This page has been written by Maureen Cottam, Goomalibee community member.
Goomalibee is situated 15 kilometres north west of Benalla and follows the Red River Gum country of the Broken and the Four Mile Creek.
The name Goomalibee means 'shady river camp' in the language spoken by the traditional owners of the area, who formed part of the Pangurang tribe.1 They were relatively peaceful people skilled in the areas of fishing, hunting and root gathering. Their stories remain whispered among the scarred and twisted trees of the area and in their abandoned stone tools lying buried in the sand bars.
The Overlanders intrusion into their lands from 1838 heralded the forced resettlement of many of these proud people into a Government Aboriginal Protectorate Station at Murchison 1840-1860.2
Misunderstanding and fear by members of both the black and white cultures resulted in no chance of reconciliation: fatalities and clashes were common. Only until recently however, records have concealed the local traditional aboriginal accounts and perspective. Uncle Freddie Dowing, an author and respected elder of the Pangurang, has recently documented the account of the infamous Faithful Massacre as told and handed down in the traditional manner from his Great Grandmother Luana Milawa who was a young girl at the time.3
The squatters had moved their stock into the area prior to the 1840s, but it was not until that year that Goomalibee Station – 98,000 acres - was registered by Alexander Cheyne and William Gibb.
After 1861 a series of Selection Acts encouraged many families to face the challenge of farming in our district. Many of their names are honoured along a tree lined road in the vicinity of the Church. Alongside their names respect are is also given to the sons of the district, who paid the supreme sacrifice in World War 1 and 2.
The settlers were industrious and honest farmers. They lobbied for a school to be built in 1881-1941, a post office, sports ground, a church and a hall. A hall became their meeting place and home for their famous dances and suppers. A Creamery 1903 was built to process the butterfat from the local dairy farms. Goomalibee butter along with wool and grain found its way to markets in Britain.
Global markets and their demand for produce have changed and although dairy heifers are agistered in the district wool production has given over to mainly fat lamb production. The challenges to find new markets have seen breeding heifers sent to China and EU accredited meat to Europe.
Goomalibee remains recognized as a farming area however within the Municipal Planning criteria 5 to 100 acres areas may be subdivided into blocks. Consequently many families seeking a purely ‘rural lifestyle’ have shifted into the district. This has resulted in a change in the economic and social focus of the District. The challenge of flood and fire yet remain pertinent for all residents.
Earlier response to the threat of fire and flood saw the Goomalibee Bush Fire Brigade officially formed in the early 1900s. Members would then meet in the local hall. Today the Goomalibee-Upotipoton CFA meet in the comfort of a recently constructed (2017) Meeting Room attached to the Fire Shed. The Annual Christmas Party, hosted jointly by the Brigade and the local Landcare Group can go ahead rain hail or shine. It is an acknowledgement of a rural community determined to be resistant and adapt to change.
The journey of the Goomalibee district reaches back to the Dream Time to the recent influx of new residents seeking a rural change. As we reflect on our past, the question remains as to what is the future: who will reside and farm the land? What will they know of the past and the environment that serves to both support and threaten them? Maybe the answer remains with the trees that whisper: if only we learn to listen.
1. Correspondence-Pastor Sir Douglas dated 4/4/1972 ,to A .J.DUNLOP Benalla Cavalcade. A History Of Benalla And District.p1
2. BACK TO GOORAMBAT. p 9
3. FREDDIE DOWLING –Elder Pangurang Tradional Owners –Written Account –THR FAITHFUL MASSACRE 2017.