The Story of Murrindindi
Murrindindi is a beautiful region in Victoria's North Central district. It is rich in natural assets of forested mountains, lakes and rivers. Its geographical location and elevation north of the Great Dividing Range combined with its topographical features gives it a special climate. During the cold winter months, snow covers Lake Mountain and fog lingers between the abundant peaks and hilltops. The Aboriginal word, Murrindindi, means Mist of the Mountains.
The majestic landscape of the Cathedral Range with its long razor sharp ridge forms part of Australia's Great Dividing Range. It is a spectacular landmark running parallel to the Maroondah Highway. It attracted walking clubs dating back to the 1930s, and it was Victoria's first rock climbing area. Walking tracks lead to the high peaks on the range offering spectacular views of the surrounding countryside. In 1979, the Cathedral Range State Forest was proclaimed(1).
(1) Reference: Murrindindi Shire Heritage Study, Volume 1: Thematic Environmental History. Revised report 2011. Page 86.
The traditional owners of the Shire of Murrindindi are believed to have been the Taungurung language speakers and the Wurundjeri tribe from whom the name Murrindindi was borrowed(2). These people lived on and modified the landscape for thousands of years prior to European contact.
The legacy of the Aboriginal cultural landscape is also seen in the naming of places such as Black Spur, originally known as Blacks' Spur which was an Aboriginal trail and was opened up by Europeans as an early packhorse track(3).
(2) Reference: Murrindindi Shire Heritage Study, Volume 1: Thematic Environmental History. Revised report 2011. Page 14.
(3) Reference: Murrindindi Shire Heritage Study, Volume 1: Thematic Environmental History. Revised report 2011. Page 123.
The district consisted of mainly squatter settlements and herders. Following the gold discoveries in 1860, towns developed at Alexandra (formerly Redgate) and Yea (formerly Muddy Creek), with smaller settlements around the gold diggings.
An example of such a settlement was right in the heart of the shire, near the Murrindindi River. Rich quartz reefs were discovered 16 kms south of Yea during 1866. The subsequent gold rush resulted in an influx of people and a mining village named after gold miner George Higginbotham, was established. The village offered entertainment such as a club and theatre(4).
When gold had petered out by 1880, the mining village in Murrindindi and many other mining settlements in the area disappeared. However, the towns of Yea and Alexandra survived with closer settlement farming(4).
(4) Reference: Murrindindi Shire Heritage Study, Volume 1: Thematic Environmental History. Revised report 2011. Page 67-68
Viticulture is relatively new to the region. The first vineyard emerged in the early 1970s named after its location, Murrindindi Vineyards. It was founded by the Cuthbertson family, but sadly, the vineyard has been pulled out in recent years.
The vineyard boom in Victoria of the mid to late 1990s also extended to the Shire of Murrindindi. Vineyards are concentrated around the district of Murrindindi and Limestone near the Melba Highway and the Cathedral Range near the Maroondah Highway.
Tourism in the area continues to grow with the help of many local nature attractions and associated recreations such as Lake Mountain, Lake Eildon, the Great Victorian Bike Trail, bushwalking, fishing and much more. Local wine and food are welcoming assets for the area and its growing tourism industry.
Aborigines of the Kulin nation inhabited the district from the Yarra River to the Alps and north to the Ovens River. The local clan, the Warring-illum-balluk (which translates as river dwelling people) spoke the Taungurong language, Daung Wurring.
Squatter Era 1840 →
First European arrivals were sheep graziers, following reports in 1836 of the explorers Hume and Hovell.
Gold Era 1860 →
Following gold discoveries in 1860, towns developed at Alexandra and Yea, with smaller settlements around the gold diggings. When gold had petered out by 1880, the towns survived with closer settlement farming.
Timber Era 1890 →
A railway off the Melbourne-Sydney line from Tallarook opened from 1890. Timber mills were established from that time in the mountain ranges. Butter was the staple product, with sheep, lambs and cattle grazing.
Modern Era 1930 →
Tourism, primarily from Melbourne, was established from 1930's based on rivers and new weirs, for caravanning, fishing and water sports. The railway was closed in 1978 as industries no longer relied upon it. Meat cattle and sheep dominate the farming, along with cherry and nut trees and the like.
Source: "Alexandra and District" (2006) by Brian Lloyd Alexandra Historical Society.