River in Little Desert National Park
Attractive wheatbelt town in the Wimmera.
Dimboola is a quiet wheatbelt town of around
1700 people situated on a fine stretch of the
Wimmera River by the edge of Little Desert. It
is situated on the Western Highway 334 km
north-west of Melbourne, 35 km north of Horsham
and 111 metres above sea-level. The surrounding
area is given over to the cultivation of wheat,
oats, barley and wool.
The district was occupied by the Wotjobaluk
people prior to white settlement. What is known
of their culture is outlined in Anne Longmire's
Nine Creeks to Albacutya: A History of the Shire
of Dimboola (1985). It was estimated that there
were some 1200 Aborigines in the area in 1852
while an 1877 census recorded 103 survivors,
many of them at Ebenezer mission.
Europeans initially knew this area as 'Nine
Creeks', owing to the many branches of the
Wimmera River. The first station was established
in 1846 by Horatio Ellerman and George Shaw.
Ellerman named it 'Antwerp' after his birthplace
A crude bush village called 'Nine Creeks'
developed from around 1859 to serve the needs of
the local squatters. The name apparently
reflected the fact that, after a flood, the
river receded leaving nine creeks. The site was
favourable, being adjacent a good water supply
and at the confluence of tracks from the South
Australian border, Lake Hindmarsh, Warracknabeal
and Horsham. It soon had a rough school hut,
church, grog shanty and store. A survey was
conducted in 1862 and the town was gazetted and
proclaimed in 1863. It was named 'Dimboola'
after a Singhalese word meaning 'land of figs',
reflecting the surveyor's travels to Sri Lanka
(then Ceylon). By 1868 there was a constable in
residence and a butcher's shop.
In 1871 the population was recorded as 78.
However, selectors began to take up land as of
1873. The majority were Germans moving from
South Australia, though there were also Irish
and Scots. The selectors provided stimulus to
the settlement, initiating the shift from
grazing to wheat-cultivation, although their
presence caused resentment among squatters whose
land tenure was tenuous. They were finished off
by drought and the rabbit plague which began in
A state school opened in 1875, a brick shire
hall was completed in 1877, a flour mill was
established and a local newspaper went into
print into 1879. New residents and entrepreneurs
continued to arrive, including a growing Chinese
community that largely worked market gardens,
although they were regarded with some suspicion
In 1882 Dimboola became the railhead for the
area and remained so until the Serviceton line
opened in 1887. This meant increased economic
and social activity within the town which proved
a general stimulus to local enterprise. A
eucalyptus oil distillery was established in
1882 and salt was refined from the lake near
Lochiel. Local productivity was also enhanced by
the availability, from the early 1880s, of
agricultural machinery especially tailored to
dealing with the recalcitrant Mallee scrub - the
stump-jump plough and the mallee. Dimboola Shire
was created in 1885.
Famous painter Sidney Nolan was stationed at
Dimboola while on army duty in World War II. He
took the opportunity to paint the local
landscape and donated the resultant paintings to
the National Gallery of Victoria in 1987. Jack
Hibberd used the town as the setting for his
play Dimboola (1974) which has since been made
into a film.
The town's Agricultural Show is held in
October and the annual rowing regatta in
Things to see:
Local information can be garnered from Megan's
Corner at 119 Lloyd St, tel: (03) 5389 1290.
The Wimmera River
A walking track leads along a fine stretch of
the Wimmera River where boating, rowing,
fishing, picnicking and relaxing can be enjoyed
by the red gums. Those with stamina can follow
the river all the way to the Horseshoe Bend
campground within Little Desert National Park (7
km). There is a guiding pamphlet available at
Megan's Corner. There is a local organisation
which runs tours of both the Heritage Wimmera
River and the Little Desert National Park. It is
called Oasis Desert Adventures and can be
contacted either on (03) 5389 1957 or mobile
0419 824 618 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hotel on the corner of Wimmera and
Victoria Streets, Dimboola
The mechanics' institute in Lloyd St is a focal
point of the townscape. It is single-storey
brick structure that was built in 1877 as the
Lowan Shire Hall, becoming the headquarters of
Dimboola Shire council from 1885 to 1914.
The Victoria Hotel, on the corner of Wimmera
and Victoria Streets, is another centrepiece of
the town. Grapevines hang from the hotel's upper
verandah creating a cool curtain for the lower
sections of the pub.
