Shepparton (population 29 000) is the major centre of the Goulburn Valley and the headquarters of the Goulburn Valley irrigation system. It is located 179 km north of Melbourne on the Goulburn Valley Highway and 113 metres above sea-level. Mooroopna (population 6877) is separated from Shepparton by the Goulburn river and a large tract of flood-prone forest and joined by a causeway. The surrounding area produces a substantial proportion of the state's agricultural output, particularly fruit, vegetables, cereals and milk products. Local industry includes two enormous fruit canneries (operated by SPC Ardmona), Campbell's Soups, a foundry and supporting packaging freight and logistics companies.
The area is thought to have been inhabited by the Yorta-Yorta people prior to white settlement. The first Europeans to venture onto the townsite were Joseph Hawdon and Charles Bonney who camped here by the Goulburn River while overlanding cattle from Albury to Adelaide in 1838 (the site is commemorated by a memorial in Welsford St).
In 1843 Sherbourne Sheppard took up the Tallygaroopna run on which the town later developed. The settlement was initially known as Macguire's after the man who established a punt service on the Goulburn for the diggers headed to the goldfields. Naturally he added an inn to lighten their pockets before the crossing. The name had been changed to Sheppardtown by 1855 when the first survey was conducted.
The village became a stopover for the paddlesteamer service which travelled along the Goulburn River to Echuca on the Murray River. Agriculture also developed at this time. Nonetheless there were only 30 recorded residents and a half-dozen buildings in 1871. Mooroopna was then the more important of the two settlements as its punt service attracted more custom from travelling diggers. A private township was established there in 1874. However, Shepparton developed rapidly with the arrival of the railway in 1880.
The Furphy foundry was opened by John Furphy in 1878. It was here that the famous Furphy water-cart was manufactured.
A major expansion of agricultural production and of the local population occurred after 1912 when irrigation really got under way with water from Lake Nagambie. Dairies and orchards proliferated after World War I, engendering a period of rapid growth. This led to the development of subsidiary industries such as milk processing, fruit packing and canning. Thus, in 1917, the Shepparton Preserving Company (SPC) was formed. Today it is one of the world's largest fruit canneries. Another major player was the Ardmona cannery in Mooroopna which opened in the 1920s and merged with SPC to become SPC Ardmona in 2002. Shepparton became a borough in 1927 and a city in 1949.
The town's festivals and events revolve around food, sports, art and culture. They include International Dairy Week in January, Mooroopna Fruit Salad Day in February, the Arts Festival, Taste of Tatura and the International Ceramics Award in March, the Pear Festival at Easter, the Froot Loop Ride and Australian National Piano award in September and the Agricultural Show in October.
The Goulburn and Broken River systems around town furnish good fishing opportunities.
Things to see
The Greater Shepparton Visitor Information Centre is located by Victoria Lake, at 534 Wyndham St. It is open daily, tel: (03) 5831 4400 or free-call (1800) 808 839. http://www.discovershepparton.com.au
Victoria Park Lake
The Information Centre is situated next to the lake which was constructed in the 1920s on land that was once swamp. The western shore is flanked by Tom Collins Drive which has some lovely picnic spots.
Shepparton Museum and Historic Precinct
The local museum is really very good. There are displays relating to local industry, clothing, transport, communications, shopping and local agriculture. The building also houses the 19th-century four-faced post office clock which is still in working order. It is open from 1.00 p.m. to 4.00 p.m on those Sundays which fall on even-numbered days. The museum is located in the former public hall (1873) at the corner of Welsford and High Sts. There is a small entry fee.
Adjacent is the 'Historic Precinct' by the Goulburn River where you can see an Aboriginal canoe tree (bearing the scars where the bark was removed for the construction of a canoe), the remains of a wharf (1880) from the paddlesteamer days and the site of the punt around which the town grew.
