Learn about the Snowy Hydro through a virtual excursion containing 12 videos.


This excursion explores the:

  • history and significance of the Scheme
  • environmental considerations
  • science behind the creation of renewable electricity created using running water.

The story of the Scheme is told through oral histories, archival film and photographs as well as through industry experts. The series has been developed in collaboration with community and industry stakeholders. It is aimed at students, teachers and any interested members of the public.

Virtual excursions are high-quality learning experiences integrating video and print materials.

Students are welcomed to Country by Wiradjuri-Walgalu man and Discovery Ranger, Shane Herrington.

Acknowledgement of Country

Shane shares his people’s ancient connection to the land, the story of the billadarang (platypus) and the formation of the landscape and river system of the Snowy Mountains region in the Acknowledgement of Country video.

Acknowledgement of Country video (2:26)

Episode 1

Warning – Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that the following video may contain images and voices of deceased persons.

Narrator – Nooringe [Ngarigo greeting]. Southern Cross School of Distance Education acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of the Lands on which this video was filmed. We pay respect to Elders past, present and emerging of the Ngarigo, Walgalu, Ngunnawa and Bidhawal peoples and extend our gratitude for their generous sharing of knowledge and expertise about the importance of the sites we will visit on this virtual excursion.

Ranger – We're going to have a little bit of a walk through Jillabenan Cave now and that for the Walgalu and the Wiradjuri and the Ngunnawa was very spiritual for women.

Shane Herrington – Just like to talk about a little dreaming story that we have. It's a creation story of the water for our part of the country. The Billadarang, so the Platypus. So when we look into the sky of a night time, when we see a big full moon, what's actually happened there is the moon, he actually steals the water from the landscape. And so each time he grows and grows and grows, he grows and becomes full in the sky. And when he's sitting up in the sky and he's got that big ring around him, he's actually full and looking down at all the animals and laughing. He's laughing because he's taken all the water.

What actually happened, the Billadarang, he dived into the dry river bed, creek bed and he swam all the way up, all the way up to the moon in the sky that was sleeping and wasn't watching, and with his digging stick, the spike on his arm, he busted the moon. And when he busted the moon all the water fell back onto the landscape. When it fell onto the landscape, it created all the rivers and the creeks that we can see at the bottom of the valley.

Narrator – Please enjoy your virtual excursion, while acknowledging the various Aboriginal communities who permitted the production of these videos and generously shared their time, knowledge and expertise. Yeribee, farewell, and safe journey.

List of sources and acknowledgements

Content – The Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Scheme Virtual Excursion was adapted from:
  • Curriculum and Learning Innovation The Snowy Scheme Site Study (2005) NSW Department of Education
  • Australian Alps National Parks (2006) Aboriginal People and the Australian Alps Education resource
  • Snowy Monaro Regional Council (2016) Aboriginal Communities
  • Plowman, S (2007) Thematic History 1823-1945 Cooma-Monaro Shire New South Wales. Victoria Design and Management.

End of transcript

The Scheme is a system of dams, tunnels, power stations and aqueducts, which have the purpose of diverting snow melt west of the Great Dividing Range for irrigation of farmland as well as creating hydroelectricity for the eastern seaboard.

About the Snowy Hydro

The Scheme holds a special place in Australia’s history. It was the site where Australia’s new ‘populate or perish’ policy was realised and workers from over 30 different nations came to work on the Scheme, many of whom called Australia home thereafter.

Welcome to your Snowy hydro excursion video (2:44)

Episode 2

WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that the following video may contain images and voices of deceased persons.

Narrator – Welcome to the Snowy Hydro Virtual Excursion. This virtual excursion will explore the vibrant culture and history of the Snowy Mountains region, the construction and impact of the Snowy Hydro Scheme, and the science behind the creation of renewable energy made from hydroelectricity.

Archive film narrator – In southeastern Australia, work is drawing to a close on the construction of the Snowy Mountains Scheme. This $800 million dual-purpose project, is designed to divert the coastal waters through the Great Dividing Range, for the two main inland rivers, Murray and Murrumbidgee, and at the same time, generate peak load electricity for states of New South Wales and Victoria.

Narrator– We will explore the complexities of the Snowy Mountains Scheme, as a historical, geographical and scientific site of significance in Australia. We will meet many knowledgeable, passionate, inspirational, and adventurous people on our journey to find out more about this special place.

