Kongwak, a rural village in South Gippsland, is 110 km south-east of Melbourne and 15 km north-east of Wonthaggi. According to Bunce's Language of the Aborigines of the Colony of Victoria (1859) Kongwak is an Aboriginal word meaning to catch or stop. Kongwak is on a tributary of the Powlett River in the southern foothills of the Strzelecki Ranges.
The first farm selections at Kongwak were in 1883. There was a neighbouring settlement, Moyarra, 4 km to the north, where a Presbyterian church opened in 1893. Kongwak, however, was the place chosen for the Moyarra Butter Factory and when the factory was taken over in 1896 by a local co-operative it was renamed Kongwak Butter Factory. Two years later, a post office and a hall were opened in Kongwak, and a school opened in 1899.
The butter factory ran profitably. In 1925 its marketing logo was changed to Sunny South butter, and in 1941 cheese-making was added. By then the co-operative had also taken over the town’s general store and agricultural supplies, for which a modern building was constructed in 1953. Within ten years the co-operative found it necessary to merge with the Korumburra butter factory, but subsequent takeover by Murray-Goulburn led to its closure. Job losses resulted in an exodus of population. Gloom still settled on the town for its centenary in 1983.
Proximity to the growing town of Wonthaggi has helped Kongwak to function as a rural dormitory village; self-help has kept the school going (24 pupil, 2014), the hall and avenue of honour in good order, and the weekly market as a local drawcard. The former general store and storerooms have a lot of under-cover space and there are covered areas outdoors. The market can function ‘rain, hail, or shine’.
Kongwak describes itself as the valley of peace. A new fire station opened in 2013.
Kongwak’s census populations have been:
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Joseph White, The history of the Shire of Korumburra, 1988
Joseph White and others, Valley of peace: history of Kongwak, Kongwak, 2009