Ossario Day 2018

The Ossario, located in a quiet corner of the Murchison Cemetery was completed in 1961 and is a beautifully crafted Mediterranean style building. It contains the remains of Italian Prisoners of War and Internees who died on Australian soil during World War 2.

Murchison Ossario

Every year, on the second Sunday in November, hundreds of people gather to remember the 129 men and one woman for whom the Ossario is their last resting place.

On Sunday 11th November this year, a warm sunny day with a lovely clear blue sky, the occasion was again well attended by over 300 people. Mostly of Italian descent, they travel from Melbourne, interstate, overseas and across Victoria and are joined by locals who appreciate this special occasion. The ceremony is moving, suitably reverent and also colourful with many Italian Military Service uniforms, banners, flags, floral wreaths and bouquets in abundance.

Lining up at beginning of procession

The Official Service begins with a procession along the cypress lined path leading to the Ossario. Officials such as the Italian Consul General, Councillors from City of Greater Shepparton, representatives of many Italian Service and Military Clubs, Australian Returned Service groups, local school children, representatives of the Murchison Lions Club and Historical Society are called forward to walk towards the monument in the forecourt where they lay their floral tributes, then gather on the steps of the Ossario building.

Banners in the Procession




Floral tribute from Italian Service Club

This year I had the privilege of laying a beautiful floral wreath on behalf of the family of Nicola Evangelista whose family only recently discovered that his remains were housed in the Ossario. Joanne Tapiolas a Queensland author who recently published, Walking in their Boots telling the story of the Italian Prisoners of War in Queensland, organised the flowers for me from Avonlea Flowers, to place on the memorial. In the course of her research for the book, Joanne was able to locate Nicola in the Ossario at Murchison. The family, who live in Italy, only had knowledge from his war record that he had died in Australia but no more detail than that. To learn that his remains lie respectfully in the well cared for Ossario, and that each year there is a special memorial service, has given great peace to this family who have wondered about his whereabouts for over 70 years.

Name plate on coffin for Soldier Nicola Evangelista inside the Ossario

Floral wreath for Nicola on the monument









After the laying of floral arrangements, the singing of the Australian and Italian National Anthems takes place. Everyone observes a thoughtful and respectful silence as the most moving and heart wrenching trumpet rendition of Il Silenzio, (The Silence) is played. I have to confess it brings tears to my eyes every year.

The trumpet player

Various dignitaries address the crowd with messages about the significance of the occasion and appeals for this sacred place and those it honours not to be forgotten. A Catholic Mass is held in the Italian language including the singing of hymns familiar to many non-Italian speaking who are also present.

After the Ceremony is completed, those attending gather at the local Community Centre and in the Riverbank Gardens to enjoy lunch together and to be entertained by bands playing favourite Italian music and there is even some dancing!

Over the years the older generation who attended in the 1960’s, when as many as 1,200 people were said to be present, have passed away or are no longer well enough to make the journey to Murchison. We can only hope that the younger generation, particularly with Italian heritage and family connections with those whose remains lie in the Ossario, continue with this important pilgrimage each year to attend the Memorial Service.

Kay Ball
Murchison & District Historical Society

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Another Local History Book Launched

October seems to have been a month belonging to book events!

At a second launch on Sunday 28th October, in a beautiful country location appropriate for the new book, Noorilim: from wool to wine, author Jenny O’Donnell introduced her latest publication to Goulburn Valley residents and family descendants of the owners over the years of Noorilim Estate. All those attending enjoyed the benefit of a visit to Noorilim Estate and a delightful walk through the beautifully maintained gardens when the current owners, the Menzies family, opened the Coach House for the event. Afternoon tea provided by members of the Murchison Historical Society was also a treat.


The book – Noorilim: from wool to wine

Very well received by all attending, the book relates the full account of the many owners and how they related to the holding of this notable property from 1840 to the present day. Many different uses, owners from varied walks of life, long and short tenures of the property and intriguing events are revealed through Jenny’s diligent research. Many people connected to the property had snapshots of the history of Noorilim relating to their own involvement but a comprehensive record such as Jenny has compiled was not in existence and it is wonderful to have such a complete account of the property’s long history. The mansion, built in 1878, is in stunning restored condition and meticulously maintained as are the surrounding park-like grounds. It is currently possible to visit Noorilim for tours as well as for functions and arranged events.


