Mitta Mitta's success is directly attributable to the strong sense of "community" that involves a depth of community involvement rarely seen elsewhere. With a resident population of 31, the town boasts infrastructure including volunteer SES, CFA and ambulance, all services that were won because of the strength and determination of a cohesive community.


Peter Watson
Mitta
Mitta and the Valley are so fortunate to have a resident mechanic the calibre of Peter Watson.
Things mechanical seem to be imbedded into Peter's DNA.  His interest started when he was twelve and started collecting lawn mowers and by the age of fifteen had around twenty, filling his father's shed. Pulling the engines apart, tinkering and being in awe over the intricacy of moving parts became a life-long love and obsession.
It was therefore a natural progression to take on a mechanic's apprenticeship that he completed with a Holden dealer in Gippsland. He moved around Gippsland gaining experience with cars, tractors, trucks and tyres - no wonder Peter can fix anything!
Peter said that he needed a change and on a whim moved to Perth but in September 2005 he moved back east, landing at Mitta Mitta.  At first it was a bit of a shock.
He remembers that Monday well, Mitta had just won the Grand Final and "there were naked blokes running around town". After being assured that this was only an annual event he was confronted with no power or phones and the creek at flood level, all due to a storm.

Fortunately things improved from there on and now Peter characterises Mitta as the most relaxing place he has ever been. "I just love the place and want to stay here for the rest of my life; I have never been as settled".
His interests include steam trains, 4WD driving, machinery and unusual engines.  And as a valued community contributor he has recently taken on the role of Mitta SES Controller.

Another clever member of our community!

Hidden Treasures
Mitta
The small hamlet of Mitta has hidden away some extraordinary talent.  People have joined the community with amazing achievements, skills and experience, acknowledged and recognised in the outside World but undiscovered within.
One such resident is Bill Chalmers. Bill is a big contributor to the local community but when he finds some spare time heads for his amazing workshop and manufactures steam trains. Yes, steam trains, scaled down replicas of steam engines that actually work and are put on tracks.
Every engine takes many thousands of hours to make with incredible focus given to the smallest moving parts that operate just the same as the original. The skill and patience required is well beyond most of us but Bill had modelling in his blood having been influenced by his father who was a professional model maker and also very handy with tools.
Bill gravitated to the Army (RAEME) where he gained further skills and retired with the rank of Major. Bill's son Dave also joined the Australian Army and was promoted to Major General in 2006.
Bill always has more than one project running at a time and then there are the excursions where his trains are put on tracks to carry real passengers. Wodonga has one of these tracks but they are to be found in parks all around the country.
Another clever member of our community!

Bill Chalmers building a scaled replica of the 38 Class steam loco. There were 30 of these 4-6-2 locomotives built in NSW and 3801 has appeared at Albury many times.
Mitta Needs Treated Water
All sorts of nasties lurk in untreated water and our city guests sometimes fall victim to illness when visiting. Water is pumped from around the popular swimming pool which poses a serious health risk during summer months as does the threat of leaking septic tanks into the creek. GMW takes no responsibility for water quality and reminds users that the river and creek water is not suitable for drinking, food preparation or even showering.
Bacteria, pathogens, viruses, enteric protozoa all exist in untreated water and can be life threatening, especially to the young and elderly.  The Australian Drinking Water Guidelines set the standards for the quality of drinking water including acceptable microbial and chemical content. Treated reticulated water must meet these standards but none of this applies to our Mitta water source.
Past reports of high levels of E.coli in the Snowy Creek are alarming and if monitoring is currently being conducted the results are not being made public.
Mitta has an urgent need for a treated water supply. North East Water has no plan to introduce treated water to Mitta and the Towong Shire who needs to initiate any action is also devoid of policy.  The Shire commissioned a report in 2007 to investigate treated water and sewage for Eskdale and following intervention by the Mitta Valley Advancement Forum, funding for reticulated water was effected for that town in 2009.
Mitta needs to increase its permanent population to provide the social and economic opportunities to make the hamlet sustainable. Water supply is part of necessary infrastructure in a 21st-Century community and a viable water supply enhances investment and individual property worth.
The Shire needs to engage consultants to report on the costs and mechanism of establishing a potable water supply to each household within the town boundary. A preliminary estimate for the system is $2.6m and of course the Shire would then need to procure funding from the various Government sources.
Both developed and undeveloped countries recognise that a potable water supply is a basic necessity in a civilised and safety conscious community. It's time for Mitta to get some focus for a proper water supply.

Reticulated water, symbol of a civilised society.  The Romans had it, the Government helps Third World countries install it, Mitta Mitta is still waiting.
It's not that Mitta is short of aqua pura. Nestled at the junction of the Mitta River and Snowy Creek, there is an abundance of water year-round. Householders have installed a myriad of pumps and piping to extract water under Goulburn Murray Water licences to their home holding tanks. For most of the time, this system works reasonably well but there is always a question of water quality, not quantity.

The magnificent Mitta swimming hole provides some of the town's water
Mitta
The Ottos
Nancy and Chris Otto, like many other Mitta people, have an interesting background. Both have made a significant contribution to the fabric of the town but not much is known about their fascinating past.

Chris' story starts with his great grandfather who, as a 19 year-old German, came to Victoria to take his chances with the gold rush. The unsuccessful venture prompted work with one of the new railway companies eagerly adopting the latest transport technology. But other countries were more frenetic in spreading rail tracks and it wasn't long before a move was made to Bombay (now Mumbai) where the first railway in India was constructed.

Twelve children were produced, receiving their early education in colonial Bombay and later despatched to England for their tertiary education. Chris' grandfather Frank trained as a doctor and soon the lure of India had him back working for the British Army. Born in Bombay in 1903, Herman Otto, Chris' father was also sent to England for his tertiary education. Herman gravitated to the textile industry based at Manchester but he too felt the attraction of India and soon returned to Bombay to manage a cotton mill.

Herman had 'noticed' attractive Alice Kirkman whilst in England and sent a marriage proposal by mail that received an affirmative response. Alice hopped on the next ship to Bombay and they were married in December, 1929.


Chris was born in Bombay but colonial rule was coming to a tumultuous end and with independence granted in 1947 the turmoil and violence prompted a family withdrawal back to Manchester. Two years later the family emigrated to Melbourne when Chris was 11 years' old, attending Malvern Central School and Melbourne High.

He then completed a Diploma of Agriculture at Dookie and went off dairying with his brother in South Gippsland.

Chris first set eyes on Nancy when she was 16 at a local dance and was instantly besotted.  Nancy was born in Kooweerup and went to school at Wonthaggi; Chris already knew Nancy's father and brother.

"My father used to think the sun shone out of him", Nancy recalls. At the same time Chris told himself (that) "I'm going to marry that girl!"  He did, they were married in 1963 and the long successful partnership began.


I do think of Bombay as my hometown. Those are the streets I walked when I was learning to walk. And it's the place that my imagination has returned to more than anywhere else.

Salman Rushdie


Chris, Nancy and  "Tess" Otto
Being Perfectly Franc
Mitta
He married Rosemary in 1965 and they had three children but this was in the context of an oppressive environment conducted by the allegedly benevolent dictatorship of Marshal Tito. Franc said that he never liked communism and the suppression of nationalist sentiment and it was time to escape. Following some intricate planning, the family 'sneaked' across the border to Austria aided by Rosemary's cousin who was a police detective.  The immigration papers were quickly processed at the Australian Consulate in Graz and within days were on their way from Vienna to Sydney, arriving in September 1970.
After only a few days at a Sydney immigration hostel the Tezaks were collected by a cousin of Rosemary's and driven to Melbourne where Franc looked for work.  His first job was as an orderly at the Austin Hospital at $48.80 per week, not leaving much spare after his house rental of $16 per week. He was soon switched to run a night shift that meant the industrious Franc had some time on his hands during the day leading to a part time job as an upholsterer.  The two jobs co-existed for seven years until Franc joined the upholstery business as a partner, a relationship that lasted a further six years until he acquired the whole business - 'Franc's Auto Trimming & Upholstery'.
Rosemary and Franc purchased a holiday house at Mitta in 1984 and three years later sold his business and Melbourne home to relocate permanently to Mitta Mitta.  He still conducts his business but now it is a hobby and he can pick and choose the work, preferably the interesting and exotic. Franc's inimitable work ethic and drive means that he is seldom sitting still.
During the early 1990's Franc admitted to the biggest mistake in his lifetime - being cajoled into standing for the local Tallangatta Shire Council. He was elected and spent four years as a councillor until Jeff Kennett sacked the council leading up to amalgamation.  The amalgamation debate was ugly, Franc took the position that Towong should join Wodonga since the city had a strong rate-based income.  This caught him offside with many of the locals who rejected any notion of being a Wodonga satellite and he found himself as a minority voice.
The council experience did not deter Franc from being active in the community.  He and Clive Lord established the Mitta television translator in 1991 to overcome serious reception problems in the town. Franc remained as president of the committee for 23 years overseeing the installation of a digital translator early this year.  His many and varied community contributions are endless:



Franc Tezak is a bit of an icon around Mitta and like many a Mittarian, has an interesting tale to tell.
His story starts in the town of Maribor, now the second largest city in the Republic of Slovenia but then part of Nazi occupied Yugoslavia.  Born in 1941, Franc was too young to remember much about the War and the devastation of his town but his father was sent off to fight for the Germans in Italy suffering severe frost bite.  After the War, Yugoslavia became a socialist state and because his father had been conscripted by the Germans it took until 1952 for him to get a job.

When Franc was at high school in Maribor he borrowed a book from his maths teacher that was all about Australia. The publication predicted Australia's potential as a World power because of its resources, an indelible and insightful message that at age 14 impressed Franc and set his future direction.

