There is a piece of history to discover around every corner in Coleraine. With a settled history dating back 200 years and an Aboriginal history dating back thousands of years, Coleraine is a country town steeped in stories of former days.
The story of Konongwootong Quiet Place
Konongwootong, near Coleraine, holds immense significant Aboriginal cultural heritage values. It is currently registered in the Victorian Aboriginal Heritage Register. For many thousands of years, through to the 1830s, Konongwootong’s wetlands provided foods, water, fibres, medicine and shelter for the Konongwootong Gunditj people. They flourished off the land and as such, established a strong culture within their tribe. However, in 1840, two separate massacres in only a matter of months sought to remove the Gunditj from the area. Over 70 men, women and children of the Konongwootong Gunditj people were slain by European settlers in these massacres. In 2014, Wannon Water in collaboration with Gunditj Mirring Aboriginal Corporation constructed a memorial to respectfully commemorate and evoke contemplation for the lives lost and for the horrific history forged at this site.
The story of the fortunate land
In the early 1800s Major Sir Thomas Mitchell, surveyor and explorer, passed through the town of Coleraine, officially documenting; The country on its banks was, as far as I could see, the finest imaginable, either for sheep and cattle or for cultivation. Major Sir Thomas Mitchell attracted many early European settlers with his ‘Australia Felix’ (fortunate land) description. To memorialise the part Major Mitchell played in Coleraine’s history, a fittingly rough-faced volcanic stone cairn was erected in 1936, one hundred years on from when the Major passed through Wannon Shire. The European settlement, occupation and utilisation of not only Coleraine but the further Western District can be attributed to his journeying and journaling.
The story of bustling Coleraine
Opened in 1888, the Coleraine Railway Station was once a bustling hub of produce and passenger transportation. This end-of-the-line station (Hamilton to Coleraine) freighted wool, skins, butter and passengers twice daily for near on ninety years, shutting down its services in 1977. Restored and renewed to its near-once former glory, the station now serves as a Tourist Centre, currently home to apt tourist information, historical findings, age-old images and local goods/produce (including spectacularly knitted wares handcrafted by volunteers). The centre is open seven days a week and is the ideal place to discover more of Coleraine’s fascinating history.
The story of Coleraine, the muse
To be forever captured in the essence of art is a massive compliment. To be forever encapsulated in various forms of art is phenomenal and Coleraine has done just that!
Throughout history, the beauty of Coleraine has grabbed the attention of artists and poets, and as such holds its place firmly in bygone paintings and poems, perpetually to be admired on a national and international scale. Swiss-born landscape painter, Louis Buvelot (1814-1888) magnificently depicted various Coleraine scenes like Waterpool Near Coleraine (Sunset) at Coleraine and Wannon Falls. London-born Thomas Clark (1813 to 1883) was so inspired by Coleraine’s beauty that he created a plethora of paintings on the subject matter including Falls on Wannon, Muntham Station, View of Den Hills near Coleraine and more.
Various galleries across the country, including Hamilton Gallery, fervently display these masterpieces. Adam Lindsay Gordon (1833-1870) is one of Australia’s most celebrated poets of the pioneer age. He was also an enthusiastic rider and participator in Coleraine’s longstanding Great Western Steeplechase. The combination of these two (not-commonly combined passions) resulted in magnificently and timelessly capturing a mighty era in history. Two of his poems are dedicated to this grand race, The Fields of Coleraine and Banker’s Dream and a monument in Coleraine marks the spot where he rode in the difficult and demanding Great Western Steeplechase.