Wednesday, 16 April 2008


Small scale drainage works on the Koo-Wee-Rup Swamp had been undertaken by private landowners from as early as 1856 but it wasn't until 1888 that the Government became involved. The Chief Engineer of the Public Works Department, William Thwaites, surveyed the Swamp in 1888 and his report recommended the construction of the Bunyip Main Drain from where it entered the Swamp in the north to Western Port Bay and a number of smaller side drains. A tender was advertised in 1889. In spite of strikes, floods and bad weather by March, 1893, the contractors had constructed the 16 miles of the drain from the Bay to the south of Bunyip and the Public Works Department considered the Swamp was now dry enough for settlement. Like many towns, the Railway was the catalyst for growth and development of Koo-Wee-Rup. The Koo-Wee-Rup Railway station was opened in 1890. It was originally called Yallock and was re-named Koo-Wee-Rup in 1892. Koo-Wee-Rup is an Aboriginal word for “blackfish swimming”. Some growth had taken place in the town before 1890, a school was established in 1884 between Koo-Wee-Rup and Bayles with 22 pupils, and the first permanent house, “The Grange” was built in 1888. By 1894, the town consisted of the Railway siding, pay office for the Swamp workers and three shops. This small population however developed a cricket team, a Temperance Society and sporting carnivals. By the beginning of 1900, a Presbyterian Church was established, Catholic and Anglican services were held, the Recreation Reserve was established and a doctor even visited weekly from Cranbourne.

In spite of the occasional flood, the town prospered. The first Catholic Church and a Public Hall were built in 1902, a Bush Nursing hospital was built in 1910 and in the same year the school was moved into the township from Bethune’s Road. In 1915, the Royal Hotel was erected and in 1917, the Anglican Church. (pictured))

The town became a railway junction in 1922 when the line to Strzelecki was opened. This line went through Bayles, Catani, Yannathan and Heathhill then up into the hills to Strzelecki on McDonald's Track. The recreational needs of the locals were met with the construction of the Wattle Picture Theatre in 1927, the same year the Koo-Wee-Rup Electric Light and Power Company supplied electricity to the town.
A little known fact about Koo-Wee-Rup is that in 1921-22, an experimental radio receiving Station was established by Amalgamated Wireless Limited. This Radio Station received transmissions direct from Europe without the need for relay stations. This discovery helped revolutionise international communication.

These photographs are from a series of postcards produced in the 1930s or 1940s to promote Koo-Wee-Rup.

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