(including Wodonga and Ettamogah)
Major city on the NSW-Victorian border.
The twin towns of Albury and Wodonga, although they are 7 km apart and on opposite sides of the Murray River, form a large urban area which is the border between New South Wales and Victoria. They have populations of 39 975 and 23 639 respectively. The two are usually referred to as Albury-Wodonga. Albury is indisputably the more interesting and attractive town. Located 567 km south-west of Sydney via the Hume Highway and 183 m above sea-level it has a well-developed manufacturing industry and is an important service centre for the surrounding area which supports agricultural, dairying and pastoral industries.
Building on long-established traditions Wodonga is one of the largest stock-selling and shipping centres in Australia with importing and exporting facilitated by inland port status. It is, however, now little more than a modern suburban area for people who live and work in the surrounding area.
The area around the Murray was once inhabited by the Wiradjuri Aborigines. In 1824 Hume and Hovell explored from Appin in New South Wales to the new settlement at Westernport Bay in Victoria. Arriving at the future site of Albury they carved some remarks into the trunks of two trees. Hume's tree was destroyed in the 1840s by a teamsters' campfire but Hovell's still stands.
They crossed the river, which they called the Hume, 16 km upstream, where the Hume Weir now stands. Unaware of their claim Charles Sturt later named it the Murray River and the two titles initially competed for favour.
Squatters followed the explorers and the first land in the area was taken up in 1835 when William Wyse established the Mungabareena station for Charles Ebden on the northern side of the river.
In 1836 Ebden crossed the river and opened a station at Bonegilla and then at Thurgoona with Wyse as his stockman. In 1837 Paul Huon arrived establishing the Wodonga station.
Albury grew because it was located at a spot where the river was fordable. Indeed it was initially known as The Crossing Place. It became a favourite resting place for drovers and stockmen headed for Port Phillip (i.e., Melbourne).
Settlement of Albury began when a police hut was established as part of a strategy to secure both the route to Port Phillip and the settlement of inland Australia from ongoing black resistance. Local Aborigines had been killing the stock of the Europeans, which was displacing their traditional food sources.
In 1838 Robert Brown built a slab hut which he developed as a store near Hovell's Tree. A mail service was established from Yass to Port Phillip, a few tradesmen took up residence and a townsite on the northern bank was surveyed as 'Bungambrewatah', a Wiradjuri term meaning 'the crossing place'. The name was changed to Aldbury then gazetted the following year as Albury, after a village in England.
By the end of the 1830s the journey between Sydney and Port Phillip was being made with sufficient frequency to prompt the government to prepare a plan of the 'road' from Gundagai to Port Phillip, actually a rough bush track following the course of Hume and Hovell.
In 1841 the population was said to be seven. Robert Brown opened the Hume River Inn in 1842, the second house being built by James Wyse in 1843. Brown added a log punt in 1844 to help foot passengers and sheep cross the river. Everyone complained that it was too expensive and too slow. Still, they used it.
A clergyman observed that the Albury races had been established on the flats beside the river before anybody had been concerned to build a church. The Albury Cup was first run in 1845.
Gold finds in Victoria drew the population away from Albury (442 in 1851) and development was slow. Wodonga, gazetted as Belvoir in 1852, became an important river port for the Ovens goldfield. Its name was changed to Wodonga in 1874 and it subsequently became a major stock selling centre.
After Victoria separated from NSW in 1851 the two towns became customs posts enforcing tariffs. Goods tended to be cheaper in NSW so Victorians would swim their stock across the river and women bought clothes and groceries over the border, wearing several layers of clothing home past the customs point. While flour and bread were taxed dough was not so Victorian bakers set up dough houses in NSW and ferried it back across where it was made into bread. During outbreaks of contagious disease, such as the influenza pandemic of 1919, the border was sealed and guarded at gunpoint
After the gold fever passed a number of Chinese settled in Albury and established vegetable gardens on the rich river flats just north of the present railway bridge. By 1878 there were 150 people at a Chinese camp which developed at the corner of Townsend and Hume Sts.
The Albury Border Post newspaper was established in 1856 and the town became a municipality in 1859. The first toll bridge was erected across the river in 1861.
The paddle steamer on the Albury coat-of-arms is a reminder of the role that river transport played in local development after the first river steamer, the Albury, arrived in 1855.
Wodonga was connected to Melbourne by rail in 1873 and the track from Sydney arrived at Albury in 1881. A temporary wooden railway bridge joined the two in 1883.
The two states had different railway gauges until 1962, when the first train ran straight through from Sydney to Melbourne. The states could not initially agree which should be the transfer point so they had an expensive and attractive iron lattice bridge sent from England which accommodated both gauges, 180 m long and 10 m downstream of the temporary structure. It is still standing.
From 1886 passengers and freight had to change trains at Albury. The station had two clocks, one for Albury and one for Wodonga time as there was 25 minutes difference before Eastern Standard Time was instituted. Albury subsequently became an important rail centre and there was talk of establishing it as the capital of a federated Australia. It was declared a city in 1946.
Army camps were established at Bandiana and Bonegilla, east of Wodonga, during the Second World War. Both provided local employment. Bonegilla became Australia's largest migrant reception centre - 320 000 people passing through from the mid-1950s to the mid-1960s. Many chose to settle in the Albury-Wodonga area.
Albury-Wodonga benefited from a political commitment to decentralisation in the 1970s. Wodonga was proclaimed the first 'rural city' in Australia in 1973.
Annual events include the Albury Festival of Sport, which unfolds over February-March, the Albury Gold Cup Festival and the Wodonga Show, which both take place every March, the Albury-Wodonga Wine and Food Festival in September-October, the Albury Show and the Bonegilla Festival in October, the Albury-Wodonga International Festival in November and the Ngan Girra Festival which is held at the Mungabarina Reserve in November.