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|Population||1,949 (2006 census)|
|Elevation||22 m (72 ft)|
|LGA(s)||Shire of Wellington|
|State electorate(s)||Gippsland East|
Stratford is a town on the Avon River in Victoria, Australia, 232 kilometres (144 mi) east of Melbourne on the Princes Highway in Shire of Wellington. At the 2006 census, Stratford had a population of 1950. The town services the local regional community and travellers on the Princes Highway. Stratford's principal industries are dairying, sheep, cattle and horse breeding and vegetable crops. The town has numerous coffee shops and cafes, a cellar door for a local winery, Design Gallery, model railway shop, a pub, parks and playgrounds for car travellers to break their journey.
The origin of the town's name is unclear. Many[who?] believe it derives from Stratford-upon-Avon in England, William Shakespeare's birthplace, a view which is lent credence by the fact that it is located by the river Avon. Locals have embraced the connection with Shakespeare and a Shakespeare on the River Festival has been a successful annual event since 1989, incorporating works of Shakespeare and modern Australian plays. In 1998 the town formally became a member of the Stratford Sister Cities program to promote friendship and cultural exchange between participating countries.
The River Avon has a local reputation as a source for river polished gemstones, particularly agate, and for rapidly rising during increased rainfall upstream.
Three kilometres south-east of Stratford is a 56-hectare (140-acre) park called Knob Reserve (formerly known as the "Forest of Arden"), part of the Gunai/Kurnai Bataluk Cultural Trail, which winds its way through East Gippsland, highlighting the places of cultural significance to the first inhabitants. There are picnic facilities and an annual country music festival is held at Knob Reserve.
The town has an Australian rules football team, nicknamed the Swans; who have been competing in the East Gippsland Football League since 2012. They had previously competed in the North Gippsland Football League from 2004-11.
The town has a cricket team competing in the Sale-Maffra Cricket Association. They have won 4 A-Grade premierships since reforming in 1978.
Angus McMillan named the Avon River after the river of the same name in his native Scotland. In 1840 he established a pastoral run at Bushy Park, north-west of the township. William Odell Raymond established a run in the area in 1842, and built his house, Strathfieldsaye, during 1848–54. European settlement did not take place without resistance, and in return, massacres were inflicted by Angus McMillan and others on Gunai people, especially between the years of 1840 and 1850.
The township was established in the late 1850s and the Post Office opened on 1 May 1858.
With the 1860s gold rush to the Omeo and Dargo goldfields, the town of Stratford prospered. Historic buildings include the RSL Hall (1866), the Church of Holy Trinity (1868), the Methodist Church (1873), and the Post Office (1884).
In 1863 Reverend Friedrich Hagenauer established Ramahyuck Mission on the banks of the Avon River near Lake Wellington to house the Ganai survivors from west and central Gippsland. The name combines "Ramah", the home of Samuel in the First Book of Kings, with "yuck", an Aboriginal term reputedly meaning "our place". The mission sought to discourage all tribal ritual and culture, and replace it with Christian values and European customs. The Mission closed in 1908 and the few remaining residents were moved to Lake Tyers Mission.
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