For many years, on a small rise next to the Strzelecki Highway just out of Morwell, at a locality called Driffield, there has resided what appeared to be an old hay shed. The shed has always caught my attention every time that we’ve driven past, but I’ve never stopped to take a photo for some reason, even though I’ve had a feeling that I should. Then late last year, things changed and the shed had been revitalised by a local community that I’ve written about previously, and it had become something completely new again. What was something that looked quite abandoned, had been transformed into a memorial to the Driffield farming community. By not stopping by earlier, I’d missed out on providing an example of the then and now.
Now many of these memorials or whatever you many wish to call them, look good when they are new, but things begin to fade and deteriorate over time, until they are but a shadow of their former self. Photos fade, dust, rust and deterioration sets in and there’s no longer the resources, and perhaps interest, to maintain what was once a good idea. This is what prompted me to take some photos and write a story about the memorial, so that at least there’s a record of what it was like when newly established. Someone may have done similarly, but I don’t know and, as my writings eventually end up in the National Library of Australia archives, it’ll be a certainty that some record of this memorial will live on.
There’s nothing overly dramatic about the memorial, as it’s a fairly simple affair, more or less reflecting its rural setting. It consists of an open shelter housing several pedestals with stories that detail a potted history of Driffield and the people who lived there, and how they saw the changing landscape brought about by the development of the Hazelwood Power Station and open cut coal mine, amongst other things. I guess this is a story that has been repeated throughout Australia since its discovery, not always for the same reasons, but the outcomes nevertheless much the same. Be it gold running out and a thriving settlement or lesser one fading away, or farms giving way to swelling suburbia, the results are always the same.
There is also a board reflecting the personal memories of those who lived, worked and went to school and church in Driffield. In a way, this memorial provides so much more information than do the vague and often incomplete memorials that you find scattered about the state and in places such as the High Country, as I noted in my Nov 2015 High Country story. Often such memorials leave you hanging as to what happened in the area and to the people that once made it a thriving township. Perhaps we’ve become a little more conscious of recording our history, as things all too soon become a distant and forgotten memory.
I wonder how many other similar communities in the area have grown and then slowly, but inexorably, faded to a shadow of their former self or disappeared altogether?