About 14,000 people live in Benalla and District, about two hours’ drive north-east of Melbourne via the Hume Freeway.
Productive farming areas surround the area’s seven small towns of Baddaginnie, Devenish, Goorambat, Swanpool, Tatong, Thoona, and Winton.
Agriculture is predominantly dry land cropping and pastoral, with significant tracts of irrigation along the Broken River. Irrigated horticulture is a growing and valuable industry, particularly in the northern Warby Range area.
The stone fruit industry is developing, as are wine grape production and wine making. Tree production is featuring as a new enterprise in several agri operations. The historically significant wool industry has undergone restructing to re-emerge as an important economic driver in the area, along with beef production.
Beauty and Buildings
Benalla is built on both sides of the Broken River, which generally flows in a northerly direction through the town. Damming the river near the railway at the northern end of town created Lake Benalla.
The south side of the Lake hosts the Botanical Gardens (established in 1887) which are famed for their roses; the Benalla Showgrounds; other recreation facilities; and the Benalla Art Gallery with its large, renowned Australian collection.
On the Lake’s north side, commercial development extends along both sides of Bridge Street – the former Hume Highway. Benalla Aerodrome, the headquarters of the Gliding Club of Victoria, is on Benalla’s eastern edge.
Australian Munitions, the former ADI now owned by Thales, has been a major industry employer since it was constructed in 1996 to the north of the town. Other important employers are Benalla Health, Schneider Electric and Monsbent Pty Ltd.
Benalla is identified as highly disadvantaged by the SEIFA index, the socio-economic measure of the Australian Bureau of Statistics, as well as the Jesuit Social Services analyses of social disadvantage by postcode – the 2007 and 2015 Dropping off the Edge Reports.
By a number of measures, Benalla is at risk of the challenges stemming from disadvantage becoming entrenched and intractable problems.