Naracoorte, settled in the 1840s by George Ormerod and William Macintosh, is the geographical center of the South East, an area with an assured rainfall and a plentiful supply of underground water. The re-purchased and subdivision by the Government of several large estates between 1903 and 1905 increased the prosperity of the town and District.
The District Council of Naracoorte was proclaimed on August 25 1870, and the District developed with pastoral and agricultural pursuits. The Corporation of the Town of Naracoorte was established when it took over the own area of approximately 16 square kilometres from the Naracoorte Council on 7 February 1924. The boundaries of the Corporation were extended in 1954 and further extended in 1960. Since then they have remained unchanged.
In 1936, twelve years after its inauguration, the Corporation purchased the local power-house and electricity supply from Mrs E.E. Petherick at a cost of 7,615 pounds. Over a period of thirty years' operation by the Electricity Department of the Corporation, many loans were negotiated, thus enabling the whole system to be updated and provided an electricity supply and service unequalled by that of any other country area. The E. & W.S. Department advised the Corporation in 1938 that sites for bores and a storage tank to establish a town supply had been selected, and that the estimated cost of the scheme was 26,235 pounds. The project was officially opened in 1940. The original storage tank, on the hospital grounds, had a capacity of 1.25 mega litres. It was replaced in 1983 by a tank of 5 mega litres, situated on the hill behind the racecourse.
The completion of the water supply scheme led to the need for a fire brigade, and the Corporation soon made an application for the Municipality to be brought under the Fire Bridge Act of 1936. A fire brigade was eventually established with local volunteers operating from a converted garage in Ormerod Street for several years. In 1959 the Corporation was approached to help the Fire Brigade Board select a suitable site for a new Fire Station. The present station was erected in Smith Street and officially opened in April 1963.
In 1938 the Council appointed the first contractor for collecting garbage, at an annual payment of 2,760 pounds. The contractor had to maintain a horse and harness, while the Council supplied the dray. The cost of 3s a year applied to all householders in the Municipality.
The Naracoorte Scout Group established its future headquarters when the Corporation granted it land adjoining Letchford Terrace. A weatherboard hall, previously the Salvation Army Hall, was transferred to the site in 1939. The hall has since been replaced by a substantial structure of Mount Gambier stone.
The Corporation made persistent representations to the Department of Civil Aviation stressing the need for an aerodrome at Naracoorte. Two strips in the South Parklands were graded and approved as an emergency landing ground for aircraft in 1944. The Department of Civil Aviation was repeatedly pressured to make improvements, as several airlines operated through Naracoorte for short periods in 1958. The aerodrome now has a sealed taxiway and runways, making it an all-weather landing area. Runway lights were installed in 1980 to permit night flying.
The extension of the broad-gauge railway line from Wolseley was a great benefit, not only to Naracoorte, but to the South East generally. Preparation of the Naracoorte station yard began in July 1948, and a camp to house the construction workers was established in the North Parklands, on the area now known as Wortley Oval. Thousands of cubic meters of sand taken from the area near the primary school were used to fill the railway reservoir and build up the station yard. The then Governor of South Australia, Sir Willoughby Norrie, and Lady Norrie travelled by special train on 1 February 1950 for the official opening of the broad-gauge railway to Naracoorte.
The first children’s playground in Naracoorte was established in Market Square in 1948, and another, near the junction of Jenkins and Butler terraces, followed shortly after. The Apex Club established and equipped a playground in Guernsey Street in 1969. Playgrounds are now so widely established that all the children living within the Municipality have ready access to one.
It was officially recorded in December 1953 that Ormerod and Macintosh squares, respectively to the east and west of Jones Street, were named to honour two pioneers of the Town and District. A Private Bill through Parliament permitted the building of a structure on Macintosh Square, and the Schinckel family had the Sound Shell erected in memory of their father. This was officially handed over to the Corporation in October 1956.
Convinced that a sewage scheme was essential for Naracoorte, the Council made many representations to the E. & W.S. Department. The Advisory Committee on country sewage visited Naracoorte in 1958, and in the following year deep drainage works were commenced. The first service connections were made in early 1960, and Naracoorte became the first country town in South Australia to have the benefit of deep drainage.
The establishment of a swimming pool, which had been talked about in 1954 when consideration was given to constructing an Olympic Pool, became a reality in 1960. A local organisation spearheaded by Mr L. Gerick and Mr T. Guster, with public support, constructed a swimming lake 1-2 hectares in area in the North Parklands. The lake was handed over to the Corporation and was officially opened by his Excellency Sir Edric Bastyan in 1961.
The purchase by E.T.S.A. of the Town’s electricity supply was concluded in 1966. The Corporation retained the power-house property and five staff houses, and after finalising outstanding loans had approximately $130,000 to invest. In November 1970 the R.S.L. Building was purchased for $20,000, and this was converted into Municipal offices. Two years later the Town Hall was renovated at a cost of $80,000 and re-opened in April 1972.