Frank Rodwell – I'm Frank Rodwell, I worked for the Snowy Authority for very close to 36 years.

Christa Fischer – My name is Christa Fischer. I worked as a waitress in the staff mess in one of the construction townships at Island Bend.

Hans Fischer – My name is Hans Fischer, I came from Germany, and I worked on the Snowy blaster plant all my life.

Joseppa Pusswald – My name is Joseppa Pusswald, but they call me Peppi. I came to Australia, to Cooma in 1960.

Narrator – These people will help tell the story of this site's significance. The virtual excursion has been made possible through the generous sharing of knowledge and experiences.

End of transcript

Explore the location, landscape, climate as well as unique flora and fauna of the Snowy Mountains.

Environment and location

In the Environment and location video (3:57), students will also explore the cultural and spiritual significance of the area to First Nations people.

Episode 3

WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that the following video may contain images and voices of deceased persons.

Narrator – The spectacular and distinctive Australian Alps extend over 1.6 million hectares of public land containing 11 national parks and nature reserves across Victoria, New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory. Containing the highest peaks in mainland Australia, the Alps are of outstanding landscape value. The Alps, commonly referred to as the Snowy Mountains, are also home to unique, cold climate, adaptive plants and animals including alpine daisy and snow gums mountain pygmy possums and migratory bogong moth.

Archival film – Most of the Alpine country was previously covered by widely spaced snow gums with snow grass growing freely beneath. Such natural grasslands contained large swampy basins with a typical heath vegetation and pink beds of moss underneath. Heath and moss beds form huge sponges which retain rainfall and feed the mountain streams with clear water, even during long spells of drought.

Narrator – Due to their high peaks and seasonal snow, the Australian Alps strongly influence the hydrology of Eastern Australia. The Alps contribute significant quantities of snowmelt to the river systems of eastern Australia. The water retention properties of bog and fen communities in the area play an integral role in regulating water flow to river systems.

Past Aboriginal social gatherings based on moth feasting were unique to the Alps. The adult insect, the bogong moth, was the basis for large scale annual gatherings of different Aboriginal groups for ceremonies.

The Australian Alps are part of the Great Dividing Range, a series of mountains, hills and highlands that run about 3000 kilometres from Northern Queensland through New South Wales and into the northern part of Victoria.

This chain of highlands divides the drainage of rivers that flow to the east, into the Tasman Sea, from those that flow west into the drainage of the Murray-Darling Basin, or into inland waters such as Lake Eyre which lie below sea level or else evaporate rapidly.

The Great Dividing Range reaches its greatest heights in the Australian Alps. The Australian Alps consists of two biogeographic sub-regions, the Snowy Mountains, including the Brindabella Range located in New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory and the Victorian Alps located in Victoria.

The latter region is also known as High Country particularly within a cultural or historical context. The Kosciuszko National Park situated in the Australian Alps covers an area of 676,000 hectares. It is one of the largest national parks in the world located in the southeast corner of New South Wales. It contains the highest mountains and most extensive alpine snowfields in Australia.

The remote and rugged Snowy Mountains holds a very important and interesting place in Australia's history and future. The Snowy Hydro Scheme is primarily situated in the Kosciuszko National Park and relies on local snowmelt to create electricity that is used right across Australia.

End of transcript

Learn about the history of the area.

Ancient history and Aboriginal heritage

Ancient History and Aboriginal Heritage video (5:10) examines the various impacts experienced by First Nations people from occupation and colonisation, through to the construction of the Scheme.

Episode 4

Warning – Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that the following video may contain images and voices of deceased persons.

Narrator – The Snowy Mountains region has supported and sustained human life for tens of thousands of years and the traditional owners have utilised the abundance of natural resources these lands have to offer. The Snowy Hydro Scheme is located across a number of traditional lands. The Ngarigo, Walgalu and southern Ngunnawal people, are the traditional owners of different regions on which the Scheme is located.

Talea is Wiradjuri Ngunnawal woman who cares for Country as an employee of National Parks and Wildlife. Talea explains how the Snowy region is of significant cultural value to local Aboriginal people.