Rosemary Tezak:  Loves living at Mitta Mitta
A love of fishing (and fishing stories) had Franc acting as the fishing club president for 25 years and he served on numerous committees such as Magorra Park, Mitta Muster and Mitta Hall as well as being instrumental in setting up the Eskdale gas co-op.  Franc continues to be a stalwart of the community that he and Rosemary love.
And of course the power behind the throne and keeping Franc more or less in line is pretty much a fulltime effort on the part of Rosemary.  She enjoys her gardening and keeping an eye on Franc's ever-expanding frenetic activities.
Franc's joy is fishing, his shed and gargling a few quiet (and not so quiet) beers in the pub. Apart from being loquacious in English, he also speaks most of the Slavic languages including his native Slovene as well as a smattering of German.
His mother is still alive in Slovenia at 101 years so Franc's genetic material probably gives him the chance of considerable longevity. He has been back to his origins 11 times and has noticed the massive transformation of the country particularly since joining the EU in 2004. But Mitta is the place he and Rosemary love, 'it is the best place to live' says Franc.

Rosemary and Franc Tezak - part of the rich Mitta fabric.

Rosemary & Franc, married nearly 50 years
The Importance of being Ernest
Mitta
Ernie Cole has lived at Mitta Mitta for 52 years and is proud to be a 'blow-in'.

Recent arrival or not, he and Merrillyn love the place, the friendliness of the people and the way the community helps out during a crisis.  "We have good neighbours and great weather, we wouldn't want to be anywhere else", they both emphatically agreed.

Retiring in 2008, Ernie can proudly reflect on a remarkable past including 50 years service with the Victoria Forests Commission (and its numerous name changes) with a strong commitment to the local community.

Ernie didn't like school much and left at age 14, wanting to be a dozer driver. He finished up being trained in Forestry and despatched to a remote Mitta.
"My first impressions of Mitta weren't good but I settled down after I married Merrillyn four months later", he said. 
Raising four children, they quickly became integrated into the community.  Ernie played rover for Mitta United but reckons he wasn't that good. "I couldn't kick for nuts, I could miss a goal from ten metres away", he mused. Ernie's long catalog of local contributions includes his time as the local grave digger and a number of years on the primary school council.

Ernie Cole   AFSM
He did catch a 5 ½lb brown trout in Snowy Creek, probably the pinnacle of his angling pastime. But his intrinsic love of timber focused attention to a more energetic pursuit, wood chopping. Winning the 12" standing block competition at the Melbourne Show in 1968 he subsequently won the North-east & Border Axemen's Association Aggregate Trophy in 1970.  Also handy at scaling up trees on those precarious planks he did trade the old for the new.
Ernie was one of the first in Victoria to use a one man chain saw, his prowess harnessed as an instructor throughout his career. His expertise has been called upon frequently to remove tricky trees around local houses, able to place them in just the right spot.
When daughter Jenette faltered in an early attempt at endurance horse riding, Ernie boasted that he would show her 'how to do it'.  He trained and successfully completed the 1989 400km cross country Shahzada Memorial Endurance Test on 'Farraway Rocalong' in just under 40 hours.

Ernie was lucky to have spent a lifetime working in his vast 3,000 sq km of bushland, enjoying a detailed and intimate knowledge of the behaviour, flora and geography at Mitta's backyard.  In the early days his role focused on bush supervision when there were three timber mills operating in the area. Regenerating the harvested logging areas from seed collected and processed in the district gave Ernie particular satisfaction and he is proud of the way the resource was managed. Using just an Abney level, he surveyed most of the bush tracks in use today both for fire fighting and 4WD enthusiasts.
The high point of his career occurred in 1990 when he received the Australian Fire Service Medal (AFSM) awarded by the Governor General on Australia Day, 1990, a tribute to his contribution to fire fighting in Victoria. His skills were often deployed throughout the State but the major 2003 campaign tested his metal.
"There were 89 fires going on in the State at the one time. We didn't have the resources, that was the main problem,  and we lost so much of my earlier regeneration", he said.  Management of the fire was difficult given the constant change in wind direction but 63 days later it was all over and Mitta under siege for all that time converted to recovery mode.  Six months later Ernie was despatched with an Australian contingent to Missoula, Montana, to help manage serious fires in heavily forested country. "Some reckoned I was too old to go, but most thought that if I was fit enough to endure our local 2003 fires I should go", Ernie proffered.  He enjoyed the experience and was impressed by the American fire fighters, "they were fantastic".
His forays into the bush have developed an interest in the mining history of the area, having visited many of the remote sites where gold mining was attempted in the 1800's.  There are still many artefacts in situ and some have been recovered including the pelton wheel at the Mitta Historic Precinct.  Ernie was instrumental in establishing this tourist area to promote Mitta's gold mining past.
Merrillyn and Ernie purchased their house beneath Mt Porteous from the State Government when the forestry depot was relocated to Hedley Lane.  He and Merrillyn are planning more travel in Australia but are probably done with the cruise scene for the moment.
They both love the area, the people and the peace.  Whilst the Omeo Highway should have been completed years ago, they hope that the character of this slice of paradise is not lost.

Merrillyn & Ernie Cole