Kerang Shire

Kerang Shire (1898-1995) was originally part of Swan Hill shire, which was established in 1872, stretching from the South Australian border to Cohuna. Kerang was the shire’s administrative centre. Between 1885 and 1893 the shire was subdivided and three more shires were formed – Gordon (1885), Mildura (1890) and Castle Donnington (1893).

The last named contained the township of Swan Hill, and the Kerang part retained the name of Swan Hill shire. On 31 December 1898, this confusion was resolved by Castle Donnington shire being named Swan Hill and the Kerang part Kerang shire.

Kerang shire extended eastwards from the Lalbert Creek and included Cohuna until 1922, when Cohuna shire was formed by severance.

In 1863 a private irrigation scheme was begun in the Kerang district, probably the first such project in Victoria. After the passing of the Water Conservation Act (1885) irrigation trusts were formed in the districts of Cohuna, Koondrook, Murrabit and Tragowel Plains, all in or extending beyond the shire. After the trusts were united under the State Rivers and Water Supply Commission (1906), water supply for stock and irrigation came from the Waranga Western Channel and the Torrumbarry Weir on the Murray River (1923-24). The Torrumbarry system supplies the eastern sector of the former shire and the Waranga channel supplies the western sector around Quambatook. Stock water also comes from the Grampians storages via the Charlton-Wycheproof channel.

Dairy farming was significant around Koondrook, Koroop, Murrabit and Tragowel, and was mixed with orcharding around Murrabit and Mystic Park. Dry farming was in the southern areas of Lalbert and Quambatook.

In the 1880s the township of Budgerum, 8 km north-west of Quambatook, thrived until the railway line was extended through Quambatook. A local school operated in Budgerum between 1881-97, briefly reopening in 1908-09. The Budgerum cemetery was in use between 1883-1904 before the opening of the Quambatook cemetery.

Kerang shire and several of its important towns were described in the Australian blue book in 1946:

During the first 20 postwar years the shire’s population steadily increased although not as rapidly as in the 1920s. The Kerang township’s population grew by 37%. In 1966 it was severed from the shire and made a borough.

Kerang shire was traversed by the Murray Valley Highway and railway lines to Robinvale and Swan Hill. East of the Avoca River the several lakes (some ephemeral) attract bird life and recreational activity. (Kerang is known as the Gateway to the Northern Waters). The tendency for water to accumulate has, combined with irrigation, caused salting of some farmlands, but regrading of paddocks has aided the dispersal of water and lowering of water tables.

In 1994 farming occupied 82% of the shire’s area of 3254 sq km, carrying 221,000 sheep and lambs, 32,300 meat cattle and 31,300 dairy cattle. About 117,000 tonnes of wheat and 73,000 tonnes of barley were also grown.

On 20 January 1995, most of Kerang shire was united with most of Cohuna shire and Kerang borough to form Gannawarra shire. Kerang shire’s census populations were:

census date population
1901 7505
1911 8969
1921 10,476
1933 9335*
1947 7681
1954 8483
1961 9095
1966 5264**
1971 4930
1976 4140
1981 4260
1986 4490
1991 4420

*Cohuna shire severed  **Kerang borough severed

Further Reading

Kerang, Koondrook, Lake Charm, Lalbert, Macorna, Murrabit, Mystic Park, Quambatook and Tragowel entries