Talea – So we're up at Yarrangobilly Caves today and we're in Walgalu country, and this for Aboriginal people and our neighbouring Aboriginal people, so the Wiradjuri and the Ngunnawal, this was very spiritual area. Being up high for Aboriginal people we're closer to our ancestors in the sky that have passed. So up here, we've got ceremonial spots all throughout including the rivers, the caves and both for the men and women through here.

Narrator – Across the region, there is evidence of campsites, stone toolmaking workshops and burial sites and sites of cultural significance like the Yarrangobilly Cave dating back thousands of years. The first Europeans explored the Snowy Mountains in the early 1800s, often aided by Ngarigo people who knew the best trails.

From here like in much of Australia, Aboriginal people were gradually dispossessed as Europeans began to occupy the region which had devastating impacts on Aboriginal lives, culture and connection to Country. Construction on the Scheme began in 1949 and the Scheme's infrastructure was constructed on traditional lands. At this time however, the government did not recognise Aboriginal connection and ownership of the land due to discriminatory government policy. Regardless, construction of this Scheme changed the circumstances for our traditional people.

Shane – Traditional people would actually travel along the river system as a pathway but not only as a pathway, but we would actually camp along those rivers. And those rivers actually provided things like bush food, medicine, shelter, all those types of things.

Narrator – The creation of huge dams and reservoirs resulted in the flooding of thousands of hectares of land. Beneath the waters of these large reservoirs, thousands of years of Aboriginal history are now hidden. Today we could expect the lengthy consultation process with local Aboriginal communities before such a development could or should occur.

In 1949, however, the various Aboriginal groups were not consulted and did not typically work on the Scheme. At this time in Australia's history there existed discriminatory government policies that significantly restricted Aboriginal peoples' rights. Australian society acknowledges that in the past much of the government actions and social behaviours were not right. And we are trying to move to a more culturally respectful place.

Best place to start is with education. Education about the past wrongdoings, accurate accounts of history from a variety of sources and the recognition of the strong cultures that exist in spite of the devastation past. Shane, a Wiradjuri- Walgulu man shares with us the importance of education to the conservation of culture and place.

Shane – Traditionally people would actually travel along the river system up into our part of the country. So up into Walgalu country. Ceremonies would happen here. The story that everybody's familiar with is the migration of the bogong moth. And then Aboriginal people would come with that migration. And then that would be the food source for the people up on country for ceremony.

Narrator – There is no doubt European occupation of the region changed the way local Aboriginal groups live forever. The construction of the Snowy Mountains Scheme was done in an era where consultation with traditional owners was not common but it's construction nevertheless has had lasting impact. Education and cultural awareness will help build a better future for all Australians and give respect to a proud and beautiful ancient history and Indigenous peoples.

End of transcript

Explore the history behind the Scheme, why it was built and how.

The story behind the Snowy Scheme

The story behind the Snowy Scheme video (5:58) explains how the Snowy Hydroelectric Scheme became an engineering wonder and put Australia on the map of the world for our ingenuity and sheer determination.

Episode 5

Warning: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that the following video may contain images and voices of deceased persons.

Narrator - The Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Scheme is enormous. It's a system of dams, tunnels, and power stations that were built for two important purposes. One, to divert the waters of the Snowy and Tumut Rivers to the Murray and Murrumbidgee Rivers to irrigate the inland farming plains. And two, to create electricity out of moving water and deliver this power to us, our homes, schools, and businesses.

When Europeans first explored the Snowy region, the plains west of the mountains looked promising for productive farming land. The land was relatively flat, and there were some river systems running through the region that could be suitable for irrigation. What these early farmers soon found out was that the Snowy Mountains, like the rest of the Great Dividing Range, created a rain shadow, making these plains further west, very prone to drought. The rivers that ran through this region did not have enough reliable flow for these farmers to irrigate their crops.

The mighty Snowy River had enormous water supply, particularly in the Spring, when the snow from the mountains melted, sending enormous volumes of water down these river systems to the south and east to waste into the sea. Right here, was the potential for irrigation supply to the areas west of the mountains where water was needed most. By diverting water from the Snowy and Tumut Rivers via a system of tunnels to the Murray and Murrumbidgee Rivers, the effects of severe drought would be counteracted, and farming productivity increased in the Murray Darling Basin.

