Community plunge into water debate

Community plunge into water debate

14 Apr 2009

Central Victorians have a rare chance to engage with the colourful history and challenging future of water management across the region at a free public seminar in Bendigo tomorrow.

The seminar will spearhead the 2009 Forum Series organised by the La Trobe University’s Arts and Planning faculty, and feature well-known Bendigo historian Dr Geoff Russell and Coliban Water chairman John Brooke.

Seminar convenor, Assoc Prof Robbie Robertson, predicts the ongoing debate about the supply and use of water in Central Victoria should generate a great deal of interest.

“Dr Russell’s recent post-graduate research at La Trobe Bendigo clearly demonstrates that our current concerns over water are nothing new.
“Rather, ever since the first Europeans rushed to this region in search of gold in the early-1850s, the supply of water has been the crucial driving force behind the development of Bendigo, Castlemaine and a host of smaller local communities.

“So this seminar offers us a chance to not only learn more about that history, but also hear from Coliban Water about plans to secure the water we’ll need to survive and grow well into the future,” Assoc Prof Robertson said.

As part of his presentation, Dr Russell will explain the significance of the unique heritage water plans on display during April at La Trobe University Bendigo’s Visual Arts Centre in View Street.

“This display’s been generously supported by Coliban Water as part of the 150th Anniversary of the first water supply system for the Bendigo goldfields, commenced in 1859 by the Bendigo Water Works Company.

“Many of these beautiful drawings were drafted by the brilliant Irish engineer Joseph Brady in December 1858 and have never before been placed on public exhibition."

“Importantly, they provide us with a very rare glimpse into the age of the Industrial Revolution, when civil engineers dramatically changed the landscape with grand infrastructure: canals, railways, roads, bridges and water supply schemes,” Dr Russell explained.

In 1862, Brady designed the prize-winning Coliban System of Waterworks which still supplies Bendigo, Castlemaine, Kyneton and other neighbouring centres.

Assoc Prof Robertson said the 27-year battle to complete that scheme formed the subject of Dr Russell’s PhD thesis, which he has now adapted into a new and long-awaited book titled: Water for Gold!

“La Trobe Bendigo is very proud that our post-grad students are engaged in topical and relevant local research, and they’re able to share their work and ideas with a much wider public audience,” Assoc Prof Robertson added.

The forum will be held at La Trobe University’s Visual Arts Centre, 121 View Street, Bendigo on Wednesday 15 April, commencing at 6.00pm sharp. Seating is limited, so bookings are essential by phoning Tamara Pellas at Coliban Water on 5434 1392.

Water for Gold! is available from Australian Scholarly Publishing at




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