Apex Park, on the highway, has an old J-class
steam locomotive, as well as picnic and barbecue
Pink Lake, 9 km north-west on the highway
between Dimboola and Nhill, is an unusual
formation which is aptly named. On overcast days
in particular it reflects a deep pinkish hue. It
has been worked for salt since 1981. Unlike most
of Australia's pink lakes it is produced by
Wail, 9 km south-east along the Western Highway,
is home to the Wail Nursery, established in 1946
to research dry-climate trees and to develop
seedlings for usage as shelter on local farms.
600 000 plants from 700 species are distributed
annually. Dams supply the nursery with plenty of
water and visitors are invited to make use of
the grounds and to purchase seedlings.
The nursery is the starting point for a 1-km
nature trail wherein the plants of the mallee
are introduced to the visitor by means of a
numerical system. A 2.5-km scenic loop
incorporates a lookout which furnishes fine
views over Dimboola and the district.
Desert National Park near Dimboola
Little Desert National Park
To the south and west of Dimboola is Little
Desert, the second-largest national park in
Victoria. This area was ignored during the
European settlement of the Wimmera. The first
reserve was created in 1955 to protect the
mallee fowl and the park was declared in 1968.
Despite its name, the dry hot summers and
sandy soil, this is not a true desert so don't
expect Sahara-like landscapes. The park receives
400 mm of rainfall per annum (mostly in winter)
and supports a range of fauna and 670 plant
species. The eastern block is the most
interesting and the only one with facilities. It
has extensive heathlands with tea-trees, banksia
and sheoak and many spring wildflowers.
Wildlife includes possums, the black-faced
kangaroo, the silky desert mouse, reptiles such
as the bearded dragon and the short-tailed
snake, and 220 bird species, including the
mallee fowl which is indigenous to this
semi-arid portion of Victoria. Its presence is
signified by a mound up to five metres in
diameter and one metre high.It lays its eggs
inside the mound which is adjusted daily to
maintain its temperature at 33° Celsius. The
chicks emerge already self-sufficient.
A good 6-km gravel road leads south from
Dimboola along the Wimmera River to the shady
and attractive campgrounds of Horseshoe Bend and
Ackle Bend at the eastern tip of the park (fees
apply). The route is signposted. There is a
network of walking tracks with heavy
concentrations of waterbirds and kangaroos by
the river and adjacent woodlands. A short
distance from Horseshoe Bend is the start of the
short Pomponderoo Hill Nature Walk.
For devout and hardy bushwalkers Horseshoe
Bend is a good place to start exploring the
Desert Discovery Walk (marked with signposts and
track markers), at least in winter and spring.
84 km in all, it is essentially a circular track
which heads west to the Kiata Campground (see
entry on Nhill). However, there are many ways to
subdivide and shorten a prospective walk. You
can obtain a related pamphlet outlining the
track by ringing 131 963.
The park also has numerous 4WD tracks.
Contact a ranger for advice on routes and
camping areas as some tracks are closed at
certain times of the year. The ranger for Little
Desert National Park is located on Wail Nursery
Rd, tel: (03) 5389 1204.
For further information on other sections of
the park see the entries on Nhill and Kaniva.
There is a local organisation which runs
tours of both the Heritage Wimmera River and the
Little Desert National Park. It is called Oasis
Desert Adventures and can be contacted either on
(03) 5389 1957 or mobile 0419 824 618 or by
email at email@example.com.
Little Desert Tours and Lodge
Little Desert Tours offer guided and educational
4WD tours into the park from the private
accommodation centre known as Little Desert
Lodge located 16 km south of Nhill on the Harrow
Rd. They also have a Mallee fowl aviary and an
environmental study centre. The Little Desert
Wildflower Exhibition is held here each year in
September-October, tel: (03) 5391 1714.
Ebenezer Mission was established in 1859 by
Moravian missionaries with the goal of bringing
Christianity to Australia's indigenous people.
As they were forced off their traditional lands
by white settlers some local Kooris ended up on
the missions. At its height the mission had a
church, boarding house, schoolhouse,
missionaries' residence and 22 cottages for
Aboriginal families. The Wimmera River provided
irrigation for orchards and vineyards and 2000
sheep were grazing on the property.
Today, all that remains are the remains of
the primitive limestone Norman church (1875),
three outbuildings and the graveyard. The site
is located along a signposted side-road which
heads off to the left from the Dimboola-Jeparit
Rd, about 20 km north of Dimboola (just south of