Archive film narrator – These tumbling waters will be controlled. The Snowy turned from the sea, into the Murrumbidgee and the Murray, westward, to make fertile the arid plains. To make them produce millions of pounds worth more food-stuff per year.

Narrator – The potential energy from the flow of waters could also be harnessed to create hydroelectricity, an added bonus.

Frank Rodwell – It meant so much to Australia and still does. The fact that it was decided in the 1940s that we needed more electricity for industry, and we needed to control the flow of water over the mountains so that you didn't get flood and then drought.

Narrator – This huge undertaking could not have been made a reality without clever and innovative thinkers and a solid workforce, all striving for a common goal. The Snowy Mountain's Authority was the organisation that would investigate, design, and build the Scheme. It took 25 years to build the entire Scheme.

Archive film narrator – In October 1972, the Tumut 3 Power Station was officially opened by the Government General, His Excellency, The Right Honourable, Sir Paul Hasluck. This ceremony virtually marks the completion of the Snowy Scheme. The Scheme which has orbited power supplies to cities, and supplied additional water to irrigate thirsty lands. A truly national Scheme which has been described as one of the world's greatest engineering achievements.

Kent Allen – Snowy Hydro started out, back in 1949, when the government decided to create this wonderful Scheme that we have now. That was a pretty bold move back then took a lot of effort across governments to make that happen. Even back then, we were owned by the three, or three governments, Commonwealth, New South Wales, and Victoria, right from '49 onwards. And even now, we're still owned by those three governments.

Narrator – In total, there are 16 dams, seven power stations, and 225 kilometres of tunnels and aqueducts, all designed to work together to create power for you and irrigation for farming. Snowy 2.0, adds to this impressive achievement.

Frank Rodwell – Looking back over it now, what was on those original plans, there's hardly any of it that was not completely changed as time went by. So, the Snowy Scheme was, sort of evolved. The calibre of the engineers, and designers, and planners, the geologists, and those at the top level who understood exactly what could and should be done, they, amongst themselves, had impromptu meetings which they called, "What if's". "What if we did this? What if we did that?" The associated work that had to go with all that to make it all link up and work, was a huge step for all that, it had to be done, but they did it.

Interviewer – They did it.

Frank Rodwell – But not only did they do it, but they did it on time and on budget.

End of transcript

Kent Allen, Snowy Hydro engineer and Area Manager explains how hydroelectricity is created.

What is hydroelectricity?

What is hydroelectricity? video (6:14) explores the necessity for renewable sources of energy in this country.

Episode 6

WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that the following video may contain images and voices of deceased persons.

Narrator - Hydroelectricity is a renewable form of energy, one that harnesses the power of flowing water to generate electricity. In this episode, we'll explore the following questions: What is hydroelectricity? And how does the Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Scheme generate electricity? Hydroelectricity is power that is generated using the energy supplied by falling water. Hydroelectricity produces no greenhouse gases and does not pollute the atmosphere. It is a clean renewable way to sustainably produce electricity. In the Snowy Hydro Scheme, water from rain and snow melts is collected and stored behind several large dams at varying heights above sea level. This water has stored gravitational potential energy. As the water falls and flows through the pipes from the higher to lower dams, potential energy is converted to kinetic energy. The water flows from the upper dam via tunnels and pipelines into a power station where it passes through massive turbines. Here the kinetic energy of moving water is converted to mechanical energy and turns the turbines. Each turbine spins a large electromagnet, inside a fixed wire coil in a generator converting mechanical energy into electrical energy. The Snowy Hydro Scheme is essentially a system that uses energy stored in water as it falls from higher to lower dams and reservoirs to produce electricity. In your home, the electrical energy can be converted by devices into light, heat and sound energy. The amount of electricity able to be generated depends on the distance the water falls, and the volume of the water which flows through the turbine. The greater the fall, the greater the kinetic energy, and the greater the amount of electricity produced. Kent Allen, Area Manager with Snowy Hydro explained this process to us.

