While some struggling communities might have crumbled in the face of a succession of crushing setbacks like devastating bushfires and a once-in-a generation pandemic, the Victorian town of Yarram was never going to be one of them.
When the going got tough, the South Gippsland town got going … and it brought a giant creative vision to reality by turning itself into a giant work of art. Spray can in hand, world renowned street and silo artist, Heesco Khosnaran, took to a crane and – over a six-week period in March and April – totally transformed the streetscape.
Building after building was painted with stunning and evocative images, which organisers are confident will bring grey nomads flocking to town when borders are opened and travel restrictions fully lifted.
The project was the brainchild of local Yarram Identity, Eric Greenaway, who saw an opportunity to attract the large numbers of tourists who follow ’Silo Art’ and ’Street Art’ trail. Two-and-a-half hours drive south-east of Melbourne, Yarram – which has also become known as Heesco Town – is a major service centre for coastal communities in Gippsland, and is also the ideal base from which to explore the cool temperate rainforest of Tarra Bulga National Park, the historic fishing village of Port Albert, the highest single span falls in Victoria, Agnes Falls, and the start of the world’s second-longest uninterrupted beach, 90 Mile Beach.
Yarram also sits just along from Corner Inlet, a 1,550-hectare park located to the north and east of Wilsons Promontory National Park.
The South Gippsland Highway passes through the picturesque town of just over 2,000 people, opening into a wide boulevard through the town centre with attractive gardens in the central strip.
Yarram features several historical buildings, including the landmark Regent Theatre (built in 1928), the courthouse which now functions as a local visitor information centre and gallery, and the Federal Coffee Palace now adorned with a feature mural by Heesco. Yarram Golf Club has recently been rated Australia’s number one volunteer-run golf course, and the recently opened Bull Bar & Gallery in the main street is a delightful funky bar and gallery that features Heesco’s paintings both inside and out.
The Yarram Memorial Gardens, located at the southern end of the town’s commercial centre feature water attractions and pathways. At the northern entrance to town there is a picnic area which is based around the old bridges over the Tarra River and overlooks this waterway and surrounding grazing land.
There is a collection of good caravan parks in the area including the Yarram Holiday Park, the Tarra Valley Caravan Park, Best Friend Holiday Retreat, and Woodside Beach Caravan Park.
Many grey nomads will be delighted to hear there is also some great free camping. Self-contained RVs can stop in Yarram at the roadside reserve beside the Tarra River, and also at the Port Albert foreshore area near the water tower.
Other free camping is available at Won Wron White Women’s Waterhole Campsite, and at the Reeves Beach foreshore camping area.
Despite the challenges then, these are exciting times for Yarram which cannot wait to start welcoming grey nomads from out of state. Local filmmaker, Wayne Tindall, who co-ordinated the mural project said the town had used art as ‘its secret weapon against a potential tourist downturn, depression and financial ruin’.
“In some ways the lockdown has assisted the Heesco Town founders to make a tantalising offering to travellers who are now looking for ‘new vista road trips’ rather than the quick and easy flights to overseas resorts,” he said. “Post Covid-19 travellers will welcome all that Yarram has to offer, and the town understands travellers will offer a major boost to the economy of this region.”