The European history of the Winton wetlands tells a story of struggles with the land, water, drought, flood, depression, rebellion, death and disaster – and the formation of a strong and resilient community, thriving on good grazing country and the richness, beauty and diversity of the area.
The Mokoan Run, occupying part of the area incorporating the original Winton Swamp (7km from Benalla) was one of many pastoral licences granted in and around the Benalla region in the 1840s. By the 1860s, European settlement in the area associated with the Gold Rush to north east Victoria had led to farming and other agricultural practices becoming well-established. Farming has been continuously refined by generations of European farming families between the 1840s and the present day.
In 1971, the Winton Swamp and nearby Green Swamp were inundated to create Lake Mokoan. The significant farming community that had thrived in the area up until that time was dispersed. Sixteen farming families had all of their land compulsorily acquired, with a further 52 families having to give up more than 5,000ha of land to make way for the Lake. The affected farming families’ existence, their family units and their livelihoods were changed forever. This is even more poignant, considering that Lake Mokoan was decommissioned in 2009.
There are a number of sites within the Wetlands that capture some of this European history, providing an insight into the challenges faced and how they were overcome.