Emu Flat: A Historic Locality in Victoria, Australia

The old school in Emu Flat, Victoria, Australia. (Image: Melburnian. The old school in Emu Flat, Victoria)

Emu Flat – a locality in Victoria, Australia – sounds like a place of wide, sweeping vistas, where cattle herds graze and horses roam, and a handful of tough characters have steadily tamed the wild landscape. That’s what it sounds like, anyway – and it’s not too far from the truth.

Location of Emu Flat in Mitchell Shire, Victoria, Australia (Image: Location of Emu Flat in Mitchell Shire)

Emu Flat lies in the Shire of Mitchell, where in 2006 the precinct undertook a heritage study (pdf) on the area. What they uncovered didn’t parallels to America’s Wild West. It began in 1837 when Alexander Fullerton Mollison struck out from New South Wales with “two overseers, 49 servants, 5000 sheep, 634 cattle, 28 bullocks, and 22 horses”. He was later joined by his brother, and the pair expanded their territory into a sprawling cattle station called Pyalong Run. At its heart were towns Pyalong, Mollison’s Creek, and Emu Flat.

(Image: Scottius11. Stone and timber ruins near the locality)

When Emu Flat’s school first opened in 1873, it was a rudimentary bark building staffed by a teacher – Ellen McKenzie McHarg – who wasn’t paid for the first year she of her employment. By 1883 some 30 students attended the school, but it closed in 1895. The school was moved, and in 1902 a new building opened, part of which still survives today. Local children would be educated in this spartan classroom until 1943.

(Image: Scottius11)

The other surviving building is the old Uniting church,. Like the school, the church’s first incarnation was a temporary bark building erected in the 1860s. There was no permanent minister, meaning one would ride in on horseback to perform services. In 1872, locals came together to haul in granite, which they used to build a more permanent church.

(Image: Scottius11. The protected Emu Flat Uniting Church)

The construction was overseen by a stonemason named Alex McAlpin, and opened the following year. Over the decades the small church has kept meticulous records. We know, for instance, who made furniture like the round, corner table (Norman Harper), and who donated the baptismal font (Mr. and Mrs. Chas Hayes, in memory of their young daughter, Anne). Those items are still there and, according to the heritage survey, the church remains a vital part of the area’s cultural landscape.

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About the author: Debra Kelly




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