Kent Allen - That it is a very simple process in terms of how you produce power from water. So we're trying to get this water through to the wires and back out to all our customers out on the network. But what we have above the power station is a reservoir. So it's 280 metres above us in this particular power station travels through a four and a half kilometre long tunnel, down some pressure shafts and down to the turbine here. Now this is a large valve that sits here just in front of where we convert that water flow and pressure into power. So this large valve is sitting here holding the water back. So no water is flowing, that 280 metres of elevation of water converts into 2800 kilopascals of pressure. When we want to start the machine up, we actually bypass water around here and pressurise what we call a spiral casing. So then we open this large valve, we still don't have any water flowing as such. So it's just sitting there pressurised. And we have what look like aircraft wings, just little short things we call guideveines that actually sit around a big, what we call a turbine runner. And the water passes through that, but we have to regulate. And these things that look like aircraft wings--guideveins that actually open and close to regulate the water. So we can increase the water flow through it or reduce the water flow through it. As we increase the water flow that applies a pressure and a force onto blades on the runner. The thing that looks like a merry go round, and it rotates the shaft. So the more pressure and more force, more mechanical power, so more kinetic energy that we we're transferring back up this shaft, the water's flowing through and back out to the next reservoir. This shaft's transferring mechanical power back up into this area here which is the generator. This is where all the electrical things happen. In here is what we call the generator Rotar. It actually is like a big rotating magnetic field, lots of north and south poles. And that's what we call exciting the stator. So it's actually pushing electrons out through the stator. Those electrons are flowing out through the wires out to your networks around your local towns, through your wires into your house, through to your lights, your toaster, your microwave, your air conditioner, and all happening at the speed of light!

Narrator - At Tumut 3 Power Station for example, water falls more than 150 metres from Talbingo Reservoir to the generators in the power station, the Scheme's largest Each of the six generators at Tumut 3 can generate about 1,500 megawatts of electricity. That's more than enough electricity to power Canberra. Hydro power plants are a way of producing a sustainable electricity supply. They have what is known as pumped storage. Energy produced from renewable sources, such as wind or solar is used to pump water from the lower reservoir into the upper reservoir at times of low demand. When demand is higher water is released back into lower reservoirs running downhill through turbines to generate electricity. Being able to use water over and over again makes the generation of hydroelectricity more energy efficient and sustainable.

End of transcript

Explore what life was like in the Scheme’s temporary camps.

Life in the SMA camps

Life in the SMA camps video (7:08) includes heartwarming stories of the construction years, 1949-1974 as told by the workers themselves.

Episode 7

WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that the following video may contain images and voices of deceased persons.

♪ Snowy River roll ♪ ♪ Give me a man who's a man among men ♪ ♪ Who'll stow his white collar and put down his pen ♪ ♪ Will blow down a mountain ♪ ♪ And build you a dam ♪ ♪ Bigger and better than old Uncle Sam ♪ ♪ Roll, roll ♪

Narrator - When thousands of workers began to arrive in the Snowy Mountains region to build the Scheme the existing small country towns, such as Cooma and Jindabyne, were not big enough to house all of the new workers. Workers were needed in isolated areas, far away from the towns, where it was simply not possible for workers to get to and from work on a daily basis, due to harsh weather or lack of roads.

Archive film - Men engaged on all these works live in construction townships and camps such as this one at Bella Vista on the Geehi. Only temporary, for they'll be moved to other parts of the Scheme as the works in hand are completed, and new projects commence. Life at Bella Vista, and work on the construction sites would not be possible without the all-weather roads constructed by Snowy men. These opened up an area of great scenic beauty.

Frank Rodwell - Most of us of course had to work out in the mountains. And you have to realise too that there are places out there in the mountains that white men had probably never been in. We had to open it up and build roads.

Archive film - The stillness of the mountain air is shattered as mechanical juggernauts roar into action. The roads to the power station must be capable of carrying loads of up to 120 tonnes.

Narrator - In these areas, temporary camps were built and over time some transformed into permanent towns. In this episode you will explore what life was like in these camps. Camps were built near the construction sites so workers had easy access to the roads, power stations, dams, or tunnels they were building.

Archive film - Here at Guthega, a group of Norwegian contractors live and work. They are constructing the first dam, tunnel, and power house of the Snowy Mountains Scheme. The Guthega project is known as Little Norway and comprises the largest group of Norwegians outside their native land.

Narrator - When work was completed at a site, the camp's buildings were often dismantled and moved close to the next work site. Workers slept in tents or barracks which were temporary structures like huts or cabins. Sometimes the workers arrived before the camp did.

Hans Fischer - When I got there, there were no doors, no windows. We used our blankets to cover the doors and the windows and give us insulation on our beds.

