Typical small Mallee wheatbelt town
Located 320 km north-west of Melbourne on the
road to Mildura, Birchip is notable for its
Pioneer Fountain (located in front of the
council chambers) and its huge 29-metre granary.
The first is a memorial to the town's pioneers
and the importance of water to the whole Mallee
district's development and the second is a
reminder of the fruits of that water supply, the
water upon which Birchip's prosperity has
One of the last regions of Victoria to be
settled, Birchip was established in 1882, at the
junction of the Wycheproof, Beulah and Donald
tracks. The original settlers didn't seem to
know how to spell the town's name. At various
times they wrote 'Wirrumbirchip', 'Wurmburcheep',
'Wirmbirchep', all approximations of an
Aboriginal word, most commonly thought to mean
'one way', as it was the one thoroughfare which
allowed Aborigines, travelling north-east to the
Swan Hill area, to avoid the Mallee scrub. The
abbreviated pronunciation favoured by the early
settlers became the official name in 1896.
Initially a camp for surveyors and those
clearing the scrub to the north, it became a
nucleus for the region's farmers. In order to
encourage former goldminers to colonise the
heartland, the Lands Act of 1869 had limited the
size of allotments to 320 acres. The local
farmers from the surrounding area circumvented
this restriction by using family and friends to
purchase individual blocks of land, which were
then joined to form larger holdings.
The arrival of the railway in 1893 meant that
the town functioned briefly as a railhead for
wheat farmers, until the line was extended.
However, it was the construction of the Wimmera-Mallee
open channel stock and domestic water system in
the early twentieth century which established
the region as a major source of wheat. Carrying
water hundreds of kilometres from the Grampians,
the open channel system (which can still be seen
around the town) is reputedly the largest water
distribution system in the southern hemisphere.
Things to see:
The availability of water is celebrated at the
man-made recreational spot, Tchum Lake, 8 km
east of the town. Amidst native flora and fauna,
visitors and locals can enjoy swimming, boating,
canoeing, water-skiing, windsurfing and fishing.
The Soldiers Memorial Park in the centre of
town, with its large and shady Moreton Bay figs,
also makes a pleasant spot for a picnic.
In addition, Birchip possesses the largest
amateur tracking station in Australia. Its radio
telescope has followed the course of numerous
satellites, including the Apollo series, and has
employed the Moonbounce Principle to explore
communication techniques. North-west, on the
road to Mildura near Kinnabulla, is the 221-mile
peg a remnant of the massive dog fence,
constructed in 1883 in order to keep rodents out
of the area.