Bendoc is 110 kilometres northwest of Orbost,on the edge of the Monaro tablelands close to the New South Wales border.The town was first known as Wagra Bendoc, an Aboriginal word meaning plain of crows.
From 1845 the area was part of pastoral leases. In the 1850s alluvial gold was discovered in the Bendoc River. This was quickly exhausted, and a number of mines began successful reef operations.At the head of the river, the settlement of Clarkville clustered round several other mines. Many miners, including numbers of Chinese, sluiced the rivers.The population of the area was as high as 500 during this period.
The township was surveyed in 1869 and the hotel built in 1870. This building was burnt down in the early 1900s and rebuilt. A school was also begun at this time.
In the 1870s there was a decline in gold mining. Some miners selected land, which in many cases is still held by descendants. Dairying was common in the early days, supplying a butter factory at the New South Wales border,and a milk factory at Orbost in more recent times. Wheat was grown for the settlers’ own use and ground at Bombala. Now beef cattle grazing is the main occupation.
In 1911 the Victoria Star gold mine was discovered. This mine has yielded thousands of ounces of gold. Operations were halted by flooding but in 1935a Melbourne syndicate took over for another three years. Sluicing and dredging were also carried on in the area until 1951. Wolfram was mined at Mt Bendoc during both wars. In 1911, the population of the area was 210. In 1933,there were 90 residents in Bendoc.
Since World War II, saw milling has become important. There were a few mills as early as the 1920s. Sleeper cutting, wattle bark stripping and distilling of eucalyptus oil also provided employment. From 1943, the Forests Commission has maintained an office in the area. In 1994, the settlement described in the Victorian Municipal Directory is little changed with stock raising and timber production. The town has a hotel, post office and public hall, with a tri-weekly bus service to Orbost.
The Baldwin Spencer Trail, following the route of an expedition by naturalist Walter Baldwin Spencer in 1889, passes through Bendoc, where relics of mining and sluicing can still be seen.
Bendoc’s census populations have been 210 in 1911 and 131 in 1961.
- Bendoc: a centenary souvenir”. 1973.
- Schofield, C. “Bombala: hub of southern Monaro”. 1990.
(Baragwanath Collection, Centre for Gippsland Studies, Monash University, Gippsland)