Day trips: Close to home

Culture: You can find great day trips, like a visit to the Shepparton Art Museum, within an hour of Benalla. Photo by Megan Fisher

You become a tourist statistic when you travel more than 45 minutes from home.

It does not matter if you are visiting family or friends, having a cultural experience or your car serviced.

Due to the latter, I was a tourist last Friday and had a fabulous day in Shepparton and Nathalia.

With a loaned car I drove to Nathalia to follow up our recent trip to Echuca and Barmah.

I headed for the Barmah Forest Heritage and Education Centre to further investigate the Barmah Choke, Dharnya Centre, Yorta Yorta history and more.

I wanted additional information about the Cadell Fault reportedly “clearly seen from the Cobb Hwy near Mathoura” including where and what to look for and how was sand “burnt”. All my questions were answered and more.

Within the last 250,000 years seismic activity led to an uplift between Deniliquin and Echuca that changed the direction of the Murray River and ultimately its narrowest section known as the Barmah Choke.

It also caused the Edwards River and Gulpa Creek to flow out of the Murray instead of into it, impacting the Northern Lake and creation of Lake Kanyapella.

The Murray had been watered by melting snow from Mt Kosciuszko until the end of the last ice-age, but later drought caused the lakes to dry and windblown sand formed the Barmah sandhills.

Pollen tests now reveal that tree ferns, not red river gums grew along the Murray until about 6000 years ago.

The area was arid with open woodlands and grassy plains, but the young wetlands led to the Barmah-Millewa Forest.

Since 2010 the Barmah National Park has been jointly managed by the Yorta Yorta people and Victorian Government.

The Dharnya Centre in the forest is the Yorta Yorta historical and cultural interpretative centre, but after extensive upgrade works it has not reopened.

Some of the Yorta Yorta community live at Cummeragunja, a gated reserve north of the river near Barmah.

Their respected forefather William Cooper was an activist who for decades sought a fair deal for his people.

The movie of the singing Sapphires is based on the true story of Cummeragunja girls.

I then drove back to Shepparton Art Museum and happily spent the next four hours viewing their wall of Hermannsburg painting donated by Carillo Gantner through the Australian Cultural Gifts Program and new “brown pots” and other ceramics exhibitions.

I learnt about the museum building itself, the intention of its design and sustainable green rating, then became engrossed with the Art in Conflict Exhibition, which replaces the sensational Lin Onus works shown when SAM opened.

Art in Conflict is a touring exhibition of more than 70 pieces from the Australian War Memorial collection.

It includes the well-known Afganistan painting by Ben Quilty and other official war art commissions, plus three works revealed for the first time, one a film by Susan Norrie.

This is thought provoking and shows an Iraqi, now living in Paris, who tells of his youth as a soldier and adult take on modern warfare since the Treaty of Versailles.

Conflict is depicted in many, sometimes unexpected forms including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art.

I spent sometime looking at the painting by Kylie Kemarre.

As I was leaving I met Kay Ball whose book Art Captured reveals the story of Hans-Wolter von Gruenewaldt, a German prisoner of war in Murchison’s Camp 13 during World War II.

The book tells his wartime story and shows the range of his artworks in many mediums and styles including humorous caricatures.

Of highlight are the 17 murals commissioned to decorate the officers recreation hut and now property of the Murchison and District Historic Society and RSL.

After the war his family also donated many of his works and more than 200 of his paintings are now on display at SAM until September 11.

This exhibition adds another dimension to Art in Conflict and reveals another aspect of local history.

I didn’t need to be with friends or family to have another really interesting day trip.