Jenny O’Donnell signing books with Gail Gregory and John Gribben looking on


Author Jenny O’Donnell

The publication consists of 128 pages A4 size and has many colour images, maps, and photographs. Books can be purchased for $25. at Murchison Heritage Centre, Stevenson St, Murchison (open Saturday mornings 10 am – 12.30 pm, at Noorilim Estate, 205 Wahring-Murchison East Rd, Wahring (see website for open times) and Royal Historical Society, 239 A’Beckett St, Melbourne (open Mon – Fri).


Fine feathered friend bid us farewell as we left Noorilim after the book launch

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The book launch of Sam’s Meteorite on Sunday 7th of October was a great start to the week.

But more was in store! At the Victorian Community History Awards 2018 held at the Arts Centre in Melbourne the next day, our book, launched last year during History Week,  Art Captured, won best Local History – Small Publication Award! It was a total surprise as no winners or shortlist are announced before the event. It is a prestigious award and a wonderful promotion for our local history. All very exciting!

The book, compiled by Kay Ball, tells the story of Hans-Wolter von Gruenewaldt a Mining Engineer, who fled South Africa at the outbreak of war in order to avoid internment, only to be captured by the British and spend the next 6½ years as a Prisoner of War.
His dramatic journey took him to the other side of the globe, miraculously surviving the sinking of the Arandora Star and enduring inhuman treatment aboard the Dunera, on his way.
His Australian destination was the Goulburn Valley in central Victoria.
Due to his artistic creativity he left a visual legacy in the township of Murchison. But many years later when his son Axel gifted his extensive folio of art work to the local Historical Society, the amazing scope, diversity and extraordinary talent of Hans-Wolter von Gruenewaldt was fully revealed.

Comments from the judges: ‘This handsome book, based on Axel’s gift, is a significant addition to studies of detention camps in the Tatura district and the wealth of talent unwittingly transported to Australia by the crew of the Dunera.’

Book Review by Lee Sulkowska – Academic at Notre Dame University Melbourne, September 2018:  ‘Through the saturation of World War Two literature, this book is a standout, challenging the reader to relate to a man who was technically ‘the enemy’.’

Copies are available from Murchison, Rushworth, Tatura and Shepparton Museums, and Shepparton Visitor Information Centre for $25.00 and can be borrowed from GV Regional Library. In Melbourne, the book can be purchased from the Royal Historical Society Book Shop, 239 A’Beckett St.

Kay Ball with Royal Historical Society President Don Garden.jpg

Kay Ball with Don Garden, Royal Historical Society President.

Murchison Historical Society is grateful for the support from City of Greater Shepparton to stage History Week.

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History Week was celebrated from Sunday 7th October to Sunday 14th October and support for the celebrations is provided from Greater Shepparton Council.

As a forerunner to the 50th anniversary celebrations of the fall of the Murchison meteorite (scheduled for 27 – 29 September 2019), a children’s picture book, Sam’s Meteorite, was launched at Murchison Heritage Centre on Sunday, 7th October and was a fitting opening event for History Week 2018.

Former Murchison resident, Lorna Ward, Teaching and Learning Consultant – Literacy, launched the book written for 3 – 8 year-olds by Murchison’s Margaret Lock, together with colourful illustrations by Rodney Printers’ Justin Connors.

Lorna Ward launching Sam's Meteorite (2)

Lorna Ward launches Sam’s Meteorite

The book is about seven-year-old Sam who finds a piece of meteorite, alongside his family in their farm paddock after the Murchison meteorite shattered with hundreds of pieces landing in the Murchison district on Sunday, 28th September 1969.

The book is a blend of fact and fiction and was inspired not only by the fall of the spectacular Murchison meteorite, but by Margaret’s grandson Sam whose birthday falls the day before the meteorite’s anniversary.

Young children will enjoy reading and learning about the world-famous meteorite which has been continually studied and celebrated over the last 49 years.


Book was well received by guests

The picture book was well received by parents, children, friends and Historical Society members, and is for sale at $12.99 per copy from Murchison Heritage Centre, open Saturdays from 10.00am till 12.30pm. For enquiries about purchasing a copy, please contact Margaret on 03 5826 2398.

