Rainbow is like many country towns – an oasis in the middle of vast agriculture and wilderness areas; areas that can be harsh but also productive and rich and where majestic wedge-tailed eagle regularly nest in giant red-gum trees and soar on rising thermals of hot air. Unique gardens, a vibrant main-street centrepiece and spectacular hand-painted murals provide visitors with a surprise and immediate understanding on what makes this place tick.
Rainbow is located in the southern Mallee district of Victoria, approximately 400km North West of Melbourne.
Located approximately 400km North West of Melbourne, Rainbow was settled after the surveying and subdivision of the land area in 1893 and establishment of the railway line in 1899.
Rainbow derived its name from a local natural feature known as ‘Rainbow Rise’ because of the colourful wildflowers that grew on a crescent shaped ridge that was located west of the current township.
The Wotjobaluk people were the original inhabitants of the local area and although the Mallee plains were heavily wooded and predominantly sandy soil German settlers from South Australia and landholders in the Jeparit district soon made their way to the district.
Following increased pressure from a range of sources, and after the undertaking of a survey program, one square mile blocks (640 acres) land leases were made available from the Colony of Victoria. The first in the area, ’Halbacutya Station’ established by John Coppock in 1846, stretched from Lake Hindmarsh to the northern end of Lake Albacutya.
As the farming community expanded and land subdivisions were created in 1893, further land was cleared and fenced, homes and schools were built and a “Metropolis of the Mallee” was created that included a newspaper, churches, department stores, hospital, hardware and timber merchants and its own electricity supply by 1911.
The Federation of Australia in 1901 was supported locally which is evident in Rainbow’s street names: Federal, King, Queen and Albert Streets reflect the sense of pride in the Empire while Sanders, Taverner, Ryan and Gray acknowledge local and colonial politicians of the time.
The arrival of the railway was a boon for Rainbow and district providing a regular, reliable and relatively fast freight and passenger service between Melbourne, Rainbow and towns in between. Essential supplies, including water, building materials, stock food and other merchandise, were delivered to Rainbow more easily and local produce could be shipped far and wide.
Confidence remained high within the community for many years and many iconic structures were built including the Mecca Cinema, hotels and Yurunga Homestead.
As with other small towns many of Rainbow’s younger citizens showed loyalty and courage by joining the armed forces to fight wars including the Great War, Second World War and the Vietnam War. The Cenotaph in Federal Street pays homage to those who did not return.
Rainbow takes its mantle as the Gateway to the Mallee with pride. The community has proved to be resilient and will accept the challenges that come its way in the future in the same way it has done for over 100 years – with pride, enthusiasm and a can do attitude.
Rainbow is a town with a big heart, a relaxed lifestyle, close proximity of a unique natural environment ideally suited to recreational pursuits, and superb recreational, medical, hospital, aged care and educational facilities.
Although broad acre grain farming remains the predominant industry in the area, other industries such as grain receival, natural resource management, rural merchandise supply centres and a range of retail and service businesses contribute to the town’s employment and economic stability.
As the Gateway to the Mallee, residents of Rainbow are aware of the opportunities tourism brings to the district as evident by the beautifully kept Federal Street gardens and the historic murals at various locations around town.
Pella Church, Yurunga Homestead and Rainbow Archive have local historic significance while the Amy Johnson Highway, Lake Hindmarsh, Lake Albacutya, Outlet Creek, Wyperfeld National Park and the Birdcage Reserve all offer recreational pursuits such as bird watching, bush walking and flora and fauna viewing in addition to fishing at times when the lakes and creeks have sufficient water in them.
Lake Hindmarsh and Lake Albacutya are the terminal lakes of the Wimmera River system and due to the continuing drought both have been dry for a number of years; however there is Government Legislation in place that provides for environmental flows to the river system since the completion of the Wimmera Mallee Pipeline. It is anticipated that there will be sufficient volume in these environmental flows that will enable water to reach at least Lake Hindmarsh and possibly Lake Albacutya which will prove to be a major economic boost for both Rainbow and neighbouring Jeparit.
There are over 70 active community groups in Rainbow covering a wide range of sporting, educational, health and community organisations and functions. As with many smaller communities volunteers are the lifeblood of the town and without the efforts of these people, organisations and activities would cease to exist.
The success of events such as the annual A&P Society Agricultural Show, and the Rainbow Archives are examples of what can be achieved through the efforts of volunteers.
The widely renowned Rainbow Murals provide a colourful pictorial acknowledgement and understanding of the life and history of the early pioneers, town and district.
Built in 1901 by local tradesmen using locally mined sandstone, Pella Church and the adjoining manse and primary school are a reminder of the extent of German settlement in the area. The church houses a magnificently restored pipe organ and a visit to the church to hear the local organists is a must.
The manse and primary school both house historical displays of the local area.
Yurunga Homestead is huge Edwardian style home made of brick and limestone. Built in 1909 for Mr A.G. Cust, the homestead now displays furniture, antiques and historical displays and is regularly open to the public.
Established in 1909 and declared a National Park in 1921, Wyperfeld National Park is one of Victoria’s largest National Parks and is well known for its array of native flora and fauna including kangaroos, emus, birds, spinifex, mallee scrub, heath and native pine, river red gum and black box trees.
Although there is a series of lakes within Wyperfeld National Park, they rarely contain water as they only fill if the Wimmera River, Lake Hindmarsh and subsequently Lake Albacutya flood.
There are various camping grounds and picnic facilities situated throughout Wyperfeld, with some accessible only by four wheel drive.
The Rainbow Archive is situated in the old Masonic Lodge Hall and provides a very informative look into the history of Rainbow and district.
The largest freshwater lake in Victoria, Lake Hindmarsh, (although currently dry) is a haven for holiday makers, fishing, water skiing and boating enthusiasts. It is also home to a wide range of water birds and other native flora and fauna.
Four Mile Beach, the most popular camping area has powered sites, toilets, showers, a boat ramp and electric barbeques.
Edward Eyre camped at Lake Hindmarsh whilst exploring an overland route between Melbourne and Adelaide in 1838. He named the lake after the Governor of South Australia, Sir John Hindmarsh.
Lake Albacutya is approximately 15km north of Rainbow and when full a popular boating, fishing, yabbying and swimming location. When dry, it is still a popular camping, four wheel driving, bushwalking, bird watching and nature study destination.
According to local folklore Albacutya means ‘where the quandongs grow’ in reference to the fruit of a native tree that indigenous and early settlers used to eat.
Sport is often considered the social fabric of many country communities and Rainbow is no exception with its numerous sporting clubs including football, netball, cricket, tennis, golf, bowls, badminton and darts.