Dimboola - Culture and History

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 in Belgium.

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 1880.

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 and ill-feeling.

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 November.