YARRAM - PORT ALBERT AND DISTRICT
South Gippsland, Victoria, Australia
and just some of the reasons why Yarram is a great place to live.
|There are countless opportunities to establish a business
in Yarram, Port Albert and the surrounding district.
Yarram is a township of some 2,100 people located 210 kilometres east of Melbourne in the rich dairy pasture country known as South Gippsland. The town was established to service the farming community which it maintains to this day, although timber is another major industry, and to a lesser extent, fishing through Port Albert. The Yarram and District Health Service serves approximately 6,370 residents in the region (1993), which could be ascribed to the boundaries of the old Shire of Alberton.
Like many rural regions, there is a great disparity between the wealth of several landowner farmers, and those who live with government assistance, but overall the region experiences modest wealth. Perhaps Yarram's greatest strength is its community support. The people are proudly parochial, both as a result of their isolation from the nearest major towns, Traralgon and Sale, and due to the pride of the people who appreciate the beautiful countryside and coastal regions. The townsfolk rallied to retain its shire administration in 1994, claiming that geographically Yarram was part of the south Gippsland coastal region, extending west toward Leongatha. The Victorian Government had other ideas, and after a token ‘consideration of views', Yarram and Port Albert were allocated at the bottom tip of the new Shire of Wellington that extends north and east toward the New South Wales border, with Sale as the administrative centre. If anything, this re-arrangement has made the people more parochial, and thus more aware of their future, recognising that if the town is to survive, as surely it shall, it will be in no small part due to the strength of its community.
According to A Profile of the Shire of Alberton, (1994), in 1991, the largest single industry in the Shire was agriculture. ‘The agricultural sector has experienced a variable result in recent years with dairying achieving the best results and sheep grazing the worst results. The Shire is reliant on industries and retail trades servicing the agricultural community which has continued to be slow. Building activity and the sale of land sites also reflect an era of small growth.' The people of Yarram and district have however some cause for optimism with the development of the timber industry, and the possibility of an aquaculture industry. The continued strength of the Yarram and District Health Service increases optimism, and although many young adults are leaving Yarram to pursue careers in the cities, the town offers a comfortable lifestyle with all the services required of a modern community.
There are concentrated pockets of aged residents which constitute a higher proportion of the population than the State average. Its coastal areas have attracted a significant retirement population and the slowing in the local economy has resulted in a reduction of job opportunities. The small proportions of young people aged between 15 and 24 reflect a general trend in rural communities where limited educational and work opportunities result in a proportion of this group leaving the area. The return of this group to take up local employment following education and training outside the area will be minimal unless the agricultural industry progresses or other industries are developed which will provide employment opportunities. This trend is not isolated to the Shire however, and is evident throughout rural Australia.
Yarram experienced a population growth in 1994 of 5.3%. The significance of the older population is shown in the statistics : the over-sixty residents in Yarram amount to 24.3% of the 2100 population, compared to a Victorian state average of 15.3%. [Clearly, these figures should be updated, but the general distribution remains similar).
There is also a high young population, under fifteen, of over 30% compared with 22% for the state. These figures are reflected in the direction that the Yarram and District Health Service is taking in providing support for the community. Clearly, elderly care is important, as is the support for children and young families.
The financial aspect is also important, and as indicated
previously, Yarram is a moderately wealthy community. Over 50% of
Yarram residents are in the low income bracket of less than $25,000 per
year earnings (1994). There is however a high proportion of rural sector
families earning above $40,000. Aged pensioners have increased by 22% from
1988 to 1993 within the district, with a steady, significant increase over
the past three years (to 1994). Sole parent benefit recipients have increased
by no less than 83% over the same period, whilst those on unemployment
have doubled during the period 1988-1993. Home ownership within the shire
boundaries is, at 50.5%, higher than the state average of 41.5%, thus reflecting
the stability of the older population.
