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History & Heritage

The towns of Heyfield, Cowwarr, Glenmaggie, Coongulla, Licola and Tinamba make up the Heyfield Region and all share a part of it's fascinating history!

From traditional owners, to european settlement, cattlemen in the high country, the gippsland goldrush, and then the development of the timber and farming industries that we know today.

Traditional Owners...

Aboriginal people are this country's traditional owners, inhabiting much of the Southern Fall of the Alpine National Park for many thousands of years before time began to be recorded. This area was home to the Gunai/Kurnai people who lived and raised their families in semi transient groups, living off the land and in harmony with the beautiful country in which they inhabited.

The Gunai/Kurnai nation was made up of five major tribes, Bratowooloong, Brayakoolooong, Brabawooloong, Tatungooloong and Krowathunkooloong. Occasionally there were battles over tribal lands or women but mostly the Aboriginal people lived peacefully. Typically groups would come together from time to time for corroborees, marriages, initiations, trading of goods, feasting and ceremonies.

One such feast was the Bogong Moth Festival held in early Autumn. The Bogong Moth flys to the Alps from hundreds of kilometres to the North to aestivate, a reverse hibernation which is a method of escaping the heat instead of the cold. Thousands of huge moths gather in cracks in the rocks and aboriginal people smoke them out and roast them.

Care of the land was of utmost importance to Gunai/Kurnai people and many of their traditions revolved around the protection and preservation of the environment in which they lived.


Lake Tali Karng, a magnificent lake nestled in between mountains was formed as the result of a landslide which dammed the Nigothurak Creek and Buk-kew-wren (aboriginal name for the Wellington River), some 1500 years ago. It is believed that people were buried in this landslide and it is respect for the dead that makes this a sacred site. Water runs underground from the lake and emerges as the beginning of the Wellington river 150m below in the Valley of Destruction. Aboriginal people describe the lake as "big fellow waterhole what creek go in and never come out again".

In the 1830s Europeans made their way to Gunai/Kurnai country. At this time many thousands of aboriginal people lived in Gunai/Kurnai tribal lands. As a result of battles and diseases introduced by European settlers, within 20 years, an estimated 100 Gunai/Kurnai people remained in their tribal lands. A mission was established for the protection of the remaining people however they were not permitted to practise their beliefs or traditional way of life.


Selection and Settlement...

In 1838 a young Scotsman named Malcolm MacFarlane arrived in Sydney on a boat called The Minerva. In search of grazing country on behalf of his uncle he was drawn to this region and the high country, it's hills, glens and chilly temperatures reminiscent of Scotland.

Over time many settlers followed with farms and communities springing up both on the flats and in the more remote reaches of the high country.

Must see & Do...


High Country Cattlemen...

Mountain cattlemen and their families who chose to make this their way of life drove their cattle up to the High Plains for summer grazing and back down again for Winter and calving in the Spring. They would take shelter from the elements in rough but sturdy huts they built throughout the high country.


This country with it's high altitude, clean mountain air and abundant clean water provided the ideal environment to raise good quality beef cattle. A tough existence bred resilient and resourceful individuals with unrivalled horsemanship skills, a great understanding of their stock and a love and knowledge of the bush.

With Gold Comes Opportunity...

With the Gippsland Gold Rush in the 1860's came both fortune and hardship but also the opportunity for further establishment of these small communities as they grew as stopping points along the routes to the goldfields. Supplying travellers with a resting point, a place to buy fresh meat, produce and to replenish their supplies before they continued their hopeful journey to strike it rich. With the end of the goldrush came a settling back into the mainstays of farming, timber milling and further establishment of the towns and communities.


After the Black Friday Bushfires in 1939 and the return of soldiers from World war II in 1945 there became a much larger demand for timber. Milling operations were brought out of the bush and timber mills were established in Heyfield, Licola and even Tinamba, harvesting the tall native Eucalypt and Alpine Ash. Many modified military vehicles were initially used to assist with milling operations and Heyfield itself grew as one of the states largest sawmilling towns with no less than seven mills operating in town.

Timber Towns...

This history and heritage of traditional owners, mountain cattlemen, the gippsland gold rush, and sawmilling has moulded Heyfield and the surrounding towns of Cowwarr, Glenmaggie, Coongulla, Licola and Tinamba into the proud towns and communities that we enjoy today.

Proud Heritage...

Historical Must See & Do

  • Lake Tali Karng: sacred site, please show respect whilst visiting, see

  • Cattlemen's Huts: Gantner's, Guy's, Kelly's and Howitt Hut, see

  • Heyfield & District Historical Society & Museum.

Fun facts

  • Bogong moths are said to taste like peanuts!

  • Initially modified military vehicles were used to assist with timber milling operations.


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