Wangaratta, Textile Town
It is 1919, the end of First World War, and a group of Wangaratta businessmen come together with a big idea: to build a woollen mill to create jobs, keep people in the town, draw workers and families from afar, and make the town prosper.
They start a share float and one of the men, William Callander, comes up with a bold plan to promote the project. His two daughters Alma and Lena take to the skies in an open biplane, seated on kerosene tins, to scatter leaflets across the region. The Wangaratta Woollen Mills is born, and soon becomes the largest mainland woollen mill in the nation.
It was the success of its textile industry that took Wangaratta from small country town to major rural city. But Wangaratta’s story as a textile town also reflects the making of modern Australia. It traces the path of post-war migration and the accompanying growth of Australia’s economy.
Following the Second World War Australia's prosperity began to boom and thousands of Europeans settled here. It was in this atmosphere, in 1946, that a Canadian company, Bruck Textiles, comes to Wangaratta and creates a population explosion, employing thousands of workers from places as diverse as Poland, Italy, Holland and Wangaratta itself.
Some of these workers' stories are presented here, as well as interviews with employees of Australian Country Spinners (formerly Wangaratta Woollen Mills). Photographs of the factories are also presented, along with moving image postcards of the industrial processes.
For a wonderful journey through Wangaratta's textile history and the creative process, take a look at the Wangaratta Textile Project blog.