History of Mildura

Langtree Avenue, 1950

Mildura is a regional city in north-west Victoria, Australia. Located on the Victorian side of the Murray River, Mildura had a population of 33,444 in 2016. When nearby Wentworth, Irymple, Nichols Point and Merbein are included, the area had an estimated urban population of 51,903 at June 2018, having grown marginally at an average annual rate of 0.88% year-on-year over the preceding five years.

It is the largest settlement in the Sunraysia region. Mildura is a major horticultural centre notable for its grape production, supplying 80% of Victoria’s grapes. Many wineries also source grapes from Mildura. It is very close to the New South Wales border.

Mildura History

Many Aboriginal people lived around the site of Mildura because of the abundant food. Local tribes included the Latjilatji and Jarijari. The first Europeans in the area arrived in 1857 and brought sheep to graze the rich pastures.

Irrigation settlement and Growth

A major drought in Victoria from 1877 to 1884 prompted Alfred Deakin, then a minister in the State Government and chairman of a Royal Commission on water supply, to visit the irrigation areas of California. There he met George and William Chaffey.

In 1886, Canadian-American irrigator George Chaffey came to Australia and selected a derelict sheep station known as Mildura as the site for his first irrigation settlement, signing an agreement with the Victorian government to spend at least £300,000 on permanent improvements at Mildura in the next twenty years.

After much political wrangling, the settlement of Mildura was established in 1887. The Post Office opened on 23 January 1888.

The nearby towns of Wentworth, Gol Gol, Curlwaa and Yelta sprang up in the mid-to-late 19th century. In the 1890s came the scourge of the rabbit. This devastated the sheep farmers, especially south of the Murray. There was also a financial recession at this time. Combined, these factors restricted growth of the new settlement.

After this period, the new settlement grew and grew. It was soon the main town of the district. Suburbs and new satellite towns sprang up. From the 1920s, a number of ‘suburban’ train services were established to Merbein and Red Cliffs. These were operated by railcars.

Post war Mildura experienced a large influx of migrants particularly from European and Mediterranean countries including Italy and Greece. Many of these migrants were attracted by the unskilled labour offered by the fruit picking industry.

In 1934 Mildura was officially proclaimed a city.

In 2004 there was a controversial proposal by the Victorian Government to build a state-level Long Term Containment Facility (LTCF) for Industrial Waste in Nowingi, approximately 50 km south of Mildura. The site is a small enclave of state forest surrounded by national park, and contains habitat important to a number of threatened species.

The abandoning of the LTCF proposal was received with jubilation by opponents of the LTCF not only in the Mildura area and elsewhere in Victoria, but also across the border in South Australia where there were fears that in reputation, if not in substance, the toxic waste could affect the water supply via the Murray River and thereby the fruit-growing industries of the Riverland and Murraylands.

The Mildura Rural City Council and residents spent almost $2 million fighting the Government’s proposal for the LTCF at Nowingi. On 10 January 2007 the Victorian Government did not rule out some form of reimbursement for the Rural City of Mildura council’s legal and other costs in opposing the LTCF. “The general rule is that people bear their own costs, that is most likely to apply in this case … but I’ve indicated and I am prepared to talk to the council and mayor about the whole issue of how Mildura moves forward and I’ll do that,” John Thwaites said.

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