wimmera[Wimmera region], Image RWP/1855

In Victoria’s north-west lies the Mallee; a dry, hot region featuring sand dunes, salt bushes, shrubs and a ‘strange dwarf gum tree, Eucalyptus Dumosa, usually called Mallee.’ The Mallee trees usually grow close together, frequently not more than three or four feet apart, so that towards the top they intertwine, and can rise up like a wall. (The Mallee district of Victoria).

Millions of years ago the Mallee was covered by sea. When the seas receded it became a series of ridges and dunes (The Mallee pioneers of Hopetoun). Forty thousand years ago, Indigenous tribes inhabited the area living off various grass seeds, roots and berries. In the grasslands they could hunt dingoes, kangaroos, wallabies, emus and echidnas. (MurrayMallee Country: Swan Hill and district, 1836-1986; p.1). It is thought that the name Mallee was derived from an Aboriginal word describing the scrub or thickets. (Victorian places)

roller1[Mallee roller at work in the Swan Hill area, 1916], H99.128/47

caseWimmera Mallee District, RWP/7196

Regular contact with Europeans began in 1846 and from 1850 white settlement of the district expanded rapidly. The tough land and climate certainly made an impression on Dr. Neumayer, a surveyor who recounted his experiences in 1864, ‘I can readily imagine why most people speak of this part of the country with a certain dread for there is actually no grass and no water to be found.’ (Victorian historical journal. vol. 38, issue 150, p. 175)

royalC[Images taken during Royal Commission on Water Supply, 1936, Dethridge meter wheel and mountain tops],  RWP/589

Over the years the land has endured its share of rural disasters, namely plagues (rabbits, mice, grass hoppers), drought and dust storms. (The Age,  March 30, 1988 p. 11). Today its 100,000 occupants mainly reside in major towns like Mildura, Swan Hill and Kerang, but the Mallee is also dotted with smaller towns with delicious names such as Patchewollock, Cowangie, Boinka, Underbool, Piangil, Walpeup and Manangatang.

fourhorses1[Wimmera – Mallee District], RWP/1874

In 1995 the Library received a collection of photographs from the Rural Water Corporation which span the late nineteenth century to 1980. The thousands of images document Victoria’s water use and include many of the Mallee, which feature in this post.

windmill1[Water storage, bores and tanks], rwls/u429

manmallee1[Mallee trip by the Minister of Lands], Image rwg/u991

15ton115 Ton Truck Mallee Roots, H92.301/243

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This article has 8 comments

  1. Great work, I loved reading this, especially because I was born in the Mallee, yes literally, I was born in a wheat paddock at a town called Chillingollah on a block of land called McKenzie’s in the county of Tatchera, while my dad was at the famous Chillingollah pub, my uncle checked on mum & to his surprise there we both were & my mum had tied my umbilical cord, & they took us in to Swan Hill & actually recorded my birth as Swan Hill. My mother was a Morren, & I was born on Morren Road Chillingollah on the 8th day of Febuary 1952

  2. Diggin the erosion & land management skills, looks like not much has changed in the last 100 + years…

  3. Heaven forbid Graham. I hope mum was at least under a tree. February any time is hell in summer.
    The mallee is certainly an interesting place. I fondly remember Underbool as a 8 year old. My father’s friend was the primary school principal up there. Paddy melons galore.

  4. many thanks Graham Hickey,for your story.
    Feel very humbled, Whilst your family must have
    worked blxxdy hard for those roots, my gfather
    ‘crowed’ with delight if he managed to buy one for
    his fire in melbourne

  5. grew up in ultima

  6. Eileen Waszkinel [O'Shea]

    This brought back lots of memories of a mallee childhood spent in Ultima, especially the wonderfully ‘warm’ mallee root loungeroom fires during winter.

  7. What a hard life.

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