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Willaura lies about 34 kilometres south of Ararat, on the south-eastern edge of the Grampians in the Western District of Victoria. It is situated between Maroona and the Willaura - Wickliffe Road, and is surrounded by rich farmland.
There are approximately 500 households making up the town and its outlying district. The town is supported by the local farming industry, which is mainly involved in wool and cropping.
Willaura has a mixture of local business:Hardware and Building Supplies, Farm Supplies, Opportunity Shop, Supermarket (including local and regional wine sales), Garage and Petrol Supplies, Newsagent, Hotel, Bakery, Hairdresser, Chemist Agency, Post Office, Furniture Repairs/Restoration, VicGrain Weighbridge, Bunkers and Silos etc
Strengths and assets
The town also boasts a number of community facilities including: the Memorial Hall, Kindergarten/Maternal and Child Health Centre, Hospital/Nursing Home, Medical Clinic, Parkland House Retirement Hostel, Police Station, out door solar heated Swimming Pool, Primary school with about 50 students, Recreation Reserve, Lions Playground, and a C.F.A Shed. A Vline Bus takes passengers to Melbourne and return Thursdays and Saturdays and to Ararat return on Tuesdays.
The district is very involved in sport and the following clubs are based in the town: football, netball, bowls, golf, tennis, junior cricket and darts. Other recreational groups include ‘Sit and Sew”, Craft; the CFA Running Team, Senior Citizens and Playgroup.
What’s on offer
- A caring community - for young and old, and neighbours who look out for each other
- Good facilities - a pool, recreation reserve, school, hostel etc
- A central location
- The glorious outlook to the mountains and splendid natural features like Lake Buninjon
- The beauty of the changing landscape in the farming areas, especially in Spring where canola is in flower and crops are flourishing
- A mild climate withy lovely seasonal variations
- An enormous diversity of bird life, particularly at Buninjon, and the salt lakes where the brolgas gather
- Opportunities for young people to do farm contract work
- A low crime rate compared to bigger cities and towns-we feel safe
- A variety of accommodation in the district that brings in tourists
- Accessible house prices compared to other areas
Thousands of centuries ago people of the Pirt-Kopenoot tribe lived around the Willaura district. They were in turnpart of the Tjaprurong and Gunditjmara nations. Clashes with early explorers and settlers led to many problems and by 1863 the Board for Protection of Aborigines estimated that only seventy aboriginals were left in the Wickliffe/Hexham/Mt. Rouse area. 'Nomadic way of life was disrupted. European religion was being imposed and Tribal groups destroyed... deprivation and dispossession had contributed to a growing dependence on alcohol...today the only reminders of their presence are rock paintings, tools and weapons, bones and a few canoe trees...’
(“The History of Willaura and District, 1835-1985")
In September 1836 Major Thomas Mitchell travelled through the area on his return to Sydney from Portland. He crossed the Hopkins near the Edgarley Bridge, camped at Mt. Stavely, journeyed through the salt lakes area, and then camped at Cockajemmy Lakes. He wrote in his journal that "...a land more favorable for Colonization could not be found..." and his trip effectively opened the district for white settlement. A Cairn on the Wickliffe road commemorates his journey. The 1862 the Duffy Land Act made blocks available for free selection, and this was taken up enthusiastically around what was then known as Wickliffe Road. The railway had come through in 1877, and gold discoveries at Mafeking in June 1900 had bought many people to the area. In 1902 sixty tenant farmers were settled on 18,000 acres of Mt. William Estate and in 1906 a further 37,000 acres was sold off to small farmers.
In 1902 part of Greenvale was sold as smaller town blocks, and the little settlement of Wickliffe Road, now called Willaura, had become a focal point for farming activities in the Shire. It was realized that crops, particularly wheat, did very well in the area and many farmers were keen to establish themselves. Willaura became an important receival centre for grain, and in 1910 was the second biggest in the western half of Victoria. There were a couple of disastrous fires in the town, one in 1912 and another in 1916, which wiped out many business houses. The town steadily progressed however, and in the 1940's gained momentum with the advent of Soldier Settlement. Parts of Edgarley, Narrapumelap and Burrumbeep were divided for Closer Settlement, and again farming activity boosted the district.4
Willaura and district has a number Historical Sites/Buildings, and some of these are noted on Plaques erected around the town. In The Australian Heritage Commission's Register of the National Estate the following are identified: Mt. William Homestead and woolshed, 'Brierly', 'Yarram Park', and the R.S.L Clubrooms. The National Trust of Australia notes in addition to these the Railway Station. The Heritage Commission's Sites of State Significance mention the Railway Station, and of Local Significance is the Primary School No, 2662, and the Bridge on the Hopkins River. There is a historic horse trough in the town, one of many donated worldwide by Mr. and Mrs. Bills in the 1920's, whose history the Lion's Club are currently researching.Today farming is still the district's mainstay, and while many of the town's shops and former businesses have gone, there remains a strong community, and a range of essential services.