Links to our Past - history

Pages from the Past

The Casey Cardinia Branch of the National Trust has recently produced the local history Pages from the Past: shapshot histories of people, places and public life in Casey and Cardinia. As the name suggests the book provides brief insights into different aspects of the history of the City of Casey and Shire of Cardinia. It covers People such as Lord Casey and Ada Armytage; Places such as the Berwick Primary School and Maryknoll and Public Life which covers such topics as growing up in Beaconsfield in the 1930s and the development of the railways. The book is a  collaborative effort with contributions from many people and is well worth the $19.00 price. It is available from the National Trust Gift Shop and Information Centre at Pioneers Park on the corner of  Peel Street and Lyall Road in Berwick. They are open everyday, except Tuesdays, from 11.30am until 3.00pm. It's  a great little shop and has many unusual gifts and interesting books and is run entirely by volunteers. You can also borrow it from your local library - click here to check availability.

Narre Warren landfill gas fuelled power station

The Narre Warren landfill gas fuelled power station was officially opened on July 12, 1992. The Power Station is on the site of a former quarry which had been used since November 1982 as a 'regional refuse disposal site' or tip as it would have been known in the olden days.  The tip was managed by the City of Berwick in partnership with five other Councils. When garbage and waste breaks down, 'landfill' gas is produced which is generally fifty five percent methane and forty five per cent carbon dioxide.This gas can cause environmental problems and so a power station was constructed to use this gas as fuel for power generation. The end result was a decrease in odour and methane emissions and the production of  electricity for generation plants.

The  waste heat was used to heat green houses and for a business that re-cycled paper. Both projects were  operated by Minibah, now called Outlook, which provides services to children and adults with a disability. The landfill closed in 1996 and the power station is still operating. These photographs were taken in 1995.

 The power station.
 The gas provided heat to operate green houses in which roses were grown, some of which are shown below.

Casey Cardinia Remembers website

The Narre Warren and District Family History Group have complied a database of Monuments and Memorials in the City of Casey and Shire of Cardinia. This project has taken many hours of volunteer time to locate, photograph and transcribe the monuments and then to create the website which you can search at To show you the range of monuments and memorials on the website, we will look at the entries for Gembrook. All the photographs are from the Casey Cardinia Remembers website and used with permission.

This is the Centenary log at Gembrook, 1874-1974. It commemorates the timber industry and the work of the pioneer hardwood millers.
 This is the Avenue of Honour memorial for World War One Soldiers. The Casey Cardinia Remembers website has the full list of soldiers who are honoured, plus a photograph of each individual plaque.
This is the E.A.C Russell Memorial scoreboard at the Gembrook Football Grounds. E.A.C. 'Bill' Russell was involved in many organisations in Gembrook, owned timber mills and was also a Shire of Berwick Councillor and Shire President in 1962.

Iona Hotel at Garfield.

I have spoken before about Trove, it is my of my favourite historical resources and a while ago I came across this interesting article.

Barrier Miner (Broken Hill, NSW : 1888 - 1954), Saturday 19 October 1912, page 4

I am not sure how true the story is, as it didn't appear in any local papers such as The Argus or the South Bourke and Mornington Journal, but it was in the Cairn's Post and the Brisbane paper, The Worker and I suspect it might be a 1912 version of an urban myth.

The Iona Hotel at Garfield was originally opened around April 1904. It was built by George Ellis. The hotel had twenty nine rooms including the bar room, parlours, commercial room , dining rooms, drawing rooms, billiard room with a full sized Alcock's table and fixtures and sixteen bedrooms. The building was constructed of weatherboard and had gas lighting and an 'excellent' septic sewerage system. There was also substantial stabling. This information comes from a report in the South Bourke and Mornington Journal of April 13, 1904.

Sadly, the hotel was destroyed by fire on April 23, 1914. I believe the existing Hotel was erected the next year as there is a report, once again in the South Bourke and Mornington Journal this time from May 27 1915 saying that the Shire of Berwick Health Inspector, Dr H. White, had inspected the Iona Hotel and he was pleased with the appointments and sanitation of the place and that no expense had been spared by the proprietors to make it all respects one of the best equipped hotels in the colony.

