street of Kaniva with the Bakery in the
Kaniva (including Miram)
Small service centre which promotes itself as
'Victoria's Premier Smaller Town'.
Kaniva announces itself as 'Victoria's Premier
Smaller Town'. Small is correct. It is a
wool-and-wheat service town of some 900 people
located 18 km from the South Australian border,
414 km north-west of Melbourne and 80 km west of
Dimboola on the Western Highway between
Melbourne and Adelaide. The town also has a
cement works. The main street is divided by a
large central plantation and lined with old
buildings and verandah-fronted pubs.
Squatter Heighway Jones of South Australia
discovered the country around Kaniva in 1845. He
claims to have had sheep grazing here by 1846
and the Tattyara run was gazetted in 1851. The
homestead was only a few kilometres from the
present townsite. Tattyara was named after the
Tyatyalla Aborigines who inhabited the district.
The first township in the area was Lawloit
which developed in the 1860s. The first selector
arrived in 1875 and many others followed,
particularly from 1879. They established wheat
farms and 'mullenised' the land, which is to say
it was cleared with a red-gum roller invented by
a South Australian named Mullens. Three metres
long and one metre in diameter it was hauled
over the land by a team of 10 bullocks. This
process squashed the mallee trees, after which
the land was burnt then ploughed.
The township of Lillimur South developed in
the late 1870s and was soon followed by Lillimur
North. Another settlement, initially named 'Budjik',
as it was situated on Budjik Hill, began to
develop when a flour mill and grain shed was
built there in 1881. The opening of a post
office on the site in April 1882 saw the nascent
town officially change its name to Kaniva. The
word's origins are uncertain. It may derive from
Kinnivie in Durham, England or from an
Several stores, two hotels, a mechanics
institute, a school, a Wesleyan church and
numerous businesses soon followed so that a
thriving country town quickly developed while
Lawloit and the two Lillimurs went into decline,
much to the resentment of their inhabitants.
Kaniva was gazetted in 1885 and benefited
further from the arrival of the railway in 1886.
The town's most famous son was cartoonist,
painter, illustrator and teacher Percy Leason
who may have used Kaniva as the basis for his
cartoon strip which took place in the mythical
town of 'Wiregrass'. He died in the USA in 1959.
The Kaniva Lawn Tennis Tournament is held
each year on the Australia Day weekend.
Things to see:
Local information is provided at Apricot House,
located adjacent the roundabout in the middle of
town, tel: (03) 5392 2418. It is open from
9.00am - 5.00pm Monday to Thursday and 9.00am -
8.00pm Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
Alternatively you can try the Kaniva Council
offices at 25 Baker St, tel: (03) 5392 2260.
Historical Society Building
The Kaniva Local History Museum is located at
111 Commercial St (the Western Highway), on the
eastern side of town. It contains material
relating to colonial European and Aboriginal
history. The horse trough was donated by Annis
and George Bills. The story (according to
folklore) is that the Bills bequeathed something
like 70 000 horse troughs. The result is that
they were used all over Australia. The museum is
open by appointment only, tel: (03) 5392 2613 or
(03) 5392 2734.
Just west of the roundabout on the Western
Highway (towards Adelaide) there is a fauna
reserve to the left where there are some
electric barbecues and some emus and kangaroos
in an enclosure.
Billy Ho Bushwalk
If, at the roundabout, you turn south into
Madden St (towards Lillimur South) and continue
on for about 5 km there is a signposted turnoff
on the right to Billy Ho Reserve where there is
a self-guided and signposted bushwalk (3 km
return). Numbered pegs enable the identification
of various species of desert flora such as
scarlet bottlebrush, Mallee honey, flame heath,
myrtle and desert banksias. Orchids are in
flower from April to December (the relevant
brochure is available from the information
Mooree Reserve is a picturesque picnic area
situated around dark green lagoons and shaded by
huge red gums. A range of wildlife inhabits the
reserve. In the 19th century, locals carted
water from the lagoons to the early township of
Lillimur South. A number of canoe trees indicate
that the water supply was also appreciated by
Aborigines. To get there head west from Kaniva
along the Western Highway. After 10 km you will
come to Lillimur. Just west of Lillimur the
Leeor Rd heads off to the left and it will lead
you to the reserve.
Little Desert National Park
Kaniva calls itself the 'Wildflower Capital of
the Little Desert'. This refers to its proximity
to the Little Desert National Park which is
noted for its sandy ridges and springtime
wildflower displays. It is 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
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. With its scrubby woodland of yellow and
red gum, as well as swamps and clay flats of
bull-oak and melaleuca, it represents a remnant
of the Wimmera's pre-colonial vegetation.
The park is essentially divided into three
sections.The road to Goroke and Edenhope, which
heads south off the highway just east of Kaniva,
divides the western and middle sections of the
park. Any exploration off this road will require
a 4WD. Just east of the road is Broughton's
Water Hole which features rare orchids and an
abundance of native wildflowers in spring. If
you wish to explore the many 4WD tracks contact
a ranger for advice on routes and camping areas
as some tracks are closed at certain times of
the year, tel: (03) 5389 1204.
Also to the east of this road is the School
Bush Walk (one hour). However, the track that
leads to the walk is not signposted, it is
4WD-only, and the walk itself is now quite old
and may not be in good shape.
Little Desert Tours offer accommodation and
guided and educational 4WD tours into the park
from Little Desert Lodge south of Nhill (see
entry on Nhill), tel: (03) 5391 1714.
Miram, 11 km north-east, developed when the
railway line went through. One of the town's
early buildings, Wheaton's General Store
(c.1888) is still in operation.