Ervino Bertolin- And the room itself it was a small room. We had a cupboard, and along the wall was about three or four pipes for central heating, where you put your clothes to be dry. There was a dry room in the barrack and a shower.

Archive film - And here was our new home. We were to be strangers in the country of our birth. Where once we looked upon a sun-soaked land baked brown and dry, here beyond our windows lay a world of white, clean and crisp.

Narrator - A sense of community in the camps was created through recreation events to overcome problems of isolation. Food in the camps was an important aspect of life. The Snowy Mountains Hydro Scheme brought together people from all over the world who were all used to eating different types of food.

Ervino Bertolin - Those days was all European food. Unbelievable was - minestrone, spaghetti, all that sort of thing because - we were all Italians! There were some Spanish in there - it was European food. It was terrific food. It was enjoyable to work in there because the Europeans, the main thing is food, good food. And after when the sandwich came around, that's when the trouble starts!

Frank Rodwell - You had a cut lunch to take with you. I can still tell you what was in that cut lunch because my stomach was not up to eating some of what was in it. You've got one salami sandwich, one liverwurst sandwich which would kill a brown dog, and one cheese sandwich, which was edible, too, and so I used to live on mainly on cheese sandwiches. But the workforce, some of the Europeans, the Italians they'd do the salami and liverwurst fine! But they must've had stomachs like a truck inner tube, I think, to survive on that. But they reckoned it was good stuff. After work, in these smaller camps that we had, you used the mess as a recreation area. It was all nice and warm. We played draughts. We played chess. We played cards. We wrote letters, whatever you needed to do sort of thing. You learned very very quickly that they're no different to you. Might've come from the other side of the world but they thought of the same type of things, they cared about their people. Yeah, just the same as us.

Archive film - Townships and camps, some above the snowline, have mushroomed in the mountains, housing the workmen, some 2,000 of them, who operate all the year round, even through the long winter months. In winter, the snow itself becomes a major problem. Snow ploughs wage a constant battle to keep the roads clear. There are other problems. Where there are no access roads, various means of transportation are used to get the men to the workings. The job must go on, and it does, under all sorts of conditions.

Narrator - As the construction phase went on, some of these temporary camps became more permanent. In the camp, a permanent shop might be built along with some other permanent structures like offices, workshops, and perhaps some permanent housing for the area managers. Over time, the number of permanent structures increased and more permanent services entered, creating some of the operational towns we see today. You can explore Snowy towns in another episode.

♪ Snowy River, roll on your way ♪ ♪ Roll on your way ♪ ♪ Until judgement day ♪ ♪ Snowy River roll ♪

End of transcript

Explore the town of Adaminaby.

The development of Snowy towns

The development of Snowy towns video (9:07) uses Adaminaby as a case study to unpack the story of how a whole town was dismantled house by house, transported to higher ground before being reconstructed at the new site, all to allow for the development of the Scheme.

Episode 8

WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that the following video may contain images and voices of deceased persons.

Narrator - The Snowy Mountains region is a rugged and untamable landscape. Dotted with a multitude of charming townships. But the Snowy Mountains region you see today, is a result of years and years of remarkable change. In this episode you will explore one of these beautiful towns. Adaminaby. We will investigate both the new and the old townships. As we explore its history, I want you to focus on the concept of change. Here we are in Old Adaminaby. The area around Adaminaby, was occupied by members of the Ngarigo people. The area was also seasonally used by the Wiradjuri to the west and the Yuin to the east. Old Adaminaby was first established in 1885. By the turn of the century, it was nearly the same size as the region's biggest town Cooma. It was an important town in the region, and the opening ceremony for the Snowy Scheme was held here in 1949. New Adaminaby, the functioning town, is located up the hill. But what caused the need to build a second version of the town? The township of Old Adaminaby stood on the banks of the Eucumbene River. The plan was to dam the river so the flow of water could be controlled for the creation of hydroelectricity.

Archive film - 1956 was the year of great activity on the Scheme. Contracts had been awarded to an American group to build the Adaminaby dam. Now, Eucumbene Dam one of the world's largest earth and rock-filled dam, When completed, would be the heart of the Scheme, from which water could be diverted either to the Murray or Murrumbidgee systems. And water began to back up in the valley behind the dam wall. Residents from the old town of Adaminaby six miles away, were being moved to a new situation at a higher elevation.

