Camperdown is a historically significant rural town in southwestern Victoria, Australia, 190 kilometres (120 mi) west of the state capital, Melbourne.
- Area:69.338 km2
- Elevation:172 m
- Local Government Area:Corangamite Shire Council
Camperdown is a historically significant rural town in southwestern Victoria, Australia, 190 kilometres (120 mi) west of the state capital, Melbourne. At the 2016 census, Camperdown had a population of 3,369.
The Djargurd Wurrung people were the traditional Aboriginal people of the Camperdown area, who had lived in the area for countless generations as a semi-nomadic hunter gatherer society. The first British settlers, the Manifold brothers (Thomas, John and Peter Manifold), arrived in the area from Van Diemen's Land (Tasmania) after 1835 to establish sheep and cattle runs.
Settlement was met with resistance by some of the local Aborigines, the Murdering Gully massacre taking place nearby. The area's history records instances of mutual assistance and friendship between native and settler people. Notable on this account is the family of David Fenton, the Scottish Presbyterian shepherd and drover who built the first house in Camperdown in 1853.The original settlement was several miles to the north, near where the racecourse now is located. The settlement was called Timboon, but after a wet winter it was decided to move the town to higher ground nestled at the base of Mount Leura. With the relocation of the town, the local lake then known as Lake Timboon reverted to its indigenous name of Golongulac now known as Lake Colongulac.
The town was surveyed in 1851 and some of the founding fathers had Duncan as their Christian name. Wanting something more prestigious than Duncan as the town name it was decided to name the township Camperdown after most notable Duncan at the time, the Scottish naval hero Lord Viscount Adam Duncan the Earl of Camperdown. The first dwelling was erected on the site of the present Commercial Hotel in 1853 and the Post Office opened on 1 January 1854 replacing an earlier one in the area named Timboon.In 1883 Wombeetch Puuyuun (also known as Camperdown George) died at the age of 43 and was buried in a bog outside the bounds of Camperdown Cemetery. His friend, James Dawson was shocked at this burial upon his return from a trip to Scotland, and personally reburied Wombeetch in Camperdown Cemetery. He appealed for money to raise a monument, but finding little public support, he primarily funded the monument himself. The 7 metre obelisk was erected as a memorial to Wombeetch Puuyuun and the Aborigines of the district, and has been described as being still inspiring today.It became the service centre for the vast pastoral empires of the region. The Port Fairy railway line was opened in 1883, and the Timboon railway line was constructed in 1892.
By the mid 20th century Camperdown had emerged as a more diverse centre for dairy farming which drew on its rich volcanic soil, for woolgrowing and for produce processing industries. The Camperdown Magistrates' Court closed on 1 January 1990.The town made the news in 1991 went a industrial dispute at the local abattoir. The dispute over pay and conditions occasionally turned violent between Police and picketers. The owner closed the site and the export licence transferred to another plant in Shepparton. 130 casual jobs were lost and many workers had to leave town in search for new employment.
More bad news for the town when the local milk factory relocated to a more modern plant in Cobden.
By the late 20th century the town had become a major centre for tourism because of its unspoiled 19th century architecture and as a gateway to the southern tourist attractions of the Otway Ranges, the Great Ocean Road and the 'Shipwreck Coast'.
In more recent years, however, the drought in Australia in the 21st has affected Camperdown's dairy industry.
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