Majura Valley Through Time

Majura Valley Through Time

The natural form of the Majura Valley is a broad flat developed between higher ridges, narrow in the north near Ginns Gap and broad in the south as Woolshed Creek approaches the Molonglo River.  

Archaeological investigation shows that the valley supported the First People for thousands of years, as a gently-sloping connection between the Molonglo and northwards to Ginninderra, Goorooyarroo and Gundaroo/Lake George.  A bountiful backdrop to campsites on the Molonglo at Pialligo, it offered reliable water and a wide variety of food, fibre and stone resources in wetlands, grasslands, woodlands and forested slopes.  

Early European pastoralists were strongly attracted to this low-relief, lightly-timbered plain, with deep soils and perennial streams sustained by groundwater.    

Most of the southern valley was taken up by merchant Robert Campbell from 1825, in a mix of land grants and purchases.  The property was initially called ‘Pialligo’ (from the local Aboriginal name biyaligee), and later became well-known as ‘Duntroon’.  The woolshed for which the creek is named still stands.   

The name Majura was used by the Campbells for part of their property, originally as ‘Madura’, probably reflecting their close trading links with India.  

The Campbells built cottages for immigrant workers, mostly Scots, some of whom spoke only Gaelic for some decades.  ‘Majura House’ remains from this period, built in the 1840s – probably the first house in the valley, and now the oldest occupied building in the ACT, with the farm in continuous production for about 180 years.  

Land reforms in the 1860s allowed selectors to purchase smaller blocks, and in 1891 the valley supported 393 people in 83 dwellings.  By this time a small unofficial village had given Majura its own identity, largely independent of the parent ‘Duntroon’ property.  

The village grew to include a post office, school (several locations over time), and a community hall.  The hall was a venue for social and fundraising events, balls and dances, and a local youth club, with a tennis court.  

The community of Majura fostered many active sportspeople in cycling and foot races, athletics, tennis matches, and equestrian events.  Some also represented their community in competitive matches across the district within teams for rifle shooting and cricket based at Duntroon and Queanbeyan.  

While the valley was always mostly used for grazing and agriculture, the community also came to include trades and manufacturing, with a blacksmith and wheelwright shop, butchery, and lime kiln. 

A pattern of mutual support, with sharing of labour and resources, would have strengthened the rural community, which grew after a 1906 subdivision of forty-one blocks in the south-eastern part of ‘Duntroon’.   

In 1908 the Federal Capital Territory was born, and the heart of ‘Duntroon’ was chosen two years later as the home of the Royal Military College.  Extensive areas were reserved for military manoeuvres and training purposes, including trench digging and field firing of mortars and artillery.  

Acquisition of the remaining ‘Duntroon’ property by 1913 placed most of the valley’s residents into Commonwealth leases rather than more secure freehold title, and some original families moved away.    

The Majura hall was used to celebrate the return of local lads from the Great War, and to remember one who did not return.  From 1919 the south-east of the valley, including the area of today’s airport, became leases for returned soldiers, mostly from families already established on the land.  

The Second World War saw another increase in military training at RMC Duntroon, requiring larger areas for field firing and exercises, and the RAAF consolidated their activities at an expanded aerodrome.  In the late 1950s-early 1960s plans for a much larger Federal Capital which included a new town centre in the lower Majura valley were thwarted by the airport being too well established to be relocated.  

Successive developments have included softwood forestry, a gun range, police driver training course, mountain bike trails, natural gas pipeline, high-speed fibre optic cable, zoning for broadacre warehouse-style land use, a greatly enlarged roadway, solar farm, and a reservation for the Very Fast Train of the future.  

Through all this the essentially rural landscape character of the valley has prevailed, along with some important native grassland ecosystems.  The valley remains valued for food production, with new uses in a truffle farm and a winery, and highly innovative sustainable production techniques in other holdings.    

Visitors to the valley are offered a concentrated, and now rare, glimpse of our natural and cultural heritage and promising opportunities for future food production…all right on the doorstep of the National Capital.


© Mark Butz Learnscapes