Organisers of this year’s planned Mildura Day celebrations to have been held on Monday, were again dealt a blow by COVID, as the state was plunged into another lockdown late last week, forcing the event to again be cancelled.
An action-packed schedule had been planned to mark the historic day, which commemorates the anniversary of one of the most important dates in our local history – the signing of the indenture on May 31, 1887.
This signing granted the Chaffey Brothers 250,000 acres on which the Mildura Irrigation Colony was established – the first colony of its kind in Australia.
More than 130 years later, the Chaffey Trail has been established to pay homage and acknowledge that history, and has become the focus of Mildura Day activities.
The Chaffey Trail consists of 12 historically significant sites that link to the development of the Mildura Irrigation Colony.
Chaffey Trail Inc. Chairperson, Councillor Mark Eckel said that the State Government, by virtue of these short notice lockdowns, are and will continue to have a significant and lasting effect on the arts and events industry.
The impact of these lockdowns is particularly being felt in the country, where the economies are dependent on the income,” he said.
“Events like Mildura Day are enjoyed predominantly by locals commemorating a significant event in the history of a local community – celebrating ‘First Irrigation Colony in Australia’ – which resulted in the creation of a billion dollar industry.
“Personally, I don’t want to see the virus entering our community and steps can be taken to avoid that without closing the state. I too am a supporter of an iron curtain around Melbourne during these times.
“I can also see an impact on Local, State and Federal Government grants being drained due to inconsistency with event funding. These lockdowns are throwing not only this state, but nationally, the events industry into a turmoil − it’s got to stop!”
Had it have gone ahead, this year’s Mildura Day was going to focus on three iconic sites, providing insights and information not previously known by locals.
There were free tours of the Mildura Club planned, where visitors would have learnt how many locals have ascended the ‘Golden Stairs’ and witnessed the traditional ‘punkahs’ in action, or viewed the portrait of the notorious ‘Reclining Nude’ above the bar.
Visitors would also have learnt how the club is historically linked to local football and billiards. The next event was the Mildura Grand High Tea, which would have been a first-time Mildura Day event that was to be held in the Grand Hotel’s gardens, where the 100-year-old Chaffey fountain would have provided to a delightful backdrop.
Those in attendance would have been regaled with stories of bygone days, when Mildura was a prohibition colony and this site was known as the Grand Coffee Palace.
Then, in the evening, a special event was planned at the beautifully-maintained, circa-1890s ‘Langtree Hall’, where a nostalgic night at the movies was ready to screen.
Located in Walnut Avenue, the Langtree Hall was the first venue of its kind established in the Mildura Irrigation Colony.
Once home to the ‘Lyric Theatre’, it was the site of a wide range of activities including theatre and musical performances. Some of the proceedings of the 1896 Royal Commission were also held here.
The Hall was all set to come alive with digitally-restored footage of vintage Sunraysia. Former resident, and producer of the footage, Ian MacWilliams, was coming to Mildura especially for the event.
Councillor Eckel said that discussions had been held in regard to staging this event at a separate time in the future.
“A conversation has been held about the Langtree Hall event with Ian McWilliams, with the view to it being conducted as a stand-alone event before next year’s Mildura Day,” he said.