It was interesting to gaze around the room and notice the intense interest and pleasure on member’s faces as they listened to David speak; there were quite a number of us with an attachment to the area south of Colac and adjacent to the Otways. The Heytesbury Settlement Scheme was introduced in the 1960’s by the Bolte Government; the forest area being cleared in order to expand the dairy industry. Initially 2 pilot farms were cleared and sewn to pasture, then more settlers took up land in the 60’s, the Kraft factory was built at Simpson and the PO was established in’ 62. Simpson grew with shops, schools, churches, commercial factories and other services for the 400 established farms. Applicants were worldwide and it was like winning the lottery to be granted a plot of land to be able to establish oneself as a farmer.

The last block was allocated in ’76 and farmers were assigned 200 acres of land, a 3-bedroom home, dairy, hayshed, machinery shed, 2 dams, materials to fence 10 paddocks, each with a water trough. Despite the hard work people learnt on the job and many prospered. Settlers were provided with a 40 year 4% fixed rate loan through the Rural Finance Corp. Farmers would plant rows of trees to shelter cattle from the coastal winds, but farming the newly cleared land was a difficult task until they realised the value of trace elements and fertilisers. Some later sold out to the Bluegum industry and a population decline was seen in the area.

David shared personal memories of growing up on their farm and a great insight into family life in the bush. He said it was an important chapter in the rural history of Victoria, a leading land development project with 378 farms established for the settling of families. When the Soldier Settlement Commission merged with Rural Finance Corp, David’s uncle Hec Fisher was appointed Regional Officer during 1980’s-1990’s. He retired after 41 years’ service and was awarded the Public Service Medal in the ’92 Australia Day Honours.

Dan Furlan thanked David for an extremely interesting talk and called for questions, of which
there were many.