Robinvale is a rural township on the Murray River, about midway between Swan Hill and Mildura, north-west Victoria. It is by and large a postwar township, about 90 years younger than the settlement of Euston, New South Wales on the opposite side of the river.
The site of Robinvale was reserved for an agricultural college in the 1880s, but nothing was done because of the area’s remoteness from transport and reliable water. The land was leased for farming in 1902, and the lease was transferred to Herbert Cuttle in 1911, a storekeeper at Ultima. Cuttle’s son managed the property until enlisting in World War I. In 1922 the State Rivers and Water Supply Commission decided on an irrigation settlement at Robinvale. Four years earlier Cuttle purchased one square mile for a township, and in 1924 the railway line was extended from Annuello to Cuttle’s private township. The name was given by Cuttle as a memorial to his son George Robin Cuttle, killed at Villers-Bretonneux while flying for the RAF. Robinvale formed a twin city relationship with Villers-Bretonneux in 1984.
Most of the irrigation activity at Robinvale before World War II was confined to market gardens on the river flats, several being worked by Italian settlers. In 1928 a bridge replaced the Euston punt and the Robinvale hotel was opened. An Anglican church was opened in 1929. Expansion of farming at Robinvale was hampered by the Australian Dried Fruits Association (centred at Mildura) opposing more growers entering the industry. By 1938 Lock 15 (Euston) was finished for irrigation headworks.
During 1941-45 the State Rivers and Water Supply Commission, aided by other interests, lobbied for soldier settlement farms at Robinvale. A State Labor government responded to the Commission and blocks were first sold in 1947. A change of government slowed development, and participation by the Housing Commission was stopped. The irrigation works, however, were quickly installed, perhaps in anticipation of political events. A fruit packaging cooperative was formed in 1949. Within 30 years Robinvale supplied 10% of Australia’s dried fruit, from 300 vineyards. Market gardens and citrus orchards expanded, and Australia’s largest olive farm, Oliveholme, (marketed as Cobram Esatate and Red Island) is at Robinvale. An Italian community has settled at Happy Valley, 10 km south of Robinvale.
The commission’s choice of soil types and use of pipes for irrigation has resulted in Robinvale’s water consumption being 20% less than comparable areas along the Murray River, and drainage problems have been less intense.
Robinvale maintained a population of about 1750 people during 1970-95, which contrasts with the population losses in unirrigated wheat lands elsewhere in the Mallee. The town thus kept its hospital (1957) and has a Catholic school, a consolidated school and a secondary college (1957). Since 1995 the town’s population has increased. Recreation facilities in Robinvale include a golf course, a greyhound and trotting track, three reserves including the long linear river reserve, tennis, basketball and bowling venues, a rowing club, a community centre and a swimming pool. There are also a hotel, a motel, two caravan parks and an aged persons’ hostel. The Robinvale Sentinel newspaper is published weekly. Local vineyards include McWilliams (1961) and Robinvale Wines (1976) and olives and almonds are grown. In the irrigation districts around Robinvale fruit and nut growing accounted for about 40% of employment at the 2011 census.
The Swan Hill council released a five-year strategy for Robinvale in 2013, with plans to attract more business investments to the region to improve infrastructure and education, explore more dryland farming and manufacturing of mineral sands, and increase table grape exports to Asia.
A drainage project to relieve flooding in residential areas of Robinvale was undertaken in 2014.
Robinvale's census populations have been:
The State school's P-12 pupil numbers were 415 in 2014. The farm hinterland has been densely settled since the early 1950s, and population data has been published:
|area||census date and population|
|Irrigation District B, south-east of town||672||290|
|Irrigation District C, west of town and north of Happy Valley Road||513||466|
|Irrigation District E, south of Happy Valley Road||565||383|
J.W. Hickey (ed), 50 years of progress, Robinvale 1924-1974, the author?, 1974?
Robinvale...the first fifty years, Back-To-Robinvale Committee, 1975
Lesley Scholes, A history of the Shire of Swan Hill: public land, private profit and settlement, Swan Hill, 1989