC and Ardmona were bought by Coca Cola Amatil in 2005.^ TOP
The Greater Shepparton Information Centre, 33-35 Nixon Street. It is open daily from 9.00 am - 5.00 pm, tel: (03) 5832 9330 or 1800 808 839.^ TOP
The official local website can be found at http://greatershepparton.com.au/visitors/vic.^ TOP