Narrator - The damming of the river resulted in the planned flooding of the town. Before this flooding was to occur, the town was physically moved, building by building, to the new site.

Archieve film - Men and machines were tested to the limit, the smallest successes and major achievements. The battle was won inch by inch, one house, six miles.

Six days for the first four, slow, but certainly an achievement. Many people predicted that the house would never reach the new town. And at times the removal team thought they might be right. Progress was made despite the difficulty. This pioneer enjoyed the driest position, waved happily to old friends. And at the peak of removals, houses were moved at the rate of one a day.

Narrator - In total, 101 buildings, including 75 houses and two churches were relocated to New Adaminaby. The first house arrived in July, 1956 and within 18 months most of the move had been completed. One of the most difficult buildings to move to the new town, was St John's Church of England. St John's was dismantled stone by stone, and each stone was numbered before it was transported to its new site.

Archive Film - This contractor who was a lad, and assisted in constructing the original church, will rebuild it in the new town.

Narrator - When the church was rebuilt, every stone was put in exactly the same place as it had been in the original building. The news that Adaminaby residents would be forced to move from their much loved town was not always received well. Town folk, were also not the only ones to be impacted as the flooding zone was going to impact farmers and graziers, as the rising waters were to take excellent productive land. On the other hand, the inundation provided the opportunity to bring new life, modern services and a planned approach to the township.

Archive film - The heart of the new town began beating as residents occupied the completed houses. And new shops opened their doors. The old town began to look deserted, and empty spaces grew.

Frank Rodwell - For people who were brought up in the area to see their town sort of was a bit tough. But, my own personal opinion is that is was probably the best thing that ever happened. Adaminaby had grown at the time with the gold rush in Kiandra in the 1860s. It had a lot of old buildings tumbled down. And so, when the Snowy Authority... Their property section, were masters at working with people and understanding their problems. And they were able to convince them that they would be better off. And they moved into towns that were already laid out. You had tar sealed roads, curbed and guttered. The town was laid out properly by the town experts. You've only got to look at Adaminaby and you'll notice that the main road doesn't go through the town. It goes along the edge so that people don't have to cross the highway to go to the shops or the children don't have to cross the highway to go to the school. Those are all properly laid out, the shops and everything. Those who had businesses in the old town got the business in the new town. And the Snowy Authority was very careful to do their best and help the people. And of course, when they moved into their houses, they had the benefit of electricity, fresh running water and sewage. Now the old town didn't have that. They had to light with kerosene lamps. And so really, it was of great benefit to those people who moved into it.

Archive film - Now the removal team moves the last house as the rising waters cross the road. The story of the removal of Adaminaby is finished. As the newest town in Australia lives, and one of the oldest dies. The story of men, women and children, who gave up their heritage to cooperate in an era of Australia's progress. They made sacrifices, so that the dreams of our pioneers might be realised.

Narrator - Well, here I am standing on the edges of the beautiful Lake Eucumbene.

Today if you visit old Adaminaby when the water levels of Lake Eucumbene low, the mass of artefacts can be found on the shores. These include artefacts such as farm tools and household items like crockery from the 1950s before the town was moved. The foundations of old homesteads and other buildings and roads can also be seen. It's fascinating to explore the remnants of a township frozen in time. The artefacts left on the shore provide us with small glimpses of what life was like in the old town. It also provides evidence of the impact the building of the Scheme had on the people who lived in the old town. It is evidence of a discontinued way of life, customs, associations and traditions that were abruptly ended in order to build the Scheme.

End of transcript

Ex-workers share what it was like to be a ‘New Australian’ during the construction years and how they navigated their new lives in the Snowy Mountains.

Toward multiculturalism

Episode 9


Warning – Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that the following video may contain images and voices of deceased persons.

Archival film narrator– Here we were to live and work beside men and women of a dozen nationalities and my child was to play with children from Austria, Latvia, Germany and Poland. Children to whom the phenomenon of snow was commonplace.

[Focus question – What are the stories and perspectives of migrants and Australians who worked on the Scheme or lived in Snowy towns?]

Narrator – In this episode, you will explore the ways in which the Snowy Scheme had a transformative impact on Australia.