In August 1963 the Naracoorte Chamber of Commerce and the Apex Club each guaranteed the sum of 1,500 pounds matching a subsidy from the Tourist Bureau, to establish a caravan park in the North Parklands. The park was made the responsibility of the Corporation, which in 1976 added a house for a caretaker and a modern amenities block, and increased the capacity of the park to over a hundred power sites. The Corporation has spent $300,000 in establishing a first-class caravan park in a delightful setting overlooking the swimming lake. The official opening of the extended park was performed by the Honourable T.M. Casey, M.L.C., on 2 March 1977.
Until the mid-1950s municipal works were confined to maintenance with a minimum of construction. The Highways Department then became more generous with grants for main and District roads, enabling the Corporation to proceed with a comprehensive road-construction program. Loans were negotiated for roadwork and machinery, and by 1984 the Naracoorte Corporation has 45 kilometres of sealed roads. The excellent roadwork with street trees and shrubs were a credit to the town, as were the parks and gardens. It was appropriate that Naracoorte received the Tidy Towns Award for 1983.
The Library Association of Australia granted considerable financial assistance to the Corporation to construct a public library, which cost $82,500. The library, built near the Municipal offices, was officially opened by the Honourable T.M. Casey, M.L.C., in October 1978.
The original Naracoorte Hospital was built in 1880 on a site which was then 2 kilometres from the town. There have been many changes and additions since that date, including the establishment of a nurses’ home, the MacMillan Maternity Wing, Sisters’ quarters, and a very modern two storey extension to the hospital in 1963. Longridge Nursing Home was added 10 years later, and in 1982 the most recent addition, the Day Care Centre, was opened.
Longridge Home for the Aged, on a 3-hectare site in Naracoorte South, was established by a public subscription of $40,000 and subsidised by the federal and State Governments. The first eight flats were occupied. Hostel accommodation for 10 people was added in 1972. The number of flats at Longridge has increased and hostel accommodation was doubled by 1984. Still further extensions are contemplated.
The plans for the layout of the lawns, and provision for a water supply and sprinkler system for Naracoorte’s Lawn Cemetery, were approved in 1976. With their standard memorial plaques and impressive display of native shrubs, these lawned grounds conform splendidly with other developments of the North Parklands.
Features, resources and facilities of the Council area:
THE LAND AND ITS USE:
The Corporation of Naracoorte had a total area of 23.28 square kilometres. It was situated midway between Adelaide and Melbourne, and was within easy travelling distance of anywhere in the South East.
Naracoorte itself, a progressive, attractive town, was the centre of the State’s most important rural district.
The town centre was a low-lying area through which a creek flowed. It was flanked by hills to the northern and eastern sides, while to the west the plains extended for 15-20 kilometres.
The North Parklands, of nearly 300 hectares (apart from the recreation areas), included a large area of pine plantations. The aerodrome to the south-west of the town, an area of approximately 80 hectares, was previously the South Parklands.
At the June 1933 Census, the town of Naracoorte had a population of 1554; by 1985 it had reached 5100. Naracoorte’s importance as an urban centre had been acknowledged by its steady growth during the last fifty years. The opening in 1973 of the South East Meats abattoir (now Teys Bros.) at Hynam, employing up to 450 people, had a significant effect on this growth.
SECONDARY INDUSTRY AND COMMERCE:
Naracoorte was the commercial and retail hub of the Mid and Upper South East: a stable, solid town in the richest grazing area in the State. Several Government departments had their regional headquarters in Naracoorte because of its strategic central location.
The town’s main industries were South East Meats (export abattoirs) and Mini Jumbuk. Great endeavours were being made to attract new industries - an Industrial Estate had been established, and very attractive incentives were available to incoming industry and commerce.
Naracoorte had two kindergartens catering for children aged from four to five: Michelle DeGaris Memorial Kindergarten, situated near the Memorial Oval parklands, and the Naracoorte North Kindergarten on Park Terrace.
The Naracoorte Primary School, also on Park Terrace, was a well-equipped, up-to-date school with an open classroom design. Country students travelled by bus to attend this school. The Naracoorte South Primary School, a modern two-storey structure, was opened on 18 October 1965. The Naracoorte and District High School, a large school in a most attractive setting, was situated off the northern approach to the town. Teaching was provided to Year 12 level, and agriculture and animal husbandry studies were also available.
The Naracoorte College of T.A.F.E was constantly expanding, and was very well equipped to handle the multiplicity of courses taught throughout the year.
Over many years, comprehensive health services had been established within Naracoorte.
The area was serviced by the Naracoorte Hospital, located in Jenkins Terrace. This 100-bed non-Government hospital offered many integrated health care facilities including a modern physiotherapy section containing a hydrotherapy pool (opened in 1984), the services of a speech and hearing pathologist, and extended and Day Care services.
