Experiences at the Loddon Visitor Information Centre

Published on 17 December 2015

DROPPING into the Loddon Visitor Information Centre in Wedderburn might take a bit longer than you’d expect.

Sure, they’ll tell you what you need to know, but it will be easy to get distracted by the historic flavour of the building, the pitch-perfect miner’s hut, the bountiful vegie garden and evocative photo display.

The centre aims to give visitors a sense of the kinds of travel experiences available throughout its sprawling shire and beyond.

The service is housed in what was the original Wedderburn Primary School, built in 1867 and operating uninterrupted for 133 years.
Keith Ring was headmaster at the school for nine years, from 1973-81.

“There were two schools in Wedderburn prior to 1865 – a private school at the Church of England site and a National School at the Methodist Chapel,” Mr Ring said.

“Those came together to form the first state school in that year and the building was completed two years later.

“Rumour had it that the contractor offered to build it for nothing if he could dig the site first to look for gold. He didn’t get permission, so the school’s reputed to have the deepest foundations of any school in the state.

“There were two rooms, one of which may have been where the teacher lived, and the first principal was Joseph Lockhart, from the National School.

“Over the years, other bits were added to it, including several new classrooms, and after the war, they moved four small country schools in.

“One of those, the former Richmond Plains building, is now at Engine Park in Wedderburn.”

The primary school closed in 2000 to amalgamate with the local high school, forming Wedderburn P-12 College.

Four years later, it became the home of the town’s community centre.

Loddon Shire Tourism Manager Robyn Vella said Wedderburn Tourism started a tourist information centre in 2007 in the old school building and the venture gained full accreditation two years later.

“Then, in May 2014, we moved into the new wing after the $1.7 million refurbishment of the building,” Mrs Vella said.

“The centre’s 25 volunteers serve the whole of the Loddon Shire, as well as promoting Victoria and the Goldfields region as a whole.

“The Visitor Centre’s now a busy place, with 5786 walk-in visitors during the last financial year, 1522 phone enquiries and more than 1100 email requests.
“We host events around the centre in conjunction with Wedderburn Community House, such as the
Naturally New Age Festival and monthly farmers’ market, and link with other community organisations in Wedderburn to support them.”

Mrs Vella said people dropping into the centre would find plenty of points of interest.

“We can guide visitors through the original classrooms and show them historic items which were unearthed during the renovations, such as a teacher’s cane and strap and the children’s small blackboards,” she said.

“They can also browse through the Eucalyptus Discovery Centre, containing stories and pictures of the various local families involved in the industry’s earliest days and of the growth of eucalyptus oil production from its beginnings.

“We have ongoing photographic exhibitions in the community centre mounted by local enthusiasts, plus a recreation of an original settler’s hut designed and built over a two-year period by teams from Work for the Dole.

“It’s made of bark and rough-sawn timber and fully furnished in keeping with that period.

“That’s available for viewing, as is the community garden, again built and maintained by community work participants and local volunteers.

“The fruit and vegetables grown are used in the weekly community lunches and for making preserves.

“Plants suitable for local conditions are also potted up for sale.”

The Loddon Visitor Centre is open every day from 9am to 5pm, with printed material, online resources and self-drive CDs.

“Anyone visiting during December and January can go into a draw to win a gold nugget,” Mrs Vella said.

For enquiries, phone the centre on 5494 3489 or visit www.loddon.vic.gov.au .