Much has changed since the pioneering days that established Gippsland as the rich pastoral country that it is. Perhaps the best description of the current lifestyle of Yarram is "comfortable", an appropriate term coined by the (ex) Yarram and District Health Service CEO Peter Craighead. Perhaps a description in the Yarram Visitor's Guide is somewhat tongue-in-cheek, but it does give some indication as to it's tranquillity. "Visitors to the town can feel it's friendly atmosphere and can be seen strolling happily as the stress of city living just fades away." Nicely put, but it is generally the visitors who stroll casually down Commercial Road as the 'locals' have their farms and businesses to run, and on Thursday afternoon and Friday the commercial district is a hive of activity.
Yarram is a safe community with a very low crime rate. It is safe to walk the streets day and night, a necessity for all residents, particularly the elderly, women and children. No stranger-assault has occurred in the town in the twenty-five years that the writer has resided in Yarram. It has excellent education facilities from kindergarten and child care centres through to primary (state government and Roman Catholic), a fine secondary college, and a well established and active adult education centre. The arts and formal recreation are represented by a range of organised sports, regular cinema and theatre, Eisteddfod, and the popular Tarra Festival each Easter. The three major service clubs, Apex, Lions and Rotary, and Probus, are well represented, with a large number of other voluntary organisations support-ing the community. And adult-education and recreation is well represented with the Yarram and Community Learning Centre, and the University of the Third Age of Yarram.
The climate is slightly better than Melbourne with milder winters and summers, and on average, 142 days of rain per annum. Climate is import-ant, particularly to the aged, and the colder months do limit outdoor activities. Once outdoors however, there is a large range of interesting destinations for leisure activities. The Nooramunga Marine and Coastal Park covers over 30,000 hectares extending from Snake Island in the west to the start of the Ninety Mile Beach. The park provides a sheltered waterway, with sand island protection from Bass Strait, ideal for sailing. The region is a significant bird habitat, and the islands also provide a safe habitat for a range of small mammals including the introduced Hog Deer. The western end of the Ninety Mile Beach is only twenty minutes by vehicle from Yarram, with excellent surfing and a lifeguard-protected swimming area. Perhaps the greatest of the region's attractions is the Tarra-Bulga National Park, also only twenty minutes by car from Yarram. Superb Mountain Ash and Myrtle Beech provide a cool and sheltered environment for many varieties of ferns and bird life, including the lyrebird. Several paved walks provide an opportunity to enjoy the cool fresh air at all times of the year.
Transport to the town is by road - along the South Gippsland Highway, or the Princes Highway to Traralgon and then south along the Hyland Highway as it is called (but is really a winding single carriageway over the Strzelecki Range. There are four fully function banks in town - ANZ, Bendigo, Commonwealth, National, and a sub-branch of the Bank of Melbourne. Yarram was one of the first regional centres in Australia to have a POP (point of presence internet connection) installed in 1997 through the national provider Netspace, providing local call access to the World Wide Web. [Now of course we have several connection opportunities for the whole district through Telstra and Optus, and NBN (by landline, wireless and satelite), and by rural wireless and satelite.
The shire base is in Sale, a fifty minute drive east along the South Gippsland Highway. The previous Alberton Shire, once based in Yarram, closed in December 1994 as part of the Victorian Local Government Board's review of the Gippsland area. The new municipality, the Wellington Shire, now comprises the former shires of Alberton, Maffra, Avon, the former City of Sale, and part of the Shire of Rosedale.
Like so many towns in Australia, Yarram has a steady labour pool. Opportunities for individual employment are available on the land, in the timber industry (particularly at the local mill), and in general commerce.
Yarram would welcome new business into the region. Opportunities exist for aquaculture and further development of land-based industries. Within the township there is an opportunity for a computer store that can mutually benefit by taking the region into the 21st century with modern technology, both for business and domestic use. The establishment of an antiques and craft shop would compliment the tourist development of the area. A health complex is required, incorporating squash, swimming, gymnasium and daily health activities. Squash courts are available in town and are on the market.
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