This photograph, from the Berwick Pakenham Historical Society collection, shows the Iona Hotel, most likely just after the new building was opened in 1915.

The Koo-Wee-Rup Water Tower

As early as 1918 there was agitation for a water supply scheme in Koo-Wee-Rup and this issue came up periodically with the Koo-Wee-Rup Progress Association. In 1927, the Victorian Railways said that they would be able to use about 14 million gallons of water annually from any water supply scheme (this was in the days of steam trains) which would make a system more viable and so a Committee was formed to push the issue and get rate payer support. Eventually, the Koo-Wee-Rup Water Works Trust was formed and the first meeting was held at the Memorial Hall on Tuesday, March 12 1929. We don’t really know what happened at this meeting as the next edition of the Koo-Wee-Rup Sun reported that the Press was ‘gagged’. According to the Sun, Commissioner William ‘Ernie’ Mills was apparently of the opinion that ‘the public should only be supplied with information that the Trust deems fit’. Ironically it was the rate payer’s representatives on the Trust - Mills, W.K Paterson and William Eason - who voted for the exclusion of the Press, while the Government nominees - Matthew Bennett, M.L.A. and George Burhop - voted against the exclusion of the Press.

The next evidence we can find regarding the workings of the Trust was that the State Rivers and Water Supply Commission had approved the plans for the water scheme and applications for tenders for the work were advertised in the June 27, 1929 Koo-Wee-Rup Sun and the results were announced in the October 24 paper. The tenders were for the construction of Head works, including an elevated reinforced concrete tank and settling basin - awarded to Monier Pipe Construction Co. - tender price was £4985.00; Supply of pumping machinery- McDonald & Co.; Trenching and laying of pipes - G.L Clemson £628.00; Manufacture of cast iron pipes - Monteath & Sons, South Melbourne £1214; Galvanised pipes - John Danks & Son £287; Cartage of pipes - A.J Gilchrist of Koo-Wee-Rup £18 18shillings. The Engineer in Charge was Mr A.C Leith, who was also Secretary of the Society of Engineers.

The Sun reported in their March 6, 1930 edition that the Press gag was lifted and there was a report on the progress of the works. The official opening of the Water Scheme took place on Thursday, May 1 1930. The Opening Ceremony was attended by Mr Matthew Bennett, M.L.A, who was standing in for the Minister of Lands and Water Supply, Mr Bailey; SRWSC Engineer Mr Neville and representatives from the Companies involved in the construction of the scheme and the Victorian Railways. Commissioner W.E. Mills said in his address that the area was going ahead and would continue to forge ahead due to the surrounding rich agricultural land. He also said that old residents would know that land that was worth 5 shillings per foot, ten to fifteen years ago, was now worth £12 per foot. Another benefit of the water supply was that it would make their homes more picturesque and that from a social point of view the water supply would enable the construction of a bowling green and croquet lawn. Mr Bennett, M.L.A., talked about the health benefits of a water supply as streets could be flushed and that would make for cleanliness and health and the water supply was also a protection against fires. Mr Bennett, then turned a tap and allowed water to flow into a street channel and the scheme was declared open.
The Water Tower - photograph from the Koo-Wee-Rup Swamp Historical society collection.

How did the Scheme work?
Water was obtained from the Bunyip Canal (Main Drain) and was pumped into a concrete settling basin of 160,000 gallons (one gallon is about 4.5 litres) having passed through a filtration process. It was then pumped into a 90 foot (about 27 metres) tower which had an 83,000 gallon capacity. The water was then distributed around the town. In the March 27, 1930 Koo-Wee-Rup Sun there was a notice to owners of properties that pipes had been laid in Station, Moody, Salmon, Henry, Gardiner and Charles Streets; Rossiter and Denhams Roads and Alexander and Sybella Avenues. Householders were required to lay a pipe and stop cock to their properties to be connected to the main pipe. The water rates were set at minimum charge of 30 shillings for a residence and 15 shillings for a vacant block. In the December of 1930 the water consumption since the Scheme started was 800,000 gallons of which the Railways had used 635, 000 gallons. On January 13, 1931 35,000 gallons was consumed in one day.

