It was an exciting day for Moulamein as officials and locals celebrated the opening of the Moulamein Heritage Village.
Situated on the corner of Cedar Avenue and Paterson Street, the former vacant land is now home to some of the district’s historical gems. Locals pursued a vision to construct the historical village for visitors and locals to enjoy with the added benefit of doubling as a venue space for events, weddings and music concerts.
The opening was held in the Jeraly Woolshed, believed to have been constructed in the early 20th century. The building was painstakingly disassembled, carted 80km before reassembled into the character-filled centrepiece of the site.
A strong crowd of locals and dignitaries were on hand when Murray River Councillor, Neil Gorey, opened the proceedings.
“It’s a wonderful thing to see what we have here today,” said Cr Gorey.
“From a vacant block of land, to what we see here today.
“We are extremely proud of this wonderful community attraction that celebrates the history of this area.
“This facility is managed by a group of hardworking, dynamic and innovative people that had a vision and turned that vision into a reality.”
The group behind the project was the Moulamein Community Development Incorporated. Formed in 2017, the group worked as a collaborative voice for the community in any matter that required progression of ideas, thoughts and plans raised by any community member, organisation or town group.
To date, the group has been successful in obtaining six different grant fundings, totalling $846,730, the largest a 2020 grant of $568,000 through the Australian Governments Drought Community Program.
Representing the federal government, Environment Minister and Member for Farrer, Sussan Ley, addressed the crowd. “This is a labour of love and so are all the steps that will follow in this incredible heritage precinct,” said Ms Ley.
“I often say, I’m always delighted to stand behind the funding the federal government provides.
“As minister for the environment, I am actually also minister for heritage.
“What I have learnt is what you all know, that is, that heritage is about structures and buildings, but only when they tell a story, and that story has human impact.”
Drew Harris, president of Moulamein Community Development Incorporated, thanked all those involved in seeing the project through to this point.
“We are a small, energetic and dedicated group of local volunteers with an ambition to create a museum for observing our rich love of history,” said Mr Harris.
“During the development phase, 38 individual local businesses were engaged. Builders, plumbers, electricians, a fencer and engineers have all benefited from the injection of funds.
“This is our local community building resilience through the tough times created by drought.
“Moulamein, as the oldest town in the Riverina, is fast becoming a regular stopover for caravaners and other tourists travelling through the district. With the additional drawcard of the heritage village, the number of tourists should significantly increase.
“The heritage village could be used by businesses and enterprises, wedding functions, historical functions, music concerts, photoshoots and agricultural forums.”
In the coming year, the site will see the relocation of another two iconic local buildings, the Werai Stables and Moolpa blacksmith shop. Mr Harris thanked the generosity of the locals who made these significant additions possible.
“This project, involving relocating and preserving historical buildings from surrounding district properties, would not have been possible without the generosity of local families, Ian and Camilla Shippin for the Jeraly shed, the Bishop’s for the Werai Stables, Lachie and Georgina Douglas and Emma Douglas for the blacksmith shop and the old Dhuragoon school was made available by the principle of the Moulamein Public School, Jenny Wilson.”
Many other local farming families have donated items to become part of the local collection featuring farm equipment and other treasured historical items.
Head builder on the project, Mitchell Redfearn, spoke of the challenges and joy in completing such a unique project.
“It was very interesting,” said Mr Redfearn.
“They said come and have a look at this woolshed, and you wonder how you’re going to pull that down. I nearly turned around and drove back out the gate,” Mr Redfearn said with a laugh.
“You never know how things are going to pull apart. Things split, or things are rotten, the hardest thing was probably trying to work out what you would replace it with.
“Being a builder in those days would have been challenging, round, raw and different sizes with nothing square or true.
“It’s been rewarding, and every time you come into town, you get to see it looking good and straight.”
The relocation of the Werai Stables and Moolpa blacksmith will commence in the new year, along with an addition of a machinery shed to complement the Jeraly Woolshed, Durahgoon school and amenities pavilion. Additional plans exist for all-weather disabled access for bus tours to visit the site.
This article appeared in The Koondrook and Barham Bridge Newspaper, 16 December 2021.