Thursday, June 28, 2007


Going back to my previous history post about the Chirnside's, remember that? Well, when Thomas and Andrew Chirnside died, Andrew's two sons acquired 400 sq kilometres of land around Werribee between them. And so, the farmers who resided on the land in Werribee South became known as "tenant farmers". By 1905, they became freeholders of their own farmland, irrigation was then established in Werribee. Italian market gardeners, orchardists and poulterers started to move into Werribee soon after. In 1912, the Animal Research Institute was built.
Italian Farmers 1953.

Soldiers settling in Werribee after the first world war made their own farms, creating a new suburb called Werribee South in 1925. In 1922 the Catholic Church purchased the Chirnside mansion, which then became Victoria's seminary, Corpus Christi College. The Chirnside sons eventually left Werribee in 1928. About 3,000 people lived in the area at the time. A picture theatre and a primary school were also built. Werribee's pre-war homes were clustered in a small area around central Werribee mostly south of the railway line.
During the First and Second World Wars, considerable military infrastructure was established in, or near, Werribee: permanent RAAF bases at Point Cook, Laverton(where I was a RAAF cadet) and Avalon(where the air show was held this year); temporary airfields; and munitions stores. RAAF Point Cook 1910's.

During the second half of the 20th century the RAAF personal contributed greatly to the cultural and economic development of the community. Many small but solidly built three bedroom 'RAAF houses' remain in Laverton and the northern part of Central Werribee.
By 1971 (the year I was born) Werribee housed 12,000 residents.

The girls playing around a sculpture, one of many in the main street.

During this period, there were a number of scientific research facilities in the region: The Board of Works Farm (researching sewerage treatment); the CSIRO facility in Railway Avenue; the State Research Farm (renamed the Animal Research Institute); and the Melbourne University Veterinary Science School. Many teachers and scientists and engineers working in the petrochemical industry lived in Werribee, which at one stage was reputed to have more degrees per head of population than any other area in the state!!!

In 1970 a Catholic Secondary College (MacKillop College) was built on what had been part of the grounds of the Corpus Christi Catholic Seminary. In 1973 Corpus Christi was sold to the state government, and renamed Werribee Park. After 30 years of restoration and development, the propery now includes the Open Range Zoo, the State Rose Garden, an Equestrian Centre, the restored Werribee Park Mansion and a luxury hotel.

By the mid-seventies the area's facilities included numerous sports grounds, pubs, churches, primary and secondary schools and a hospital. The pub in main street was where we would go some Saturday nights for a meal and a dance as a family, great memories of dancing to "Sweet Caroline"!!
Local water hole..

Many students left school after Form IV (now called Year 10). (I know I wanted to leave and train in hospital which was how it was supposed to be done...but that all changes and so I went on and obtained my Higher School Certificate and then had to attend University).
Those who went on to university and wished to continue living at home in Werribee had a few choices: the University of Melbourne, Footscray Institute of Technology (where I obtained my degree in Health Sciences Nursing) or Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology. Now, we have a campus of the Victorian University here in Werribee, which is great.

One of the shrines in the main street, Lest We Forget.

For many years Werribee suffered a stigma due to the Melbourne Water sewage plant. Anyone from Werribee would invariably be at the receiving end of 'sewage farm' jokes. Now, every year as part of the Weerama Festival, there is a Dunny race that is held, just showing what great humour the residents of this city are!

A Weerama float.

In the 1990s, many of the research facilities were relocated to other regions and the bulk of the RAAF facilities were moved to Northern Australia: this impacted Werribee in several ways. Hundreds of RAAF-owned homes were placed on the market. (Alot of my friends also had to move as their mum or dad were in the RAAF)

Today, Werribee remains a more self-contained city compared with outer suburbs of Melbourne. With a full range of schools, community facilities and shops (including the ever-expanding Werribee Plaza shopping centre) its residents seldom need to travel more than 3 or 4 kilometres except possibly for work.

Wildlife at the Western Treatment Plant

The old Werribee town centre located in Watton Street continues to bustle. Following upgrades, the Melbourne Water plant's presence is not noticed, and indeed has become an asset, attracting diverse bird life.
Werribee today is the major centre within the City of Wyndham, one of Melbourne's fastest growing municipalities. Local facilities and cheap housing (2006 average house price $220 000AU) has made it popular with young families and first homebuyers. With Werribee now largely built out, most new housing in the area is being constructed at Wyndham Vale, Tarneit and Point Cook.

For people who originally grew up here in Werribee, or outback of Werribee, we can sure see changes happening rapidly. Paddocks where we would ride our horses or climb trees or play spotlight tiggy are now filled with houses and roads and parks...that is progress I guess.


homo escapeons said...

