Puckapunyal is a large military site 10 km west of Seymour and 90 km north of Melbourne. It is set in hilly to undulating ranges with ephemeral watercourses and a few permanent creeks. It is thought the name was that of an Aboriginal tribal group.
When farm selection activity began in the 1860s it was first concentrated on the land adjoining the Goulburn River. The country around Puckapunyal was heavily timbered and of indifferent fertility. Settlement at Puckapunyal occurred in the 1870s-1880s. Schools were opened in 1870 and in 1889 (Puckapunyal North). The area’s activities were sheep grazing and some dairying along Stoney Creek.
In 1915 a large military camp was established at Seymour, near Trawool. With the outbreak of World War II an additional training area was needed, and land was acquired at Puckapunyal. After the war, Puckapunyal, with its extensive firing ranges, was further developed for National Service training, along with a tank range for the Armoured Corps. The original primary schools had closed in 1909, but the military base reopened the Puckapunyal school when married quarters were built in 1950.
The population of Puckapunyal has ebbed and flowed with National Service and Vietnam forces requirements. The population has also been transient, with about half moving after two years residence (1968 survey). During the 1960s there were about 6000 personnel and residents at Puckapunyal, with about 2000 living in 530 houses at the camp, including 1200 children.
After 30 years of continual tank training much of the fragile land surface became eroded. (Over-grazing before the 1939 military base had already started erosion). The Victorian Soil Conservation Authority undertook gully filling, reseeding and tree planting to improve and maintain the area. There is also a live firing range occupying 42,000 hectares.
Puckapunyal has a school (202 pupils, 2014), shops and canteen facilities, chapels, a hall, a hospital and extensive sports facilities. There were about 700 houses of which 100 were surplus in 1995. The 2011 census counted 267 houses. There is also an armoured transport museum. Families often prefer to shop in Seymour, and Puckapunyal is a significant part of Seymour’s economy. Long term army personnel join community organisations, and all the personnel can be called on to render assistance during natural disasters.
Puckapunyal’s census populations have been:
How many tanks to the hectare? The story of the Puckapunyal restoration and conservation project, Soil Conservation Authority, 1977
H.G. Martindale, New crossing place: a history of Seymour and its shire, F.W. Cheshire, 1958
Parliamentary Standing Committee of Public Works, Report relating to the proposed development of facilities for the Artillery Centre, Puckapunyal, Victoria, Commonwealth of Australia, 1995