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The historic Omeo Post office by night
|Population||487 (2011 census)|
|Elevation||685.0 m (2,247 ft)|
|LGA(s)||Shire of East Gippsland|
|State electorate(s)||Gippsland East|
Omeo (// OH-mee-oh) is a town in Victoria, Australia on the Great Alpine Road, east of Mount Hotham, in the Shire of East Gippsland. At the 2011 census, Omeo had a population of 487. The name is derived from the Aboriginal word for 'mountains' or 'hills'. Omeo is affectionately known as the City of the Alps with many historic buildings remaining in the town, and had many more prior to the 1939 bushfires. The town is still the commercial hub for the Omeo Region and is a service centre for the outlying communities such as Benambra, Cobungra, Cassilis, Swifts Creek and Ensay.
The first reported sighting by Europeans of the wide plain that the Aborigines called 'Omeo' was by the naturalist John Lhotsky from the southern alps in 1834. The area was first visited by stockmen who drove stock through the region as early as 1835. In 1845 gold was found in the Livingstone Creek which runs through Omeo, this caused the population to boom and by 1901, Omeo was at its peak with a population of 9400. They were prosperous times. The main street, Day Avenue, was packed every night with people out strolling, shopping and enjoying the evening air. Hotels and cafes were doing a roaring trade with free-spending miners, and businesses were booming. Businesses began to establish themselves. Banks arrived. In 1889, the Colonial Bank of Australia. In 1892, the Commercial Bank. A J McDonald, one of the states leading architects designed the post and telegraph office and new courthouse. They were completed in 1891 and 1892 and remain unique for their architecture to this day.
The Post Office near its present location opened on 1 January 1858. However, two earlier offices in different locations named Omeo were open in 1851 and 1856 to 1857.
Earthquakes in 1885 and 1892, and the Black Friday bushfires of 1939, destroyed many buildings luckily many remain including the historical Omeo Bank House.
In 1851 Reverend W B Clark, a noted geologist reported that he had found evidence of gold in quantities that would make the mining of it economically feasible. Alluvial deposits of gold were found in tributaries of the Livingstone Creek, and by the end of 1854, over 200 men were camped along its banks digging for gold, most of it being found within a meter or so of the surface. The Oriental Claims area alone produced an estimated 58,000 ounces of gold.By 1855, most of the shallow alluvial gold had been mined and the process of hydro-sluicing was introduced to the Omeo goldfields. In an operation that took nine months to complete a water race was constructed along the mountain slopes for a distance of almost nineteen kilometers. Giant flumes crossed gullies and ravines with the water arriving at about 190 feet above the creek and the alluvial deposits. Races were cut from almost every stream that could supply water. In the process, water blasted away the alluvial gold-containing gravel and the gravel slush was channeled into rows of wooden sluice boxes and the gold ore collected.
At a point when alluvial deposits were diminishing, a miner walked into E J Johnston's general store, the same store that I later was to own and manage, to cash in some gold. Johnston paid the man his cash, but as he weighted the gold, he noticed something stuck to the pieces of ore. It was quartz. It heralded the meaning of reef mining. And a new boom. The first venture into quartz mining was at the Dry Gully field with the first battery being established at Mountain Creek. People came from all over the district to see a local identity, Miss Rogers, smash a large bottle of champagne over the wheel as it started up, and christen it the Mountain Maid. Bullock teams hauled multi-headed batteries up the mountains and across the alps to work the new found reefs. Smile of Fortune, Rip Van Winkel, Happy Go Lucky, The Joker, and Inexhaustable were some of the names given to the many reef mines that opened up.
The town today
The town hosts a range of events including the Mountain Calf Sales and Hinnomunjie Picnic Races in March, an Easter Saturday Rodeo with a town market held at the court house gardens prior to the event, Easter Sunday Polo Match at Cobungra Station (20 minutes), Caravan & RV Muster and an Agricultural Show in November.
The town has a range of services including a Hospital, Chemist, Transport Services, Supermarket, Post Office, Shire Services, Banking, Engineering & Mechanical, and a range of Food & Accommodation outlets.
Attractions include the Justice Precinct which includes a working Court House built in 1893, the Oriental Claims, the Cuckoo Clock shop, and white water rafting on the Mitta Mitta River. The Cobungra River, Bundara River, Big River, and Mitta Mitta River around nearby Anglers Rest, as well as the Tambo River, all provide good trout fishing.
The Australian thriller Red Hill was filmed in and around the town. "Red Hill" tells the story of a fictional town, Red Hill and an escaped convict returning to the town to seek revenge on those who helped convict him.
The Omeo Primary School (No 831) boasts a long history of providing education in the Omeo Region, its the oldest school in the region and was established in 1866 and will celebrate its 150th anniversary in 2016. The school was once a Primary and Higher Elementary School up until 1977 with enrolments around 100 students, at this time Omeo also had a Catholic School which had around 80 students.
Today the school has approximately 50 students and provides quality education for the district, the school grounds are beautiful and vast with plenty of space for students to enjoy the outdoors. The school also offers an annual Ski Program for its students which is unique to places located close to the snowfields.
Sports and recreation
The town has an Australian rules football team competing in the Omeo & District Football League (ODFL), as well as an affiliated netball team competing in the associated netball competition. They fielded senior and junior football teams, and senior, junior and midget netball teams, and had the club colours of Maroon and White. In 2007 the football and netball clubs merged with neighbouring town Benambra, to form the Omeo-Benambra (Alpine Ranges) Club. The new club colours are blue, teal and white, with the logo and jumpers showing teal snow-peaked mountains separated by a blue river under a blue sky.
Omeo has an attractive 9 Hole Grassed Green golf course located on Stanley Drive, just 5 minutes from the town centre.
Omeo boasts new and updated sporting facilities including tennis & netball courts, a football oval and a recreation reserve complete with a function room and commercial kitchen.
- Australian Bureau of Statistics (25 October 2007). "Omeo (State Suburb)". 2006 Census QuickStats. Retrieved 2007-10-01.
- Macquarie Dictionary, Fourth Edition (2005). Melbourne, The Macquarie Library Pty Ltd. ISBN 1-876429-14-3
- "Omeo". FilmGippsland. Retrieved 2010-09-24.
- New Chum. Neil Bolitho http://www.newchum.net.au. Retrieved 10 September 2015. Missing or empty
- Premier Postal History. "Post Office List". Retrieved 2008-04-11
- "History: The Blue Duck Story". The Blue Duck Inn Hotel. Blue Duck Inn. Retrieved 28 December 2010.
- "Omeo & District Football League". GameDay: The home of grassroots sport. SportingPulse Network Partners. Retrieved 7 September 2010.
- "Omeo-Benambra Football Club". GameDay: The home of grassroots sport. SportingPulse Network Partners. Retrieved 7 September 2010.
- Country Racing Victoria. "Omeo District Racing Club". Retrieved 2011-03-16.
- Golf Select. "Omeo". Retrieved 2009-05-11.
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