|LATROBE VALLEY ORIGINS
Latrobe Valley lies at the heart of Gippsland nestled between the Strzelecki Ranges and the Baw Baw Plateau. Although Angus McMillan was the first European to visit the Gippsland region, in 1840, it was Polish explorer Count Paul Edmund de Strzelecki who led the first expedition that explored the Latrobe Valley. What he found was a diverse landscape of valleys, mountains, forests and wetlands. The Gunai Kurnai people are the traditional occupants of the land that Strzelecki explored and have been here for thousands of years.
Explorers had slowly been moving through the Gippsland region and in 1841, Angus McMillan reached the coast of Port Albert. Later, explorer and scientist, Count Paul de Strzelecki followed a similar route to McMillan, crossing the Latrobe River and following the Traralgon Creek into the area now known as Latrobe City. Reports of the region were favourable as possibilities to develop the area for stock grazing were realised. Access was difficult and several attempts were made to find a suitable stock route.
In 1843 the region known as Gipps Land was proclaimed a squatters district. Squatters were able to buy runs (land) for an annual fee and as more squatters occupied their runs, European names began to replace the traditional indigenous names.
After the gold rush Victoria’s population significantly increased and land was used to develop farms by former gold miners. This process was called selection and was responsible for the development of many of the towns and communities due to wide spread clearing of land. Grazing was one of the earliest industries in Latrobe Valley, this slowly gave way to dairying in the 1880’s which is still a prominent industry today.
The major industry of Latrobe Valley is mining as it sits on vast coal deposits, which has had a great influence in turning the region from an agricultural to industrial area. Coal was first discovered in the Latrobe Valley in 1874 by Henry Godridge who was looking for gold and found brown coal instead. In 1889 the Great Morwell Coal Mining Company formed to mine brown coal and provide an alternative fuel source for Victoria.
The population of the Latrobe Valley continued to rise with the arrival of the railway network and the change from an agricultural to an industrial region. The discovery and excavation of brown coal led to the development of new towns and eventually to the demise of others.