Naracoorte had more than 10 practising doctors, most of whom consulted from Medical centre, and there were specialists in the fields of pediatrics; ear, nose, and throat; and hypnotherapy. Resident dentists, optometrists, and chiropractors also had practices in the town.
Allied health services such as C.A.F.H.S., St John Ambulance and an Alcohol and Drug Treatment Clinic were all available within Naracoorte, and voluntary services such as Meals on Wheels, Red Cross and other health-related organisations were well represented and supported.
An innovative addition to the co-ordination of health services within Naracoorte was the joint appointment by the Hospital Board and the Corporation of Naracoorte of a Community Health Officer in 1984.
The pioneers brought their religion with them, and Naracoorte had two churches of architectural and historical significance. The Presbyterian Church, built in 1874, was a solid limestone structure of Gothic design, with memorial windows. Its spire was a notable landmark, visible from the western plains for some 25 kilometres. The Anglican Church, also built of solid limestone in 1880, had an impressive tower. Both structures, set on the hills overlooking the town centre, were striking memorials to Naracoorte’s pioneers.
The Catholic Church of St Thomas Aquinas, which shared the hill overlooking the town, was erected in the early 1930s and replaced a much smaller building near the same locality. The Methodist (now Uniting) Church was also really on the scene. The present modern building, built in 1957, replaced two earlier churches now demolished.
St John’s Lutheran Church was built in 1952, and the very modern Church of Christ, one of the latest churches to be constructed, was in Naracoorte South, a residential area.
The Assemblies of God's Karobran New Life Centre was established in Robertson Street.
Other churches and Christian organisations had regular meetings in various halls, but not in buildings of their own.
Naracoorte was a popular tourist destination, with about 60,000 people a year visiting the famous Naracoorte Caves situated 11 kilometres south of the town centre, within the boundaries of the District Council of Naracoorte.
Many visitors chose to stay at Naracoorte’s modern caravan park, which had up-to-date amenities, over a hundred powered sites, and plenty of camping areas, all close to the man-made swimming lake in the North Parklands. The lake featured a pontoon and safe swimming areas for children, and was a popular picnic spot in summer, with shady trees, barbecues, and playgrounds.
Accommodation was also provided by three hotels and four motels in the town, all of a high standard.
Some popular tourist attractions were The Sheep's Back Museum displaying antiquated household and farm items and machinery and engines dating back to the early 1900s. The Naracoorte Visitor Information Centre was also located here.
The Regional Public Art Gallery in Ormerod Street mounted exhibitions from the works of the local Palette Club, the Art Gallery of South Australia and other art bodies, and also had a collection of oils, watercolours, etchings, and ceramics.
FESTIVALS AND OTHER COMMUNITY EVENTS:
Annual events for a number of organisations were of considerable interest, and attracted many visitors.
The Naracoorte Racing Club held several race meetings every year, the main meeting being a two-day event that featured the running of the Naracoorte Cup usually during the first week in March in conjunction with the Taste the Limestone Coast festival.
The Annual Sheep Dog Trials, a three-day event held in April, attracted dogs, with their owners, from four States.
The Pastoral and Agricultural Society’s annual show held in the second week in October, featured exhibits of livestock and produce from the rural community. The horses-in-action section was always well supported.
An open-air art exhibition in Macintosh Square, staged by the Naracoorte Lions Club during the last weekend in November, featured works by artists from all over the Australia.
The Naracoorte Rotary Club held the Annual Wool Show in December and this was well supported by local graziers. Proceeds from the sale of the wool were donated to charitable organisations.
The “We’re Proud of Naracoorte” Week, held during the last week of school in December, captured the people’s imagination and involved the whole town in a wide variety of activities.
On the northern extremity of Naracoorte’s North Parklands, there was a championship-standard 18-hole golf course which was maintained all year round. Near to the town, there were two hockey fields and clubrooms. Adjacent to this area, the Soccer Club had two pitches and its own clubrooms. These were fronted by the major stadium complex, which housed two basketball courts and four squash courts. Next came 30 tennis courts, which also catered for two netball associations.
The next major complex represented the clubrooms for tennis and netball and the Naracoorte Football Club. The latter’s new football oval fronted this building. On the eastern side of this oval was the B.M.X. track, while further east were older features such as the Wortley Baseball and Cricket Club Oval. Adjoining Wortley Oval was the Naracoorte Caravan Park flanked by the swimming lake. Closer to the town centre, Naracoorte had two bowling clubs, both with well-kept greens and modern clubrooms.
The Memorial Oval between Caves Road and Memorial Drive had two cricket ovals and a baseball/softball area as well as table tennis clubrooms.
Visitors dependent on public transport could reach Naracoorte by train from Adelaide six days a week, or by plane from Monday to Friday. Ansett provided a daily bus service to and from Melbourne. Taxi companies in Naracoorte provided transport over shorter distances.