Deans Marsh – Hamlet of the Eastern Otways


Deans Marsh – Hamlet of the Eastern Otways


Deans Marsh is located 23 kilometres inland from Lorne, Victoria. At the 2006 census, Deans Marsh and the surrounding area had a population of 631 and this increased by 2011 to 1,250, living in 640 dwellings,

Today the Marsh (as it is known to locals) is a growing and vibrant community with houses being built on an old subdivision on the Birregurra/Deans Marsh Road and people moving for a ‘tree change’ from Melbourne or a weekend rural lifestyle. Being only 2 hours drive from the Big Smoke, after a hard week’s work they can be sitting on their deck enjoying a quiet one before the sun sets on a Friday evening.

The hamlet is serviced by a general store/post office/café, Primary School, Deans Marsh Cottage (neighbourhood house program), Martian Café (hosting monthly music evenings) and Deans Marsh Browsery, Deans Marsh Art Studio, local wineries and many tourist accommodation options.


The establishment of the Deans Marsh non- Aboriginal community dates back to the European settlement of Eastern Australia. In addition to the settlement of convicts, the free settlers, many of whom were graziers, poured into Vitoria (then New South Wales) in the 1820′s. The original Aboriginal population, possibly related to the Wathaurong tribe, were no doubt rounded up with other non-related clans to live and work at the Buntingdale Mission Station near Birregurra.

One of the original settlers, or squatters, was William Roadknight, who came across the Deans Marsh area during the search for missing explorers Hesse and Gellibrand in 1837. He returned to establish a new pastoral run at Yan Yan Gurt (Aboriginal for everflowing water) in 1838. Traditional belief held by many, is that a shepherd named Charles Dean grazed sheep on all the marshland beyond the boundaries of Yan Yan Gurt, even as far as Pennyroyal, and so the area became known as Deans Marsh.

The New South Wales government was unable to address the illegal occupation of land by the squatters after the British Government ordered the squatters be given long leases and the opportunity to purchase their runs during the period of their leases.

In 1851, Victoria became an independent state and gold was discovered in Central Victoria. In the late 1850′s, the Victorian Government was faced with the problem of what to do with the many unsuccessful diggers returning from the gold fields. It was decided that they were to be settled on the land and many of the squatters’ pastoral runs were divided and sold. In 1861, Yan Yan Gurt was divided into lots ranging from 50 to 200 acres and the area given the name Bambra, Aboriginal for mushroom.

The land around the Deans Marsh Creek and Retreat Creek was sold, and a report dated 1865 states there were 40 houses within a radius of 2 miles of Mackey’s corner at that time. During the following years, allotments were sold in Bambra, Boonah and Pennyroyal, and even as far back as Benwerrin, thus increasing the population further and developing other small centres. Some were sold sight unseen through Geelong newspapers that greatly exaggerated the uncleared land value and prospects for farming.

Birregurra – Forrest ‘Tiger’ Rail Trail

A railway branch line from Birregurra to Deans Marsh was opened in December 1899, and extended to its ultimate terminus at Forrest in 1891. The line closed in 1957.

The grand vision for the Birregurra – Forrest ‘Tiger’ Rail Trail is for it to start in Birregurra, on the main Melbourne – Warrnambool rail line, meander along the old railway formation, through Deans Marsh, to the existing section near Barwon Downs and on to Forrest. Total length – 30 kms.

The trail’s “Tiger” moniker comes from the days when trains stopped running between the towns. A converted Dodge sedan, painted black and yellow, ferried passengers instead.

Currently 7km of the trail is completed from the Forrest end.

The Deans Marsh Curtains


During World War II, the women of the Deans Marsh community constructed the Deans Marsh Curtains. Sugar bags were sewn and embroidered over a period of nine years and used as curtain panels in the community hall.

In 1991, due to the inevitable deterioration of the work, the community approached The National Wool Museum for assistance in preserving it. The Wool Museum stored the curtain and it was exhibited in 1994. It has since been relinquished to the Museum of Victoria and is displayed in the new facility.

Local resident, Margaret Stewart, was keen for the new and original residents of Deans Marsh to be united and learn of the history of the area. Through her tenacity, a project to create new curtains for the hall was initiated in 2000 with the help of a grant from Arts Victoria and textile artist Jan Preston.

