|Population||1,078 (2016 census)|
|LGA(s)||Shire of Mitchell|
Puckapunyal (more formally the Puckapunyal Military Area, but also known as the Puckapunyal Camp or Puckapunyal Army Base, and colloquially as "Pucka") is an Australian Army training facility and base 10 km west of Seymour, in central Victoria, south-eastern Australia.
Puckapunyal is a small restricted-access town inhabited mainly by about 280 families of the Australian Defence Force community, with an associated area of about 400 km2 of bushland and former pasture used for field training exercises. It is home to the Australian Army's School of Armour, the School of Artillery and the School of Transport, along with the Combined Arms Training Centre, the Joint Logistics Unit, and two transport squadrons. The Royal Australian Armoured Corps Memorial and Army Tank Museum is on the base's grounds, and the facilities are used by the Victorian Australian Army Cadets Brigade. Apart from the military education and training venues, most accommodation consists of single-storey brick houses with backyards. It contains a primary school, shops, a variety of sporting facilities, and a theatre.
The area was first used as a mobilisation and training area during World War I. During the early 1920s, an ordnance store and rifle range were built on the site. In 1939, the area was formally established as Puckapunyal Camp: the name was taken from the Aboriginal name for a large hill within the training area, which has been variously translated as "death to the eagle", "the outer barbarians", "the middle hill", "place of exile", and "valley of the winds". The base was used to train the Second Australian Imperial Force, as other Army establishments were at capacity training Militia units. The original site was too small for wartime training, and an additional 5,700 hectares (14,000 acres) were acquired. As well as Australian units, the United States Army's 41st Infantry Division trained at Puckapunyal.
During the 1950s, Puckapunyal was host to the 3rd National Service Training Brigade (see National Service Act 1951). During the Vietnam War, national servicemen conscripted under the National Service Act 1964 outside of Queensland and New South Wales were sent to Puckapunyal (soldiers from these states trained at Kapooka or Singleton). They were trained by the 2nd Recruit Training Battalion, with up to 4,000 soldiers at Puckapunyal at any given time.
By 1988, subsequent land acquisitions had increased the training area to 39,290 hectares (97,100 acres).
The National Service barracks were transferred to the Third Training Group in the 1980s to provide recruit and promotion training for General Reserve soldiers and also promotion training for Reserve Officers attending the Reserve Command and Staff College. This continued until the closure of the Training Group in June 2000.
During 1999 and 2000, citizens from Kosovo were housed in the Training Group barracks (as well as at other military barracks around the country) as part of a temporary protection program called Operation Safe Haven in support of the NATO activity in the province. They returned to Kosovo once the situation there had stabilized.
Puckapunyal Restoration and Conservation Project
In the 1970s and 1980s, the Army undertook a land rehabilitation program, as decades of heavy use had caused major land degradation. At the time, it was "one of the largest single landscape revegetation operations yet attempted in Australia and perhaps anywhere." Wilkie summarises the project as follows:
Historical land use impacts and heavy military usage, with little attention paid to land management or maintenance, eventually left the area barren and denuded. Although attempts at revegetation occurred in the 1950s, by the 1960s parts of the site were impassable because of waterlogging and severe erosion. For the tanks of the armored division, these areas were unsafe and unusable. One newspaper described it as the “most desolate and barren military camp in Victoria.”
By 1969, the Army was faced with two alternatives: “(1) to rehabilitate the area, or (2) to abandon it with consequent loss of facilities and the certainty of having to face similar problems elsewhere in the future.” The former option was taken. The Puckapunyal Restoration and Conservation Project began work in 1971. Officially operating under the auspices of Defence, the research and scientific support for the project was provided by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), while the Victorian Soil Conservation Authority managed operations and provided its expertise in soil erosion and land restoration.
By 1985, the extensive program of earthworks, soil and water erosion control, and revegetation had been completed on 20,000 hectares of land. Some 5,000 hectares of barren and denuded landscape was repaired, and 16,000 hectares of improved pasture had been established. At the completion of the project, land management and scientific officers were appointed to continually monitor and research the Puckapunyal site. A rest and restore program was implemented, creating “no go” areas where the land was overused, where new vegetation was establishing itself or was otherwise sensitive to environmental changes, or where research was being conducted.
Elsewhere, Wilkie has argued that "Although conservation programmes emphasised utility for defence requirements, the restoration project of the 1970s and 1980s had, in reality, reimagined Puckapunyal as both a military training area and a natural landscape for vegetation and habitat for animals ... the restoration project appears to have been a net benefit to native animal populations, providing habitat and sanctuary for various species that are endemic to the grassy woodlands that have otherwise not been well protected under traditional conservation models ... Puckapunyal provided a testing ground for defence approaches to animal conservation that continue to develop to this day."
The Puckapunyal Military Area (PMA) experiences cool to cold winters, when most of the average annual rainfall of 596 mm occurs, and dry, warm to hot, summers. The site is characterised by a series of rocky hills and ridges trending north to south, with the highest parts around Mount Puckapunyal (413 m) and Mount Kappe (384 m). The soils are mainly duplex, having low natural fertility and water holding capacity, with smaller areas of deep alluvium. Surface drainage is oriented towards the north and north east, with surface runoff flowing into the Goulburn River. All streams in the PMA are seasonal.
Flora and fauna
The PMA contains box-ironbark forest that forms one of the largest discrete remnants of this threatened ecosystem in Victoria. Some 706 species of vascular, and 170 of non-vascular, plant have been recorded. Two species, clover glycine and trailing hop-bush, are nationally threatened. Records have been made of 44 mammals, 18 reptiles, 12 frogs, 11 fish and over 140 invertebrates.
The entire PMA, along with two small reserves and an army munitions storage site at nearby Mangalore, has been identified by BirdLife International as a 435 km2 Important Bird Area (IBA) because it supports the largest known population of bush stone-curlews in Victoria. It is also regularly visited by endangered swift parrots, often in large numbers. Diamond firetails are common residents. Other significant birds recorded from the site (out of a total of 207 species) are regent and painted honeyeaters, flame and pink robins, Australasian and black-backed bitterns, powerful and barking owls, and white-throated and spotted nightjars.
In popular culture
- Australian Bureau of Statistics (27 June 2017). "Puckapunyal (State Suburb)". 2016 Census QuickStats. Retrieved 25 August 2020.
- Dennis et al. (eds.), The Oxford Companion to Australian Military History, p. 435
- Dennis et al. (eds.), The Oxford Companion to Australian Military History, pp. 435–6
- Dennis et al. (eds.), The Oxford Companion to Australian Military History, p. 436
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- "Information about Puckapunyal". Defence Housing Australia. Archived from the original on 25 June 2011. Retrieved 24 September 2011.
- "Puckapunyal". Australian War Memorial. Retrieved 12 July 2011.
- "Visit of Mr. Chris. Mudd, F.L.S., F.R.G.S." The Broadford Courier And Reedy Creek Times. X (10). Victoria, Australia. 11 May 1900. p. 3. Retrieved 3 April 2019 – via National Library of Australia.
- "Unit Information—1st Armoured Regiment, Vietnam". Australian War Memorial. Retrieved 12 July 2011.
- Ham, Vietnam, p. 172
- Horner & Bou, Duty First, pp. 155–156
- "Safe havens: two cautionary tales". Inside Story. Retrieved 8 June 2017.
- Tomkins, Richard (8 June 2017). "Australia tests combat recon vehicles". UPI. Retrieved 8 June 2017.
- R. M. Moore et al., Ecological Studies and Conservation Projects on Army Training Areas, 1974 (Canberra: CSIRO Division of Land Use Research, 1976)
- Wilkie, Benjamin. "Bombs and Biodiversity: A Case Study of Military Environmentalism in Australia". Arcadia. Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society. Retrieved 9 December 2020.
- Wilkie, Benjamin, 'Defending nature: Animals and militarized landscapes in Australia', in Nancy Cushing and Jodi Frawley (eds) Animals Count: How Population Size Matters in Animal-Human Relations. London: Routledge, 2018.
- BirdLife International. (2011). Important Bird Areas factsheet: Puckapunyal. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 2011-09-23.
- "IBA: Puckapunyal". Birdata. Birds Australia. Retrieved 23 September 2011.
- 17th Infantry Brigade (1940). "Puckapunyal: Official Journal of the 17th Australian Infantry Brigade". Australian Army. Retrieved 3 April 2019. Cite journal requires
- Dennis, Peter; Grey, Jeffrey; Morris, Ewan; Prior, Robin (2008). The Oxford Companion to Australian Military History (2nd ed.). South Melbourne, VIC: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-551784-2. OCLC 271822831.
- Ham, Paul (2007). Vietnam: The Australian War. Pymble, NSW: HarperCollins. ISBN 978-0-7322-8237-0. OCLC 225613062.
- Horner, David; Bou, Jean, eds. (2008). Duty First: A History of the Royal Australian Regiment (2nd ed.). Crows Nest, New South Wales: Allen & Unwin. ISBN 978-1-74175-374-5.
- Miller, Patrick; Australian Construction Services (1990). Puckapunyal Army Camp, Puckapunyal, Victoria: Summary History. Australian Construction Services. Retrieved 3 April 2019.