Zumsteins: A Century Of Memories

From a crossing of the Mackenzie River to a popular tourist spot downstream from Lake Wartook.

Compiled by Rod Jenkinson for the Horsham Historical Society.

Book Review by Margo Sietsma

A huge amount of work has been done to produce this 322 page book. It starts with an extensive  selection of articles published in all sorts of newspapers, from 1913, through the debate in the 80s on whether the area should become a national park or remain under the Forests Commission , the heated arguments in the 1990s, through fire and floods right up to 2015. These written documents are then followed by many people’s memories, mostly taken from oral interviews with Horsham people who were regular visitors as well as local residents. There’s also a well chosen selection of old photos, together with a sprinkling of recent photos, both of the Zumsteins area and of the wider Grampians area.

Information on Walter Zumsteins himself has mostly come from previous books published by the Horsham Historical Society, but searching out the many newspaper articles must have been a mammoth task, providing much useful background to the history of the whole Park.

This is a passionate book. That much is clear from the bold text in the preface “….. Zumsteins was one of the most popular areas in the Grampians until government departments ended holiday home leases and occupancy, removed non- indigenous trees and plants, stopped camping and filled in the swimming pool under National Park policy, ignoring the wishes of locals and visitors alike.”

That passion shines through the extensive Horsham newspaper reporting in the 1980s, and the  1990s and again in so many of the individual memories and stories. The years of suspicion and scepticism of National Park policies held by many of the local residents and regular visitors is well documented, and clearly there were faults in the way the department acted at the time. But it is good to see entries that show that the relationship is healing. My hope is that the publication of this book will clear the air and allow a new start in this important relationship.

So do go ahead and read this book, enjoy the stories and the memories, take home some lessons for the inevitable next time there is community division. I expect most FOGG members will have their own happy memories of picnics at Zumsteins. I found myself wishing that I had contributed my own stories; the time in the 80’s when the kiosk owners comforted my friend when our husbands were overdue on a walk on Mt Difficult, the time my daughter and I had to stand on top of the picnic tables to eat our chocolate and dried apricots to be safe from the ravenous roos …..

There’s one important omission from the book, which is implied from the title, but does deserve some acknowledgement.  The book covers only a century of memories, it starts in 1913. However we know from other sources that the area has been lived in for many thousands of years. It would have been good to have seen some reference to the indigenous groups, who lived on the edge of what was then a swamp at Lake Wartook, and who fished for blackfish in the Mckenzie river. That criticism aside, congratulations to the Horsham Historical Society  for preserving this slice of history for us and for the future.