MT BULLER IN walk. hike. run. bike

North East Living Magazine - - Calendar - Words photos

THE sense of grandeur can be felt at All Saints Es­tate the mo­ment you turn through the gates and make your way down the av­enue, which is lined by some of the old­est and most im­pres­sive English elm trees to be found in Aus­tralia.

The stately prop­erty with its dis­tinc­tive tur­reted cas­tle, was built by the orig­i­nal Scot­tish own­ers Ge­orge Suther­land Smith and John Banks in the late 1800s and de­signed to look like the Cas­tle of Mey in Scot­land.

It is proudly one of Aus­tralia’s first winer­ies and since 1992 has been in the ca­pa­ble hands of the Brown dy­nasty.

De­spite liv­ing and work­ing full time at All Saints in Wah­gun­yah, the beauty of the grand land­mark nes­tled within man­i­cured for­mal gar­dens is not taken for granted by fourth gen­er­a­tion fam­ily mem­ber, Ni­cholas Brown.

Nick and his sis­ters Eliza and Angela grew up in Mi­lawa where the Brown fam­ily, led by Nick’s grand­fa­ther John Fran­cis Brown, has been mak­ing wine since 1889. >>

was run­ning the two prop­er­ties full time. Nick and his sis­ters had to sit down and de­cide whether to sell the prop­er­ties, get a man­ager in, or run it them­selves.

“We de­cided, in our youth­ful ig­no­rance, that we’d give it a go - not re­ally know­ing what we were go­ing to take on,” he said.

“We also de­cided to set up a mini-board so that we would be ac­count­able, and to split up the roles.”

Nick chose to make the win­ery and vine­yards his area of re­spon­si­bil­ity, while Angela took on sales and mar­ket­ing and Eliza as CEO con­cen­trated on fi­nan­cial man­age­ment, al­low­ing each to work co­op­er­a­tively but with­out step­ping on each other’s toes.

But Nick said the sib­lings agreed that fam­ily would al­ways come first.

“We told each other that if we started fight­ing then we would sell up and save the re­la­tion­ship rather than risk los­ing our friend­ship with each other,” he said.

It was a dif­fi­cult time and they cer­tainly weren’t short of peo­ple will­ing to give them ad­vice, but were se­lec­tive and con­sid­ered about who they chose as men­tors and what ad­vice they took on board.

They are now well and truly steer­ing a steady course and mov­ing for­ward in what is a highly com­pet­i­tive in­dus­try.

“There are so many winer­ies in Aus­tralia and the world now that it is cer­tainly harder than it was in our grand­fa­ther’s time when there was only a hand­ful of winer­ies in Aus­tralia,” said Nick.

“And there are so many good wines out there too - you can be mak­ing a sim­i­lar qual­ity prod­uct to some­one over the fence - so you have to dif­fer­en­ti­ate your wine from theirs.”

To achieve this, Nick said one of his ma­jor con­sid­er­a­tions was va­ri­etal choice and whether what was planted suited the cli­mate.

It’s the rea­son he pulled out the Pinot Noir and Sau­vi­gnon Blanc and planted va­ri­eties like Du­rif, Marsanne, Grenache and more Shi­raz, which ap­pre­ci­ated Ruther­glen’s long sum­mers.

While the wines he is pro­duc­ing are con­sis­tently award-win­ning, Nick said the sib­lings were con­scious of broad­en­ing the prod­uct they had on of­fer to the mar­ket.

“It was im­por­tant to in­tro­duce a num­ber of com­ple­men­tary com­po­nents like a restau­rant, a wed­ding venue and gar­dens peo­ple want to come and look at, so hope­fully they’ll taste wine while they’re here,” he said. >>

knowl­edge that kindly farm­ers would some­times stop their cars and of­fer the slow­est ped­aller a lift.

“Mum said the first time he turned up on a bike (to Uran­quinty) she thought he’d pinched it, be­cause they had no money and she didn’t know where he got it from,” she said.

Over the time he worked for the gov­ern­ment, La­jos care­fully saved, even­tu­ally earn­ing enough to buy a block of land in Wodonga, and at the same time be­gan col­lect­ing pieces of tim­ber each week.

With the as­sis­tance of a group of men who had each agreed to help build each other’s houses, they built a “hut” – enough room for a bed and place to eat, which would be their first home.

The mem­bers of the group all pur­chased land near each other, putting up their makeshift huts be­fore go­ing on to help build each other mod­est homes.

Ilona says the ex­pe­ri­ence of hav­ing ab­so­lutely noth­ing, then hav­ing to work hard and put ev­ery penny aside to build a home, is some­thing many peo­ple these days sim­ply wouldn’t un­der­stand.

Af­ter two years in Aus­tralia, Ilona was still wear­ing the one and only pair of shoes she owned and had on her feet when she left Ger­many.

She ini­tially had two dresses, and will never for­get the silk dress she ru­ined at Bonegilla by ac­ci­dently wash­ing it in salt wa­ter, leav­ing her with just the one. When Martha was a child, she re­mem­bers her mother pulling apart old clothes and mak­ing some­thing new out of them, as an al­ter­na­tive to go­ing shop­ping.

Bonegilla was ex­panded to take 7700 peo­ple with an ad­di­tional 1600 in tents if re­quired as em­ploy­ment of­fi­cers pro­cessed and despatched up to 100 peo­ple a day.

As more fam­i­lies ar­rived, 20 hold­ing cen­tres were set up to re­lieve pres­sure on the re­cep­tion cen­tres and from 1949 to 1951, women and chil­dren were sent from Bonegilla to places like Cowra and Uran­quinty.

Bonegilla be­came the largest and long­est last­ing of Aus­tralia’s mi­gra­tion re­cep­tion cen­tres and be­tween 1947 and 1971 more than 300,000 mi­grants spent time at the cen­tre - most orig­i­nat­ing from nonEnglish speak­ing, Euro­pean coun­tries.

* EAR­LIER this year, Wodonga Mayor Anna Speedie in­vited Ilona to visit Bonegilla and en­joy af­ter­noon tea with her, which was the first time in decades Ilona had been back to the site and seen its new vis­i­tor fa­cil­ity.

The “Wel­come Cen­tre” was of­fi­cially opened in Novem­ber last year and is part of a ma­jor rede­vel­op­ment of the Bonegilla Mi­grant Ex­pe­ri­ence, which also in­cludes land­scap­ing works, sig­nage, restora­tion of the Recre­ation Hut and the in­stal­la­tion of two pub­lic art­works.

It’s recog­ni­tion that the Bonegilla Mi­grant Ex­pe­ri­ence has be­come an im­por­tant tourist at­trac­tion, wel­com­ing over 17,000 vis­i­tors in 2015 and pro­vid­ing in­for­ma­tion and up­dates for those look­ing to trace their fam­ily his­tory through a re­vamped web­site and new Face­book page.

And with one in twenty Aus­tralians be­lieved to have fam­ily links to Bonegilla – there is no doubt it has cer­tainly played a sig­nif­i­cant part in chang­ing the face of Aus­tralia.

To find out more about the Bonegilla Mi­grant Ex­pe­ri­ence visit

In­for­ma­tion cour­tesy of the NSW Mi­gra­tions Her­itage Cen­tre and * “Re­ceiv­ing Europe’s Dis­placed,” pub­lished by Park­lands Al­bury Wodonga.

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