This blog provides information, stories, links and events relating to and promoting the history of the Wimmera district.
Any additional information, via Comments, is welcomed.

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

What nearly was

By chance, I happened to come across an entry in the Victorian Government Gazette referring to the Witchipool (Lake Buloke) Hospital,
And not just any hospital, this was for an infectious diseases hospital. 
The entry is for the 'site for a hospital or place for isolating persons suffering from small-pox, cholera, or other dangerous infectious or contagious disease'.
Why did the government of the day (in 1911) consider the need for a hospital? It was in 1900 that there was a major outbreak of bubonic plague in Sydney. It killed 103 people in 8 months and lead to the mass cleansing and demolition of slum housing in heavily populated areas like The Rocks. The Sydney event remains the most significant, but there were a further 12 major outbreaks eventuating in 1371 cases and 535 deaths in 27 locations, including Melbourne, around Australia between 1900 and 1925.
A street is hosed down in the mass cleansing in January 1900. State Library NSW
Witchipool is the name of the parish which encompasses Lake Buloke, Little Lake Buloke, part of the Donald township, west to Litchfield and north towards Massey. Witchipool is from the Aboriginal words for plant that grows on a hill. The farming district was originally named Litchfields.
 The Reservation of part of Allotment 12 temporarily set the land aside for the establishment of the hospital, but it never eventuated. The reservation was revoked in 1922.
It was a little concerning that they considered placing infectious patients between two water sources - the lake and the Richardson River. Typically for smallpox, if the patient survives the initial infection, they remain infectious for 3-4 weeks after the onset of the rash. Smallpox was declared globally eradicated in 1980.
Today, outbreaks of cholera still occasionally happen in northern Australia, and can be associated with algal blooms.

The area today
The 43 acre crescent-shaped site was situated away from centres of population, but still close to a railway and a highway. Would have made a wonderful abandoned building now.

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