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Planning for the post-war years

21 Aug, 2020

Throughout and beyond the war there was a clamour of ideas about how the post-war years might be different.  Another set of place stories help unravel shifts in thinking about the nation, region and towns in this transitional period.

Reconstructing the nation

Post-war reconstruction involved governments in initiating several huge nation-building projects which provided employment for those returning from the front and helped the nation overcome some of the vulnerabilities revealed in war-time.  The Commonwealth Government undertook the huge Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Scheme to meet the nation’s energy needs and to expand food production with irrigation. The Victorian Government expanded the Kiewa Hydro-electric project scheme to reduce its dependence on coal from NSW.

Workers from Wodonga helped raise the height of the Hume Dam wall to contain and channel increased volumes of water from the Snowy. A power station was built beside the dam wall. (Water NSW).

Wodonga was a worker recruitment and transit depot for expanding the Kiewa hydro-electric scheme.  A new Rocla factory at Bandiana made and supplied concrete pipes. (Wodonga Historical Society).

Reconstructing regions

Post-war reconstruction plans involved new thinking about decentralisation and regional development. Wodonga Shire Council joined Albury Municipal Council in baulking at the suggestion that Wodonga might be in a North East Region centred on Wangaratta and Albury might be in a Riverina Region centred on Wagga Wagga.  Both councils looked instead along the river for a Murray Valley Region.

Wodonga and Albury shared a river-long interest in securing developmental projects for a cross-border region. (Albury City Council Archives). The Melbourne-based state government favoured Wangaratta as the key to the North-East. The Sydney-based government favoured Wagga Wagga as the administrative centre for the Riverina.

There was during the Second World War new interest in asserting place identity at the local level. Towns, like Wodonga, had patriotically competed with other towns, such as Shepparton, in boasting of recruitment numbers and loan funds raised locally.  Wodonga and its surrounds were proud of the roles played by the Wodonga branches of agencies like the CWA and the Red Cross to support troops at home and abroad.  Paradoxically while Wodonga energetically asserted its own being, there were plainly advantages in working together with Albury.  They were sister towns but together the two had one labour market.  During and immediately after the Second World War their closely intertwined economic interests made for cross-border solidarity.  As the Victory Day celebrations in 1946 showed, the two towns worked apart yet together (BMM 11 June 1946).  With the rapidly growing village of Lavington in Hume Shire to the north, they were part of an urban conglomerate in which there were distinctive parts.

Reconstructing community life

Post-war reconstruction involved new thinking about decentralisation.  The best way to discourage the drift from the city was to create well-equipped country towns where people might live rounded and varied lives.  Large country towns like Albury were encouraged to plan community centres, which might have a range of facilities such as a library, art gallery, museum, live-performance theatre, music conservatorium, adult education venues and recreation areas for youth.  Plainly people in cross-river Wodonga were going to enjoy the cultural amenities proposed, such as visits from the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra.