50 towns in 50 days: Fertile fields in Bungaree

Bungaree publican Jenny Morley. PICTURE: LACHLAN BENCE

Bungaree publican Jenny Morley. PICTURE: LACHLAN BENCE

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IF there is one thing the people of Bungaree know, it is potatoes.

Home to a large number of Ballarat's spud growers and McCain Foods suppliers, the small town is probably best known by outsiders as the home to Danny Frawley, former St Kilda Football Club captain and media identity.

For the many generations of families that have grown up in the town, farming is a way of life.

The spirit of Bungaree is perhaps best perfectly summed up in a photograph taken in 1985 by renowned photographer Bruce Postle.

Postle, from Melbourne, was driving through Bungaree one day when a game of backyard cricket among children caught his eye.

He pulled over and took a photo of the iconic Australian pastime, but it was not until later he found out all 10 children playing the game were from the one family - the Steenhuis'.

Even to this day, if you are in Bungaree, chances are you will run into a Steenhuis, or a Frawley, or a Torpy or an O'Keefe.

As The Bridge Hotel (Bungaree's only pub) publican Jenny Morley says, everybody knows everybody in Bungaree.

And she would know, her family has owned the pub for 30 years.

"We all operate together, it's the way it's always happened," said Ms Morley.

"It's all about potatoes. We like it that way and that's why we choose to live out here."

"It's all about potatoes. We like it that way and that's why we choose to live out here."



The Basics

Municipality: Moorabool Shire

Population: 405

First settled: 1851

Main industries: Potato farming

Claim to fame: Former St Kilda Football Club and media identity Danny Frawley is the biggest name to come out of Bungaree. Ironically, Frawley was not named in Bungaree's team of the decade - he only played a handful of senior games at the club before moving to East Ballarat and then St Kilda.

Five fast facts:

1. Bungaree is named after Aboriginal word "Bungairee", which means hut.

2. A tornado blew through the town on June 24, 1927. It virtually flattened the town, which is the reason the frontage of many buildings are built in 1920s style.

3. On August 30, 1971, an Overland train to Adelaide derailed at the crossing through the town, which still exists. Nobody was killed, 17 passengers were injured.

4. One person was killed and seven seriously injured when a truck crashed into the police station in 1976. The station was knocked down after the crash.

5. Dennis Murphy was the first person from Bungaree to go to jail for murdering his best friend Patrick O'Meare in 1866. He was hanged in Ballarat in 1867.

Five things to do:

1. Check out The Bridge Hotel, Bungaree's only pub. There used to be three pubs in Bungaree, but just one survives these days. Why not drop in for a cold beer poured by publican Jenny Morley?

2. The famous Kryal Castle is just minutes down the road at the foot of Mount Warrenheip. It is currently undergoing a lucrative redevelopment and is expected to re-open early this year.

3. Aside from spud farming, football is the heart of Bungaree. Former St Kilda captain Danny Frawley is the most famous export to come out of the town, but the senior side has not won a premiership since 1991. Get down to the the footy oval and support the Demons.

4. Visit many of the historic attractions as part of the Bungaree History Walk. The pupils from Bungaree Primary School and the Bungaree and District Historical Society have compiled an extensive history of the town. Visit www.bungareehistorywalk.com

5. Get a glimpse of the potato farming life. Almost everywhere you look in Bungaree is a spud farm. Take a drive around and you can almost guarantee that if there is daylight, farmers will be out in the field.


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