Community spirit is this town’s pot of gold
STORY: JEN SHAND PHOTOGRAPHY: aussietowns.com.au
Rainbow, known as the gateway to the southern Mallee, rolls out the welcome mat for guests the minute they arrive in the small town.
It’s a green mat, a vibrant strip of parkland right down the centre of its wide main street. And this four-block oasis, with roses, trees and a war memorial, is a visible sign of community pride.
Forget the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. This Rainbow, with a population of about 700, is rich in community spirit. And you’re sure to get a ‘hello’ when you walk down the street.
The town lies between the Wimmera River’s terminal lakes – Lake Hindmarsh to the south and Lake Albacutya to the north. It is surrounded by broad-acre grain farms and is within a stone’s throw of renowned wilderness desert areas that are a haven to nature lovers and adventurers alike.
About 400 kilometres north-west of Melbourne, Rainbow celebrates its past while embracing its future. A series of 23 colourful hand-painted murals on buildings in and around town salute its pioneers and history, while new projects worth millions of dollars have taken shape around them.
A $9.3 million Rainbow Radar station, which improves weather and rain forecasts for the Wimmera-Mallee, is the latest cab off the ranks. Then there’s the boutique Rainbow Brewery and The Oasis, a community cultural hub that is going from strength to strength.
The community kicked off The Oasis after winning a $350,000 Regional Arts Victoria grant. Created in the former primary school building, it has driven successful community arts projects including festivals over the past few years. The Oasis is also home to groups including Rainbow Innovation Centre, a community library, community gym and the local Lions Club.
“Rainbow’s passionate army of volunteers works hard to keep the small town strong and active. They drive dozens of community groups including Landcare, a men’s shed and the neighbourhood house.”
The Rainbow Desert Enduro roars into town, attracting heaps of horsepower and many motor enthusiasts to the region each year. Part of the Australian Off-Road Championships, the vehicles are an impressive sight as they line the main street. The Rainbow Show is another perennial favourite while other attractions include historic Yurunga Homestead and nearby Pella Church.
The town has a thriving and attractive commercial centre. Businesses include an expanded supermarket, chemist, two banks, pharmacy, bakery, butcher, café, book shop, newsagency, gift shop, hairdresser, art gallery, hardware store, mechanic and a service station. The renovated Eureka Hotel and the Royal Hotel are popular with locals and visitors.
Rainbow, part of Hindmarsh Shire, is also well served when it comes to education and healthcare facilities. Rainbow P-12 College has about 110 students. The hospital complex features acute care beds, a nursing home and a hostel. There is also a medical centre, a kindergarten, a police station and a town swimming pool.
With the regional centre of Horsham an hour’s drive to the south, Rainbow’s passionate army of volunteers works hard to keep the small town strong and active. They drive dozens of community groups including Landcare, a men’s shed, a neighbourhood house, football, netball, golf, tennis, badminton and performing arts.
The town takes its name from Rainbow Rise, a nearby crescent-shaped ridge that featured bright wildflowers. And the natural environment continues to be huge drawcard for locals and tourists.
Lake Hindmarsh, Victoria’s largest freshwater lake, is a haven for birds and other wildlife and last filled in 2011 when the Wimmera River flooded. Lake Albacutya, which hasn’t filled for decades and adjoins Wyperfeld National Park, is a RAMSAR-listed wetland of international standing. It is also a magnet for enthusiasts of four-wheel driving, camping, walking and bird watching. From sand dunes to flood plains, the big landscapes and bright show of stars at night are a visual feast.
The Traditional Custodians of the land on which Rainbow stands are the Wotjobaluk people.
WATTLE ROAD 🖤: The beautiful natural environment that surrounds this friendly town; and its community spirit.
DISTANCE: 405km from Melbourne
POPULATION: 700 people
WHO LIVES HERE?
According to the 2016 Census:
♦ The median age of people in Rainbow was 52 years. Children aged 0 – 14 years made up 16.8% of the population and people aged 65 years and over made up 30.9% of the population.
♦ Of the families in Rainbow, 32.4% were couple families with children, 54.0% were couple families without children and 11.4% were one parent families.
♦ 0% of people were born in Australia. The most common countries of birth were England 2.1%, New Zealand 0.7%, Netherlands 0.7%, Philippines 0.7% and China (excludes SARs and Taiwan) 0.6%.
♦ The most common occupations in Rainbow included Managers 34.4%, Professionals 16.2%, Labourers 13.0%, Community and Personal Service Workers 9.9%, and Technicians and Trades Workers 7.5%.
CLIMATE: Average temperatures in July are max 32ºC, min 14.3ºC. In July the average temperatures are max 14.5ºC and min 3.7ºC.
SCHOOLS: A P-12 college with around 110 students.
HEALTH CARE: Rainbow Hospital operates seven acute beds, ten places at Bowhaven Hostel residential respite and ten nursing home places at Weeah Lodge for the frail aged. Allied community health services include diabetes education, dietetics, district nursing, exercise groups, maternal and child health, occupational therapy, speech therapy and social work.
NBN CONNECTION: Fixed Wireless (FW)
PROPERTY PRICES: The median sale price of houses in Rainbow is $69,000.
MAJOR EMPLOYERS: Dryland farming and a range of business and health services.
SPORTS & RECREATION: The family-oriented Jeparit Rainbow Football Netball Club and the Rainbow Bowls Club that plays in the Wimmera pennant.
ARTS & CULTURE: Visit Yurunga Homestead, built in 1909 and now a heritage museum; and look out for the rainbow murals that depict the life and history of early pioneers and the district.
EVENTS: The Rainbow Desert Enduro attract motors enthusiasts to the region every year.
Assistant Principal at Rainbow P-12 College
I love the sense of community. Everybody looks out for each other. I grew up in Melbourne and that sense wasn’t really there. We had one or two close neighbours but I couldn’t tell you who else lived on my street. Here you basically know everyone. While that can be a bit of a double-edged sword, overall there’s a unique sense of positive community. We want to work together and do things together to make sure the town not only survives but thrives.
I arrived here in 1990 to teach. My grand plan was to spend three years teaching and then go back to uni. But I just fell in love with the town and felt so comfortable. There’s never been a sense of needing to find another school or adventure – you make your own adventure wherever you are.
Our main street is the focal point of the town. It’s a big wide street with a garden right down the middle. It’s probably one of the first things I fell in love with.
There’s a real sense of pride in this town. Perhaps our isolation nicely forces us to have a more, collegial, more united front here. It’s safe here and the whole community looks out for the younger ones. If someone is struggling a bit, in a good way it becomes a community problem. They might be embraced by the footy club or a farmer might offer them work.
I love seeing the horizon. I walk my dog every morning, and I can stand on my front verandah and see the horizon. It’s just space and stars. When there’s a clear sky here, it’s just magnificent.
Travel time is approximately 60 minutes.
FIND A PROPERTY
53 Charles Street, Jeparit
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31-33 Federal Street, Rainbow
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28 Callaway Lane, Rainbow
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14-16 Roy Street, Jeparit
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