Corowa - the 'Birthplace of Federation'

Corowa was proclaimed a township in 1858 and with neighbouring Wahgunyah on the Victorian side grew quickly to become one of the busiest ports on the Murray River in the 1860s. The discovery of gold in Beechworth in the 1850s was followed quickly by similar finds in Chiltern and Rutherglen, so provisioning these ‘calico towns’ proved a boom for Corowa’s river port.


Corowa and Wahgunyah owe their existence to the enterprise and diligence of John Foord, who with John Crisp, took up land on the southern side of the river, known as the Wahgunyah Run. Foord became a storekeeper, bridge builder, flour miller, transport owner and town planner....quite an industrious man you might say!

Corowa also played a crucial role in shaping Australian democracy when in 1893, the People’s Convention was held which provided the catalyst for the first fledgling steps towards nationhood and Federation. Corowa has since garnered the title of the ‘Birthplace of Federation’.

Explaining and detailing this path to Federation is a major exhibit in the Federation Museum which is located in a building itself over 100 years old.

To learn more about Federation, visit the Federation Museum, Corowa

Corowa’s rich history is on ample display with captivating historic buildings including the Corowa Courthouse and the Oddfellow’s Hall, where the People’s Convention actually took place. The best way to explore Corowa’s rich history and heritage is via the self-guided historic walk. Remember to stop and read the signs adjacent to significant buildings and the storyboards located at the Corowa Civic Centre and Sanger Street which bring to life the history and unique links to Federation.

Tom Roberts an Australian artist also played a significant role in Corowa making a name for itself with the connection between the township and the famous painting ‘Shearing of the Rams’.

In spring 1888, he arranged with the family of his sister-in-law to visit the Corowa area during which he made 70 – 80 sketches at a local station shearing woolshed.

Roberts later returned in 1889, which was when he finished his famous painting, ‘Shearing the Rams’

A replica shearing shed has since built and is located in Redlands Hill Reserve, on Tom Roberts Road north of Corowa and a few hundred metres from the site of the original shearing shed which is open to the public for visitors.

Visit the Federation Museum to find out more about Tom Roberts and his two most famous Corowa paintings, “Shearing the Rams” and “A Break Away”. 

Also having a major impact on Corowa’s history in famous artworks, was Tommy McCrae a local Aboriginal artist who was known for documenting the arrival of Europeans and Chinese during the Rutherglen goldfield rush and more. 

Prints of Tommy’s original artworks are on display and Corowa’s Federation Museum

Lake Mulwala was created in 1939 when the Murray River was dammed at the Yarrawonga Weir as part of the Murray-Darling Irrigation Scheme. Prior to this paddle steamers would traverse the Murray as far away as Albury to transport a wide range of general merchandise, including timber, wheat and wool. This river traffic slowly petered out with the arrival of the railway in 1886.


In 1842, explorer Hamilton Hume assisted his sister-in-law, Elizabeth Hume to form the ‘Yarrawonga Run’.
Built on a sand hill by a lagoon near the Murray River, Elizabeth was the first European to live in north east Victoria. She moved to the area with her nine children, after her husband John Hume was killed by bushrangers in Gunning. Elizabeth named her home ‘Byramine’, meaning ‘rustic retreat’. The design of the house is unique, due to the octagonal central room, or ‘the fortress’, which ensured a clear view out all windows, in case of attack. The homestead remains in its original condition, and is open to the public.


The Yarrawonga Weir was built to raise the water level in the Murray River to ensure diversion of water via gravity. Diversion of water is via two major channels, the Mulwala Canal and the Yarrawonga Main Channel. The Mulwala Canal is 2,880 kilometres long and is the largest irrigation canal in the southern hemisphere, spreading across the southern Riverina plain to Deniliquin and suppling water to 700,000 hectares. The Yarrawonga Main Channel is 957km long and services the Murray Valley irrigation region, from Yarrawonga to Barmah. It supplies water to 128,000 hectares.


Lake Mulwala Facts
Storage capacity = 117,500 mega litres (1/4 of Sydney Harbour)
Area = 4,450 hectares
Length = 489 metres
Distance from Murray source = 528 km
Distance from Murray mouth = 1,992 km
Full supply above river bed = 14.2 metres
Full supply above sea level = 124.9 metres


Lake Mulwala still provides a critical role in the supply of irrigation water and it remains the largest single diversion point for irrigation water on the entire Murray River. However, the lake is now much more than simple water storage, and it has transformed the twin towns of Yarrawonga and Mulwala into very popular holiday destinations with a booming tourism industry. The lake is a recreational haven for a myriad of water-based activities including water skiing, wakeboarding, boating, fishing, swimming, sailing and wind surfing.

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