History and Heritage
The Chaffey Trail
The Chaffey Trail tells the story of how Mildura became Australia’s first irrigated settlement in the midst of an arid land. Brothers George and William Chaffey
were developing an irrigation settlement in Ontario, California when they met the Victorian Cabinet Minister Alfred Deakin. Deakin was appointed by the Victorian Parliament to visit America on a fact finding mission.
The Chaffey’s model irrigation settlement impressed Deakin who in turn impressed them with the potential for irrigation from the Murray River in Australia.
The Chaffey brothers subsequently came to Australia and, after protracted negotiation, in 1887 purchased a then defunct pastoral lease to create the Mildura Irrigation Colony.
The Chaffeys adapted the plan of Ontario to the present site of Mildura. They developed a series of steam-driven pumps to lift the water from the Murray River, first into Kings Billabong then subsequently to various heights to irrigate up to 33,000 acres. The Psyche Pumps
(many believe the name came from Greek mythology: Psyche was the goddess of the soul) were a revolutionary design of George Chaffey. It was a triple expansion steam engine connected to three centrifugal pumps and driven by a wood burning boiler.
Visitors to the pumps can experience the original pump house, reconstructed pumps, steam engine and boiler house. The Chaffey brothers wanted to make Mildura a vibrant community. Their plans included many visionary concepts.
Today visitors can follow the self-drive Chaffey Trail to more than nine fascinating historical landmarks including Rio Vista Historic House
and the Mildura Station Homestead.
Further information is available from the Mildura Visitor Information Centre.
Mildura Sculpture Triennials
Visitors to Mildura can’t help but notice the number of substantial modern sculptures in public areas. These are the legacy of a series of remarkable events known broadly as Mildura Sculpture Triennials
. It all began modestly in 1961 as the Mildara Prize for Sculpture (Mildara was the sponsoring wine company) and in 1964 became the Mildura Sculpture Triennial, then finally in 1970 Sculpturescape. It was the first event to promote and encourage large scale contemporary sculpture, site-specific installations and performance art in Australia and was quite unique in the history of Australian art.