I hope that you assemble all of your remarkable Friday History Lessons into a gigantic glossy book that you can proudly display in your office when you become the Autralian Ambassador to the United Nations.

You are a first rate Historian and an excellent guide. You transmit a genuine fascination for your subjects...most tour guides recite some memorized text like an autotron...
you however emit some sense of wonder and appreciation that I can sense on the other side of the world.
Cazzmania foreva!

rosemary said...

Ditto the first comment...Happy Birthday Sarah a little late. What is the Australian money? Not a Euro obviously and how does it compare to the dollar...if you know. I need to start saving.

Jay said...

If I ever get to come over there for vacation I'm gonna print all these history lessons out and use them as my guide.

Queenie said...

Gosh! I have just learnt so much, I'll bring you an apple tomorrow miss....!

captain corky said...

Your country is beautiful. I want to visit someday. Sometimes I look out the window and all I see is haze. Rats.

poody said...

very interesting I have to say i enjoy your history lessons more than the book I got!

susan said...

They're right, all your weekly history lessons would make an excellent guide book. Including the adorable kid pixs!

G-Man said...

I bet your kids ACE history...
I love Friday's here!!
...and Cazzie..xoxox

Sara-Lee said...

I remember riding my pushbike along Sayers Rd, back in the days when it was a 100km/h speed limit. You would hardly get a car going past you. Now it is down to 70km/h, and it gridlock nearly 24/7. So much for progress I guess.

Aidan said...

you missed the formation of the water treatment plant....

In 1892 the newly-established Melbourne Metropolitan Board of Works began buying land at Werribee and developing the site. The first Melbourne homes were connected to the sewerage system in 1897.

The Western Treatment Plant continues to provide an essential public health service, treating about 52% of Melbourne's sewage, or about 485 million litres a day. This serves about 1.6 million people in the central, northern and western suburbs

Melbourne Water WEbsite

Informative as ever, when you were a cadet did you ever stay in BLOCK 100, or the old building by the side of the parade ground... Both of which are suspected to be haunted.

I knew guys that had been in combat fearlessly, but would not go into the lower levels of block 100... (2 suicides down their it has an awful feel)

Mark said...

A lot of people tend to not know of Australia's involvement in the Vietnam War.

Cazzie!!! said...

I am leaning towards it now HEsc....making a book, yep, good idea.

Rosemary, Aussie Dollars(AUD)is what we have. 1 US dollar = 1.1775 dollars AUD right now :)YOu would be in front already :)

Jay, I will wear a nice hat and take you touring too then :)

Queenie, yumm, I love apples :)

Captain, come on over then, and bring mrs and little corky too :)

Poody, I am glad you do :)

Susan, I can safely say they are adorable when they want to be, LOL


Sara-Lee, I remember riding mr HORSE down there!! Golly gosh, I got pics for you seeming you know the area!! I went out home to Chartwell the other week and took pics, still the same yet Cowies Hill is being developed, YIKES!!

Aidan, thanks so much for your addition to the water plant...I love it when you make comment, I also learn a few things too :)
Yes, I knew many an apprentice RAAF dude who stayed there, and yes, it is true the stories of the hauntings, very very sad indeed.
My Flight, 4th Flight Laverton, won many a consecutive drill competition there on thet parade ground, good memories..and memories of "We Are The Champions" being sung really really loud afterwards!! LOL

Mark, EXACTLY..and it is the reason why I took the image in front of that there plaque as opposed to the WW2 plaque....and, I know many people who were involved, and even more families and friends of loved ones who were..and, like every war, they are STILL affected to this very day.

ChickyBabe said...

You seem to have a knack for historical posts, and I read your passion between the lines :).

Middle Child said...

Coming solely from the HUnter Valley, NSW (Australia) I now little about thanks Cazzie...

have not traveled a lot outside of NSW but know it like the back o my hand...

Queen of Dysfunction said...

I love the float. So... smart people have a good sense of humor huh? ;)

Great pics, as always.

Andrew said...

It is not unlike Dandenong was perhaps twenty years ago, a satellite city. I guess the same will happen to, well it is isn't it, the countryside in between filled in.

ahoy said...

I'd love to know what happened to the old Werribee Hospital building that was dismantled to make way for McDonald's in Synnot St. A friend told me that it was rebuilt at Werribee Park, but he doesn't get out much so I'm not sure if that's right. It was a beautiful building, I wonder if it ever was rebuilt? There's a photo of it on the website of the State Library of Victoria. They have some great old photos of Werribee going back to the 1880's.