The brief for the new curtain was: it should reflect the history of the area, focus on the present and look forward to the new millennium. It should immortalise the potato and pea growing along with agriforestry; the indigenous floral and fauna; the eagle and the snake to represent the first people, the Wathaurong; the panther that roams the local forest; the original town buildings; a reference to Marjorie Lawrence, an internationally famous opera singer who grew up in the area; Ron Millard, puppet maker and puppeteer; and the Ash Wednesday fires.

On 25th November 2000, the new Deans Marsh Curtains were hung. In all, 7200 hours of voluntary community input had been recorded.

Famous Marshans


Deans Marsh is the birthplace of the renowned Wagnerian soprano Marjorie Lawrence (1907–1979)

Marjorie Lawrence was an Australian opera star whose career was cruelly interrupted by polio in the 1930s. Her autobiography was turned into a film, Interrupted Melody, and it follows Lawrence from her winning a singing contest in Winchelsea, through her career with the Metropolitan Opera and her struggle with regaining her health. Lawrence was supported every step of the way by husband Dr. Thomas King.


Humorous Tales


Owner of first car in district, Laurie Mountjoy, drove to Birregurra to get a licence. Constable Dungey refused to ride in the newfangled contraption.


Local farmer borrowed an implement from his neighbour. When returning it said. “Thanks mate. I’d buy one myself but if I did every b….. in Deans Marsh would want to borrow it!”



Celebration of all things Marshan

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Event     Deans Marsh Festival

 Sunday, 23 March 2014 All Day

Deans Marsh Recreational Reserve & Hall
 Pennyroyal Valley Road, Deans Marsh


Come and celebrate the rich and diverse hinterland community of artists, crafts people, local producers and musicians at the annual Deans Marsh Festival.

In its 18th year the festival welcomes thousands of visitors to the quirky town of Deans Marsh to enjoy great live music, street performers, Otway food and wine and a unique artisans craft market.

Kids can enjoy activities all day including woolly creatures workshops, bag decorating, badge making, treasure hunt, giant maze, lawn games, dress ups, face painting, jumping castle and boxology……

Foodies will love the new local harvest tent showcasing cheese making, tempting chocolates, bush food cooking and goat milking! With the opportunity to taste the regions beer, wine and amazing local produce.

For those with a competitive nature, come and try your luck in the Deans Marsh Gift, gumboot toss or sheaf toss.

Or feeling nostalgic, how about vintage modes of transport, fashion and farm machinery.

The annual dog jump and Jack Russell races are also back for another year, as are the working dog demos. This years new addition is the Top Dog Competition, including prizes for ‘most like owner’, ‘best trick’, ‘best golden oldie’ and top prize ‘2014 Marsh Top Dog’.

Bring your family & friends, enjoy the sunshine and colourful atmosphere, there is something for everyone. 

Event  2014 Otways Giant Punkin Competition


 Sunday, 20 April 2014 All Day

 Deans Marsh Oval
 Pennyroyal Valley Rd, Deans Marsh


Deans Marsh Otways Giant Punkin Organic Organisation (DOGPOO) is pleased to announce the 2014 Otways Giant Punkin Competition.

Are you an avid or budding green thumb? Join in the fun and thrills of giant Punkin growing.

Judging of categories such as largest, weirdest, best effort, looks most like Gary Ablett Jr, largest zucchini, etc will take place at the big weigh in day at the Deans Marsh oval on 20th April. The world record is 911kg and last years winner Mike Robinson-Koss weighed in at a commendable 26kg so there is plenty of room for improvement. There will be lots of prizes, food, Punkin Chunkin and festivities.

For the non-believers there will be an edible Punkin category, though winners may have to eat their whole Punkin to prove it’s edible.

Entry is open to all and is $2 per entry with funds raised going towards prizes and festivities.

Seeds are available for $2 from Mike RK (, Andrew B (, or the Deans Marsh General Store.

So why wait, grab some seeds and Grow for Glory!!



The Deans Marsh Story, Ron Millard, Geelong, VIC,1985, List Print

Otway and its Coast in Retrospect, Jack Loney, Portarlington, VIC, Marine History 1989

Lawrence, Marjorie. Interrupted Melody: An Autobiography, Sydney, NSW, 1949, Invincible Press

Australian Bureau of Statistics 2006 & 2011

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