History & Heritage
Aboriginal people inhabited the High Country for thousands of years, and knew its flora, fauna, geography and seasonal changes intimately. Groups visited the Alps in summer to hold ceremonies and gather the nutritious Bogong moths that shelter there.
The 1939 bushfires in the forests around Melbourne and the boom in building houses after World War II led to a greatly increased demand for timber from the Alps. This resulted in the building of a network of roads that helped open the Alps to visitors and the infrastructure that lead to a sustainable tourism industry.
Bright and Ovens Valley
During the early 1850s, after the gold rushes in the Beechworth area had subsided, a new, rich gold field was discovered in the Buckland Valley around 1853. This brought a rush of adventurous miners to the area for gold. Shanties sprang up along the roadside, although most of the diggers preferred to sleep under the stars. Hold-ups and robberies were a common occurrence.
Bright was called the Ovens Township or Morses Creek Settlement in 1856 and several reports of groups of indigenous people living in the area during the early days of settlement have been documented by early pioneers. With the population and economy growing rapidly, mainly due to the rich gold finds in the area, shops, hotels and banks were soon established. Sports days and races were very much part of the social agenda and were usually attended by people from every corner of the district.
The newly surveyed streets were named after politicians and lawyers of the time. As the gold finds began to dwindle, many miners turned to farming. The rich soil of the Ovens Valley proved adaptable to a diverse range of agriculture, with tobacco, hops, oats, maize, nuts and fruits grown along the valley. Vineyards and wineries are not new to the valley and pine trees were planted on land that was ruined for agriculture by the destruction caused by the gold dredges that had worked and scraped their way along the valley floor during the early 1900s.
Today, evidence of early mining activities can be found on the hillsides and along the riverbeds. Sluicing races, rock stacks and open mines are testimony to the beginnings of the township. The boom in agriculture still continues and the town itself has grown from a small scraggly settlement of timber and canvas dwellings to a busy tourist destination with a large variety of shops, restaurants and cafes.
Mount Buffalo was named because of its alleged resemblance to a buffalo and with the beginning of tourism in the 1880s, an area around the spectacular Gorge was reserved as Mount Buffalo National Park in 1898. The Mount Buffalo Chalet was built in 1910 and the park became a popular holiday destination for succeeding generations and a place for early skiing and ice skating ventures. Mount Buffalo had the first ski tow in Australia.
The High Plains
Before European settlers came to the region in the late 1820s, the first Australians had for millennia visited the High Country during the warmer months following the ridgelines from the valleys below. The arrival of explorers Hume and Hovell in 1824 and subsequent widespread land clearing of the valleys by the pastoralists who followed proved catastrophic for the original inhabitants whose displacement brought an end to cultural traditions dating back thousands of years. The High Plains once frequented by traditional owners proved a boon for cattlemen who found plentiful summer grazing for their stock. Huts were built for shelter and storage during mustering and today many remain offering emergency shelter from the elements for hikers.
Situated on railway avenue, the Bright museum is housed in the former Bright Railway Station. The collection consists of approximately 1250 articles relevant to the station, the railways and the local area. The museum covers the railway, gold mining and social history of the area along with local family histories and a photographic collection. A large number of Chinese miners worked in the gold fields and on display is a reconstructed Chinese Joss House similar to one originally situated in the Buckland Valley. The display also includes a collection of artefacts from Chinese Miners. Operated by the Bright and District Historical Society the museum contains an intriuging array of memorabilia from the district. A must for any history buff to come and pay a visit...
OPENING HOURS: Sundays, September to May from 2pm-4pm. During school holidays and festivals on Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday, or by appointment. For bus tours please phone 03 5755 1009
ADMISSION: Adults $3.00 Children $1.00
Discount on bus tours bdhs.org.au
Bright RSL Museum
The Bright RSL Sub-Branch Museum’s mission is to preserve, exhibit and interpret artefacts, icons and memorabilia in order to promote and commemorate Australia’s military heritage within the community. The collection includes numerous interpretative static displays, unique local art/photographic works, comprehensive military reference library, audio visual technology and a genealogical military records research capability. The scope of the Museum
facility covers Australia’s key conflicts including the Boer War, WW I & 2, Vietnam and Peacekeeping Missions.
OPENING HOURS: Happy Hour each Friday from 4.30 – 6.30pm for Members and invited guests. The museum may be opened on request