In the end, Koo-Wee-Rup not only got a reliable water supply but also a landmark construction which is still prominent today.

The London Gazette

In the last post we looked at the life of Kathleen Kinsella, who did not survive the bombing of the Vyner Brooke on February 14, 1942. Whilst I was researching Kathleen I came across the fact that her sister, Nancie, had received an M.B.E (Member of the British Empire) so I began some research into this and came across a new resource that may be of interest to you. It is the London Gazette where, since 1665, all official British government notices are published.

Before I tell you about the London Gazette I will tell you about Nancie Kinsella. Nancie, Kathleen and their three brothers were the children of Michael James Kinsella (1858-1919) and Susan (nee Lockens 1857-1930) of Cora Lynn. Michael Kinsella had selected 60 acres of land on the north side of the Main Drain at Cora Lynn in 1900. They both started school at Koo-Wee-Rup North and then transferred to Cora Lynn State School and they both became nurses. Nancie had left Australia before the War and when the War broke out she enlisted in the Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service. This service was started in 1902 by Queen Alexandra and provided nurses for military hospitals.

Nancie nursed in the Middle East; was in Normandy where she looked after D-Day casualties and also nursed the 1,700 survivors of the Belsen Concentration camp. At Belsen, the nurses had to de-louse and clean the captives and the wards as well as provide treatment for all manner of diseases such as dysentery, tuberculosis, typhoid, typhus, diphtheria, heart and kidney problems as well as starvation. Nancie was awarded a M.B.E in recognition of gallant and distinguished services in North West Europe – this was listed in the London Gazette, issue 37004, of March 29, 1945.

She was also mentioned in Despatches for the same service and was awarded the Associate Royal Red Cross medal, which is awarded to nurses for acts of bravery or exceptional devotion to duty. This award was in the January supplement to the London Gazette, issue 38797, of December 30, 1949.

It appears that she remained in the Service and completed her time in the Reserve of Officers in 1956 as we can see below from the London Gazette, issue 40758, of April 17, 1956. The only other information I have on Nancie is that there is a ‘Nancie Kinsella Patient Library’ at the Peter McCallum Hospital, so most likely she worked there at some time in her career.

Because Australia had the Imperial Honours System before 1975 all Australian recipients are listed in the London Gazette, so if your ancestor or relative received a C.B.E (Commander of the British Empire) or an O.B.E (Officer of the British Empire) or, like Nancie Kinsella, a M.B.E (Member of the British Empire) or even a higher honour such as a Knighthood then they will be listed in the London Gazette.

The notice above was in the London Gazette, issue 45678, of June 3, 1972. Cr Thwaites was awarded an O.B.E for his services to Local Government. Cr Thwaites was a Cranbourne Shire Councillor from 1958 to the 1980s.

Sir Sidney Sewell received his Knighthood in 1945 and it was listed in the London Gazette, issue 37119, of June 8, the same year. Sidney Sewell was a pioneer in the treatment of tuberculosis, founded the Association of Physicians of Australasia in 1930, lived at Roads End, Beaumont Road in Berwick and built the Tudor shops in High Street. The notice is also interesting for the use of the term 'Dominions' as it has been many years since Australian was referred to in that way.

Other things you would find listed in the London Gazette include bankruptcies, naturalisations, patents, military honours, promotions and appointments and public service appointments. And, best of all, the entire 340 plus years of the Gazette are now digitised, searchable and free to print off. I would advise doing an Advanced search where you have the option of searching a phrase or limiting by dates. It is an amazing resource if your ancestors are from the United Kingdom or like Nancie Kinsella involved with a British Military unit.

The Vyner Brooke

Tuesday, February 14 2012 is the 70th anniversary of the sinking of the steam ship Vyner Brooke. Sixty five Australian nurses and over 100 civilians were evacuated from Singapore three days before the fall of Malaya on the Vyner Brooke. The boat was bombed by the Japanese and sank in the Banka Strait on February 14 1942. Twelve nurses drowned, thirty two nurses survived the sinking and became prisoners of war, with eight dying in captivity. Another twenty two also survived and were washed ashore on Radji Beach on Banka Island where they joined a number of civilians and service men from other sunken vessels. Japanese troops bayoneted the men to death and marched the women into the water where they were machine gunned to death. The only survivor was Sister Vivian Bullwinkel and a British soldier. Sister Bullwinkel was later taken prisoner and survived the War.

