Poowong, 2017 Capital of Gippsland



Population: 610

Poowong’s motto; `the heart of the South Gippsland Dairy’ says it all. 

Located 113 kilometres south-east of Melbourne, Poowong was built by dairy farmers and continues to serve a strong local dairy industry.

The town takes its name from an Aboriginal word meaning carrion and is surrounded by dairy farms.

Farm selections were first taken up in the area in about 1874. The Poowong township was surveyed soon after the first church/school opened in 1878.

The rolling hills around Poowong were covered by dense rainforest but tree felling revealed fertile slopes that were perfect for pastures. 

Dairy farmers soon prospered and the Poowong butter factory opened in 1892, along with a saleyard attached to the local hotel which was replaced in 1899 by a shire-operation.

While the town missed out on a railway, the region’s agricultural success ensured steady growth and development which included a swimming pool, mechanics’ institute, hotel, school, and welfare centre.

Poowong’s Sculpture Park has beautiful wooden sculptures and spectacular views of South Gippsland, and visitors to the area can enjoy the Poowong Pioneer Chapel – the original Wesleyan Church building now run by the local historical society - and the town’s historic cemetery which is an attraction in its own right.

The loss of the butter factory in 1986 was a blow to the town but factories at Longwarry and Leongatha still served local farmers. United Dairy Power (UDP) later established a milk depot in Poowong to process milk and yoghurt products. It was bought by Burra Foods in 2015.

At the 2011 census, dairy farming accounted for 13.9 per cent of employment in Poowong and its surrounds. The area’s proximity to Melbourne has helped Poowong to maintain its population and property values over recent years. 

The township’s pleasant country hospitality is backed by a proud community that works together to face and defeat any challenge that emerges.

Throughout the fluctuations of the dairy industry, Poowong has remained an active community, supporting and encouraging initiatives that benefit the town. The community has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars and volunteered for vital infrastructure projects such as sporting facilities, a pool, a school, a library and a kindergarten. 

It may be a small rural area, but Poowong knows how to foster community spirit. For many years the town hosted a Dairy Expo and today; a family fun day, ladies market and school bush dance keep that connectedness alive.

As Gippsland’s 2017 LEGENDAIRY Capital, Poowong’s love of the land and community spirit will be on display as the Poowong Community Consultative Committee supports Poowong Landcare’s Weed Watch Program.

They are planning an awareness program to take a proactive, people-powered approach to managing weeds such as Ragwort, which is noxious to cattle. 
The campaign will include signs, brochures, advertising and community workshops and participating properties will display a ‘We are Weed Watchers’ sign. It will address a major issue for the environment and ensure the continued productivity and prosperity of the local dairy industry.