2017 LEGENDAIRY CAPITAL OF THE WESTERN VICTORIA DAIRY REGION
Simpson was founded on dairy, and continues to thrive on dairy.
In 1946, the Soldier Settlement Commission set up an advisory committee to look at a possible settlement of an area in the large bushland tract known as the Heytesbury Forest.
As part of the Heytesbury Settlement Scheme, 43,000 hectares of forest land was cleared to create pastures for up to 500 dairy farms each running 50 cows.
The project was officially authorised in 1956 by the Victorian Government and in 1960 the first settlers took up their farms. Eventually 378 farms were established.
Located south of the Princes Highway nestled in a triangle between Colac, Cobden and Port Campbell, times were tough in Simpson’s early years, but that only fortified the “backs against the wall” spirit that continues to drive the community.
Today the Heytesbury Settlement is widely recognised as a vitally important chapter in Victoria’s rural history. The land was well suited to dairy and it remains one of Australia’s most productive dairying regions.
As a community based on agriculture, Simpson is inherently resilient and innovative.
The town, named after the first chairman of the Soldier Settlement Commission H.L. (Les) Simpson, has continued to develop to meet the needs of local residents.
The post office opened in 1962, followed by churches in 1963. Simpson Primary School was officially opened in 1972 and the public hall in 1976. In 2017, there are 96 students enrolled at the school, mostly bussed in from the surrounding dairy farming areas.
The Kraft dairy factory was commissioned in 1966 and operated under various other owners including National Foods and Lion until its closure in 2014.
However, the town’s links to the dairy industry continue and today the biggest employer is Heytesbury Stockfeeds which services the dairying industry across the region.
Regardless of where you look, Simpson is a dairy town.
Dairy farms still dominate the region and the town is home to many retired dairy farmers, farm workers and people working in farm support services who contribute to community life. At the 2011 census, dairy farming accounted for nearly 50 per cent of local employment.
Simpson boasts a thriving community spirit that includes sporting clubs, Lions Club, Men’s Shed, Community Centre, Car Club, Cattlemen’s Club and volunteer CFA brigade. Simpson is also home to the annual Heytesbury Agricultural Show.
The Simpson Historical Park stands as a tribute to the spirit and determination of the original settlers. The park is home to one of the large bulldozers and five-tonne steel balls used in the clearing of the bush, along with one of the `Majestic’ ploughs. The history of the settlement is laid out on storyboards in the rotunda and a brick path, put together by pupils of the Simpson Primary School, has five etched murals depicting the clearing and development of the settlement
As the 2017 LEGENDAIRY Capital of Western Victoria, the Simpson and District Community Centre will restore the historical dozer as part of an overall revitalisation project.
The machinery is an important part of the community’s identity and heritage and its restoration will support the continuation of education and awareness of the important role of agriculture to Simpson’s settlement.