All aboard for the gold mines! Fortem Australia recently held a wellbeing activity with a difference for West Gippsland first responder families, who stepped back in time to another era when life was tough and gold was found in the hills. It was a great turnout on Sunday 16th May, as the group visited Walhalla, had fun riding on the Walhalla Goldfields Railway and enjoyed a tour in the Long Tunnel Extended Gold Mine. It was great for our families to spend time with each other, learning and having an adventure together, but also an opportunity to connect with other local first responder families. Let’s hear from the Fortem team about the experience and highlights!
“We had a great mix of our four local agencies represented at this activity, including State Emergency Services (SES), Country Fire Authority (CFA), Victoria Ambulance and Victoria Police. There was also a really good mix of adults enjoying the day out together, and families with children who loved the adventure.
We started the adventure back in time with a one hour railway trip on the old train going through the lush valley. On one side of the train we looked down the steep drop at the rapidly running Stringers Creek with rocks and mini waterfalls and the steep hillside up the other side of the creek.
Out the other side of the open windows on the train, we passed hillside or rocky walls only inches away from our faces. The track had been cut into the hillside to carry the gold from this remote Victorian gold mining town to the nearest town and then on into Melbourne.
Did you know that Melbourne was built on the wealth gained from the gold found in Walhalla around the 1860s? An amazing fact that our first responders families learned on their way.
We enjoyed a picnic lunch at Stringers Park followed by a historic town tour led by Brian Brewer. He is not only a local Walhalla man of 6 generations but also a local Warragul CFA and regular participant of our activities. We had the privilege of being shown inside some of the local historic buildings and seeing the local CFA station, which happens to be built over the river! In the gold mining days, the fire station was put mainly to use with house fires.
Brian showed us how close the fires got to destroying the township during the Black Summer Fires of 2019/2020. As the result of the town being located at the bottom of the valley and fire travelling so slowly downhill, plus a sudden unexpected shower of rain of 7mm, the fire was put out, only destroying one building! What a privilege to be able to hear the insights of the local town from Brian and our local guides during the mine tour.
The day finished with an hour long tour into gold mine. We only got to go down one of the thirty-two levels! Our local guides entertained us with scary true stories, facts and the fascinating history of life in a gold mine and in a town of those days.
Interesting facts: Walhalla was got street lights in town before Melbourne but was the last town in Australia to get connected to mains power – in 1998!
This was a day of being active, learning and with great connection within and between our first responder families. It was thoroughly enjoyed by us all. If only we had counted the number of times it was exclaimed ‘This is great!’, ‘This is awesome!’, ‘This is so good’ or ‘This is so much fun!’ It would be worth it’s weight in gold!”
Find a Wellbeing Activity in the West Gippsland region on our Wellbeing Activity Calendar.