Shepparton Art Gallery
The art gallery was established in 1936 and has a strong ceramics display ranging from the colonial era to the present. A biennial ceramics award attracts international submissions which are on display from late January to the end of March. There are also some Australian modernist paintings and a few items from the Heidelberg school. It is located in the Eastbank Centre at 70 Welsford St (near the Nixon St roundabout) and is open seven days from 10.00 a.m. to 4.00 p.m. and public holidays from 1.00 p.m. to 4.00 p.m., tel: (03) 5832 9861.
A telecommunications post in the mall, at the centre of town, is a handy lookout tower offering fine views over the town - provided you can manage the 160 steps.
Shepparton is separated from Mooroopna by the Goulburn River and a large section of riverside forest which floods every year. A walking track starts from Aquamoves on the western side of Victoria Lake and cuts through the forest to Mooroopna. There are also driving tracks and a bikeway.
Located on the Midland Highway between Mooroopna and Shepparton, Kidstown is a remarkable childrens' play area the size of the MCG, created with generous community support. Gold coin donation. It is open from dawn to dusk. The Connection also operates at this location and features a cafe and produce store.
The Shepparton Preserving Company (SPC), established in 1917 after the arrival of irrigation, is one of Australia's best-known brands of canned fruit and the Shepparton complex features one of the world's largest fruit canneries. In 2002 SPC Ardmona formed when SPC merged with Ardmona. It employs some 2400 people in season (600 out of season) and produces 80,000 to 100,000 tonnes of fruit per year. It accounts for around 40% of the country's tinned fruit and exports to 60 foreign countries (especially Canada). While the factory is closed to the general public, SPC Ardmona's Factory Sales outlet, located in Shepparton's CBD in Corio Street, is the region's single biggest visitor drawcard. It is open seven days from 9.00 a.m. - 5.00 p.m.
The Furphy Foundry
The famous blacksmith and wheelwright, John Furphy, came to Shepparton in 1873 and by 1878 he had established a foundry in the town. By 1880 he was manufacturing water carts which became hugely popular around the country. Such was their popularity that when war broke out in 1914 they were ordered in large numbers by the Australian Army and were used in camps where the local water supply was unreliable. It is said that the word 'furphy', meaning a rumour or tall tale, came into existence because soldiers used to gather around the water supply and it was there that rumours were shared and spread.
John Furphy was joined in Shepparton by his more famous brother Joseph. Joseph had been a farmer in the Riverina but had been bankrupted by a drought. He worked with his brother for 21 years and it was during this time that he wrote the great Australian novel, Such is Life. The novel was published under the pseudonym 'Tom Collins'. Today the Furphy family still own the foundry. It is located on Drummond Rd. Part of the foundry is a museum with an excellent range of old equipment as well as photographs and important history about the Furphy family. It is open weekdays from 9.00 a.m. to 4.00 p.m.
Bangerang Cultural Centre (Aboriginal Keeping Place)
The Bangerang Cultural Centre features an interesting display relating to Aboriginal culture and history. There are traditional and contemporary artefacts, didjeridu demonstrations, hand-carved emu eggs, saleable items and a cultural officer (by appointment) to explain local history from an Aboriginal perspective. It is open weekdays from 9.00 a.m. to 4.00 p.m. and it is located in Parkside Drive (signposted off the highway).
Reedy Swamp Walk
Reedy Swamp Walk meanders through a wetland area rich in birdlife. It starts from the end of Wanganui Rd.
The Heritage Farm at Emerald Bank offers the chance to see farming practices from the days before high-tech. There is a blacksmith at work, a working dairy, an animal nursery and vintage farm machinery. You can inspect the old farm building, try milking a cow and feed the animals. There are demonstrations relating to irrigation, salinity and land management. It is also home to a garden centre, chocolate shop and mini golf. It is located on Melbourne Rd at Kialla.
Belstack Strawberry Farm
Belstack Strawberry Farm is located on Bennetts Rd at Kialla West just to the south of Shepparton along the highway. You can pick your own berries (not just strawberries) in season, and there are farm tours, river walks and a small orchard. Open daily from September to May or by appointment, tel: (03) 5823 1324.
Greater Shepparton Visitor Information Centre
534 Wyndham St
Shepparton VIC 3630
Telephone: (03) 5831 4400, 1800 808 839