Marg and Sam 1 (2)

Marg Lock signs copies with grandson Sam, star of the story


Marg giving speech at launch (2)

Marg Lock thanks supporters






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Open Times at the Heritage Centre

Regular open times each Saturday morning from 10 am to 12.30 pm have resumed after being in recess for winter.

History Week is celebrated from Sunday 7th October to Sunday 14th of October this year. Murchison Historical Society will join in the occasion by the publication of a new children’s picture story book entitled Sam’s Meteorite suitable for children 3 – 8 years, and have the Heritage Centre in Stevenson Street open each day of this week, from 11 am to 2 pm. Entry is by gold coin donation.

The book tells the story of Sam, who lives on a farm in Murchison and the excitement surrounding the landing of the world famous Murchison meteorite. Margaret Lock is the author and the book is illustrated by Justin Connors of Rodney Printers in Tatura. The book will make an ideal gift for young children who love having a story read to them and for children starting to learn to read themselves.


We hope to see you at the Heritage Centre during History Week.

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Pick My Project is an initiative of the Victorian State government whereby the community can vote on a submitted project of their choice.
I am Kay Ball and a keen fan of the Murchison meteorite!


Kay with Murchison meteorite sample

My project in partnership with Murchison & District Historical Society is called: RARE AS MOON DUST – 50 YEARS SINCE MURCHISON METEORITE LANDED, a project to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the landing of the world-famous Murchison meteorite on 28th September 1969.

We will celebrate over the month of September 2019 with major events on the weekend of 27th, 28th and 29th. Activities planned range from fantastic sound and light cosmos show, re-enactment of the sonic boom that heralded the arrival of the meteorite, installation of an iconic sculpture in the gardens, unveiling of a mural, presentations by high profile guest speakers, stargazing and laser light show, space treasure hunt for children, book launch, display of meteorite and other exotic minerals, commemorative souvenirs and lots of fun! The event will offer an opportunity to acknowledge the significance of the Murchison meteorite and further our understanding of how it has added to world-wide knowledge of our solar system.
The opportunity to vote has already opened and will continue until 5pm on Monday 17 September 2018. Anyone who lives within 50km of Murchison and is 16 years or older is eligible to vote for this project.

To register your vote simply visit pickmyproject.vic.gov.au, or facebook.com/pickmyproject or ‘phone 1800 797 818.

I do hope you will consider to vote for this project that will fund the celebration of this important event that has resulted in a significant contribution to science. It will not only bring visitors to the region in September 2019, it will also provide ongoing attractions such as the planned sculpture by notable artist James Geurts, that will identify our town with an amazing event, the landing of the Murchison meteorite, now and into the future.
Your vote can make this happen!



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Murchison Meteorite Still Contributing to Science

A recently conducted study published in Nature Astronomy in July this year reveals the Murchison meteorite that broke up over the skies of Murchison in 1969, is still, 49 years later, providing material for scientific study and unlocking mysteries of our solar system. This current study of Murchison meteorite adds to the knowledge about the behaviour of the sun in its early existence.

Cosmochemist Dr. Philipp Heck, joint author of the paper who is Curator of Meteorites at Chicago Field Museum and Associate Professor at University of Chicago, describes the Murchison meteorite as ‘a treasure trove for science because it contains so much unaltered material from the very early solar system’.

Samples of the Murchison meteorite were analysed using a mass spectrometer at a University in Switzerland and gave scientist a picture of the sun’s violent behaviour during its early life. Using an infrared laser, gases were released from the crystals within the meteorite and the nature and changes in these gases showed that they had been subjected to bursts of radiation; violent, ferocious eruptions from the sun that irradiated matter nearby. The findings of this study provide evidence to support a long-held theory that the sun went through a very explosive time in its early life.

Murchison meteorite at 4.6 billion years old, predates the planets in our solar system as we know it today, and evidence of the effects of irradiation from the sun have not been found in younger meteorites that have landed on Earth or in rocks present on planet Earth nor moon rocks, which indicates the slowing down of that early violent and fiery behaviour at some stage.

It is no wonder the Murchison meteorite is regarded as a very significant meteorite and exhibits can be seen in museums across Australia and around the globe.

When we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the landing of the Murchison meteorite in September next year, Dr. Philipp Heck who was involved in this latest study, will be one of our high-profile guest presenters.

Kay Ball, President, Murchison & District Historical Society Inc.

Sample of Murchison meteorite on display at Melbourne Museum

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