Like the ABC series it hosted, life in Meeniyan can be a bed of roses.
Blink as you drive down the South Gippsland Hwy and you could easily miss Meeniyan: population 645. And although it might seem like a typical Victorian country town – shops and houses on either side of a flowering gum-lined nature strip with cenotaph – it is anything but.
The town has its own flag and, in 1977, resident Phillip Johnston designed a town logo depicting moonlight through trees over water: in the local indigenous language, meeniyan is “moonlight”.
People come from all over to dine at Moo’s at Meeniyan, where owner Marty Thomas serves up terrific modern food featuring local produce – perhaps Gippsland beef or seafood pie with spinach and local Tarwin Blue cheese. And he also features a Gippsland winery each month.
Italian-born Francesco Laera and his wife, Rhiannon, of Trulli Woodfire Pizzeria, could not believe it when a customer from Traralgon – 50 minutes away – phoned in an order. Serving arguably the best pizzas in Gippsland, they can produce some 200 pizzas on a Saturday night in their traditional pizza oven.
Designer and manufacturing jeweller Philip Lacy and his wife Danielle have been operating Lacy Jewellery Studio & Gallery for 10 years, attracting a loyal clientele who eschew high city prices for excellent country quality and old-fashioned service.
Frustrated from travelling to Melbourne to see live music, local residents Ian Bevington and partner Suzanne Henderson set up Lyrebird Music Council 15 years ago, hosting gigs in the Meeniyan Town Hall. There’s rarely a spare seat in the house.
The town hosts an annual Harvest Festival, a celebratory Meeniyan Day on Melbourne Cup weekend, and a festive CFA-oriented Meeniyan On Fire day that was originally established to welcome the new supermarket after the first one burned down. There’s an active CWA and Red Cross branch, while the Meeniyan Art Gallery exhibits work by leading artists in the region.
While offering a few highway cafe stops and shops, Meeniyan still functions as a country town with a farmers’ supply shop, a service station, a diesel mechanic for farm equipment and a one-officer police station.
They had a referendum recently regarding delivery of mail. Locals voted unanimously NOT to have daily deliveries, which means they all have to go to the Post Office to pick up the mail themselves. “It becomes the meeting place for the community,” says long-term resident Kathryn Smith. “You find out who’s doing what and who needs help.”
President of the local Progress Association for four years, Kathryn had a small part in the ABC series Bed Of Roses a few years ago starring Kerry Armstrong, Julia Blake and the late Bud Tingwell. It was shot in Meeniyan and as Kathryn says: “It put the town on the map for a while.”
Anyone for sports? You can take up archery, bowls, table tennis, cricket, football, netball and more. You can walk or bike the Great Southern Rail Trail that extends from Leongatha to Welshpool.
“It’s a very busy town and we’re always trying to improve the lifestyle,” adds Kathryn.