Bena 3946

Bena is situated near Korumburra in the South Gippsland hills, 105 kilometres from Melbourne. Land had been selected in the area in the 1870s and settlers had begun clearing the forest. After the Great Southern Railway was surveyed in 1888, a father and son, Robert Fuller and Robert John Fuller, privately had a township surveyed on their land around the railway station.

Blocks were soon sold in Cromwell, as the town was known for some years. The town was expected to be one of the main stations on the railway line. A bakery, coffee palace, store, butcher and large two-storey hotel were opened by 1890, to cater for the hundreds of men employed on the railway construction. When the post office was opened in 1890 it was named Bena, thought to have been taken from Longfellow's poem Hiawatha. Bena, the Indian dialect word for pheasant, may refer to the lyrebird, probably common in the area.

A butter factory was established in 1893, first as a cooperative, then more successfully under other owners. Cream was brought in by rail and by wagon. A Presbyterian Church was built in 1908, and in 1937 the Anglicans brought a church from the former coal mining town of Outtrim. Electricity was connected to the district in 1930. School enrolments peaked in in the 1930s. A new hall was opened in 1939 after the old building was destroyed by fire.

In 1942 the butter factory closed down. That year also, the hotel forfeited its licence and was demolished. The churches closed in the 1960s and 1970s. The railway line was closed in recent years and the station has been demolished.

Although the area supports a thriving dairy industry, including specialty cheeses made on-farm, improved roads and transport have meant the eclipse of smaller towns such as Bena, which is only six kilometres from the district's main town, Korumburra. With school and hall, the township still operates as a social focus for the district, but has little commercial function.


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