There are two Casey Cardinia connections to this tragedy. One of the nurses who did not survive the sinking of the Vyner Brooke was Sister Kathleen Kinsella. Sister Kinsella was the daughter of Michael Kinsella and Susan Lockens of Cora Lynn. Michael Kinsella had selected 60 acres of land on the north side of the Main Drain at Cora Lynn in1900 and the family moved there in 1905. Kathleen was born on March 18, 1904 at South Yarra and she started school at Koo-Wee-Rup North (or Five Mile) and then in 1912 Kathleen, her sister Nancie (born 1900) and brother Arthur (born 1898) switched to Cora Lynn State School, where she stayed until 1918. There were also two other brothers Daniel (born 1894) and Norman (1895).

Sister Kathleen Kinsella's enlistment photograph. Australian War Memorial collection P02783.024

After leaving school, Kathleen trained as a nurse and was working at the Heidelberg Military Hospital when she joined the Army on August 4 in 1941. She was assigned to the 2/13th Australian General Hospital, the 2/4th Casualty Clearing Station unit. The 13th Australian General Hospital left Melbourne on September 2, 1941 and arrived in Singapore on September 15. In November it relocated to Malaya. As the fighting in the area increased the casualties grew and by December the hospital had 945 beds in operation and was acting as a Casualty Clearing Station and was the most forward surgical unit in the army’s medical organisation. As the Japanese advanced the Hospital had to withdraw to Singapore where by the end of January 1942 it had established a 700 bed hospital. The medical staff had to cope with bombings and blackouts but eventually it was too dangerous to operate and the nurses were evacuated on three ships, the last to leave being the Vyner Brooke on February 12. Sister Kinsella is commemorated on the Cora Lynn War Memorial.

One of the twenty four nurses who survived the war and the many years in captivity was Sister Wilma Oram who was born in Glenorchy in 1916. In 1947 she married Alan Young who had also been a Prisoner of War and they lived on a dairy farm at Cardinia. They had four children together and as well as running the farm, Mrs Young was very active in Veteran affairs. You can read her inspirational story in her biography A woman’s War: the exceptional life of Wilma Oram Young, AM by Barbara Angell. Another account of the women’s ordeal as Prisoners of War can be found in White Coolies by Betty Jeffrey, which was published in 1954, and is based on the diary she kept whilst in captivity.

This post is to commemorate the bravery, the sense of adventure and sense of duty of the Australian Service personnel, including Kathleen Kinsella and Wilma Oram Young, and their brave nursing colleagues on the Vyner Brooke.

Credits: the photographs of Sister Kinsella are from the Australian War memorial site, The information about the Vyner Brooke and the 2/13th Australian General Hospital is also from the Australian War Memorial site. An account of the Radji Beach massacre and its aftermath can be found in On Radji Beach by Ian Shaw and there is a very interesting ABC DVD on Sister Bullwinkel, Vivian Bullwinkel: an Australian heroine. Finally, a thank you to Lynne Bradley of the Narre Warren & District Family History Group for telling me about the Vyner Brooke anniversary and the connection to Kathleen Kinsella.

Cranbourne War Memorial

There had been discussions from at least 1920 onwards as to the most fitting memorial to honour the men from the Cranbourne area who served in the First World War. Early suggestions were for the construction of a Soldiers Memorial Hall. An article in the South Bourke and Mornington Journal on November 11, 1920 reported on a Cranbourne Shire meeting. The Mechanics' Hall committee suggested the erection of a building which would provide accomodation for Lodges and other community groups as well as having a Library and a Billiard room. This would provide a place for 'boys to go for recreation at night'. Some objection was made to having a Mechanics' Institute as a memorial to soldiers, though apparently that had been done in other places. Another sticking point seemed to be that a new hall would be in competition to the existing Shire Hall - so this issue was put aside for a few years - in fact it wasn't until 1929 that a meeting decided to erect a memorial in the form of an obelisk.

The Argus Saturday, May 25, 1929, page 28

Perhaps due to the Depression, things moved slowly and in June 1938 I found another reference from The Argus regarding the war memorial, see below.

The Argus Wednesday, June 8, 1938, page 14

The Memorial was erected in June 1939, as another article in The Argus reported, see below.

The Argus Saturday, June 10, 1939, page 4

The Memorial was officially unveiled on August 27, 1939, ironically only about a week before Australia was once more at War, as it was on September 3 that the Prime Minister, Robert Menzies, announced we were at war with Germany. The picture, above, is from the Cranbourne Shire Historical Society collection.

The Argus Tuesday August 29 1939, page 10

As you can see by the picture of the unveiling the the War Memorial, plus the one of the Shire Offices, above, the obelisk was originally located close to the corner of Sladen Street and the South Gippsland Highway. It was later hit by a car and moved at some time, possibly 1953, further west along Sladen Street, as seen in this 1988 picture, below. It was relocated again to its current location in Greg Clydesdale Square in 1991.

Shire of Cranbourne Offices

In the last post we looked at the Shire of Cranbourne 1875 Municipal Offices. With a number of extensions these Offices served their purpose for nearly one hundred years, however an increasing population led to a demand for increased Council services which led to increased staff - so by the early1970s the original buildings were no longer adequate. In July 1974 it was decided to not only retain the 1875 building but to build new Council Offices, further along Sladen Street. Plans were drawn up by the Architectural firm of Leith Barrett & Partners and the tender of H.C.F Constructions was accepted at the July 9, 1976 Council Meeting to construct the 2874 square metre building at a cost of $1,377, 238.00. With landscaping, fit-out and furnishings the total cost was about $1.86 million.

The Foundation Stone was laid by the Shire President, Cr Ern Marriott on November 26, 1976. Cr Marriott is pictured above (left) with Mr H. Sleigh of H.C.F Constructions. Council staff began working at the new building on January 16, 1978 and the first Council meeting was held on February 24, 1978. It was officially opened by the Governor of Victoria, Sir Henry Winneke on April 22, 1978. The foundation stone picture comes from the commemorative booklet produced for the official opening.

Above and below - views of the building.

With Local Government Reforms in 1994, the Shire of Cranbourne and its successor, the short lived City of Cranbourne (which was proclaimed on April 22, 1994) was no more - part of it went to the new City of Casey and the other part to the new Cardinia Shire (both came into being on December 15, 1994). The building was no longer used for Council purposes and is now occupied by Cranbourne Community Health Services.

Shire of Cranbourne Municipal Buildings

In the last post we looked at the opening of the City of Berwick Civic Centre at Narre Warren so continuing on with the Municipal buildings theme, today we will look at the Shire of Cranbourne Municipal Offices. William Lyall laid the foundation stone of the first Shire of Cranbourne Offices on March 6, 1875. The first Council meeting was held there on September 18, 1875. The suite of buildings consisted of the Shire Hall, Court House and Post Office.
This is the Post Office end of the building. The clock was installed in 1891.

An interior shot of the Shire Hall, maybe taken in the 1920s.

Another view of the buildings, it is actually one of my favourite photographs - hard to believe this is the intersection of Sladen Street and High Street/South Gippsland Highway. If you stood there now, you would probably get run over by a truck. The photograph was taken sometime after June 1939 which was when the War Memorial obelisk was erected. You can see the obelisk in front, right of the building.

The building was extended in 1961/1962 and again in 1970/1971, however this was a building constructed when the Shire of Cranbourne had a population of around 1,000 and by 1976 the Shire population was 25,830 so effectively the Shire was out growing the building. A new building was opened in 1978, which will be the subject of our next post. The 1875 buildings were saved after a spirited campaign by members of the Cranbourne Shire Historical Society, community members and Mr Herb Thomas, publisher of the Pakenham Gazette, and at the time President of the Berwick Pakenham Historical Society.