Peppi Pusswald – After the war they start cleansing Croatian people.

[Ethnic cleansing – The attempt to get rid of (through deportation, displacement or even mass killing) members of an unwanted ethnic group in order to establish an ethnically homogenous geographic area.]

Peppi Pusswald – And if you are not one of them, then you were against them.

[Picture of Ante Pavelic Fascist Leader standing at a microphone with his arm in the air – was a Yugoslavian Croat lawyer, politician and dictator who founded and headed the fascist ultranationalist organisation known as the Ustase in 1929 and governed the Independent State of Croatia.]

[Image of dead people on the ground]

Peppi Pusswald – And they were jailing people and they were killing people. And then the people were escaping over the border. And my father was one of them.

[Shows black and white picture (in a photo album)of her father in a suit surveying rubble]

Peppi Pusswald – He escaped to Italy and from Italy, he had the choice to go either to America or to Australia.

[Map showing a dotted line from Italy to Australia] So he came to Australia and then he was working on the Snowy Mountains Scheme.

Narrator – The construction of the Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Scheme began in 1949 in the wake of World War Two. Since 1901 Australia's migration policy was very much a closed doors policy. The Immigration Restriction Act, which became simply known as the White Australia Policy was designed to limit non-British migration to Australia. It also caused the deportation of people deemed by the new government to be undesirable, such as the Chinese who came during the gold rush or Pacific Islanders who worked in the sugar industry in Queensland. After World War Two the Australian government saw the need to greatly increase its population in the interests of economic and military security. Australia's migration policy shifted to the idea that our nation should populate or perish. From 1949 approximately 66,000 migrants came to Australia to work on the construction of the Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Scheme. For many migrants the Snowy Scheme offered them a lot more than just employment. The majority of migrant Snowy workers came from Europe which had been devastated by war. Many came from displaced persons' camps.

Christa Fischer – It was really, really good for me coming from War-torn Europe. It was very hard during the war and especially after the war. Lots of shortages, especially with food. And we often went hungry, we were often starving. And my mother, I mean, we were five children. We lost our father during the war, just at the end of the war. So he never came home. So it was really hard for our mother. And when I came to the Snowy and working in the staff mess and all the food!

Hans Fischer - And I left a, I left a country that was trying to build up after the war. And Germany also, the life is very formal, regulated. And coming to Australia, everything was the easy-going life. Everybody was happy, friendly. I was also amazed about the larrikin humour of the Australians. I loved it

Narrator - With the great number of nationalities represented on the Scheme, communication difficulties between workers could at times be a problem but most migrants often spoke several European languages. They could find a common language in which to communicate while they quickly learned English.

Christa Fischer - At that stage, we had the kitchen staff was mainly staff from eastern and central Europe, and they were all communicating in German, which I found very strange because you know I came over to improve my English. That was another reason why I came over to Australia. And they were all speaking in German, which was not so good for me. But still, you know, I still learned it very quickly and improved it very quickly with visitors and locals.

Peppi Pusswald- I was working in the restaurant, but mostly in the kitchen making salads, whatever it was needed because I couldn't speak the language. The only words I knew was 'thank you', 'please' And 'I love you'. But later I listened very hard to the people when they were talking and, and slowly, slowly, you know like the migrants who read the hands and explaining and if I didn't know something, then I will go and ask and they come and give me a hand, you know, and help me. It took me about three months and then I started to speak.

Narrator - The unfamiliarity of ways of life and cultural practises in Australia could also be challenging at times.

Ervino Bertolin - Italy is very tough country to live, in especially the small towns. So after two years, I was here I did make up my mind, "I'm not gonna go back." because I love Australia. The only thing I miss is, when I was young I used to be dancing a lot, I was mad about dancing. We used to go around, we had a friend with a piano accordion, Back of the motorbike, we go on different towns, we can then play, all the girls come in dancing. We was dancing every weekend. But coming here, it was like somebody cut my legs off. No dancing, forget it.

Narrator - With increasing rates of migration as a result of populate or perish the Australian government adopted a policy of assimilation which attempted to support New Australians. Under this policy, the Snowy Mountains Authority supported the assimilation of its migrant workers.

Frank Rodwell - I know also that the Snowy Scheme started the English classes for the workers for free. And they went in their own time to learn English which was very, very important because if you're working out in the mountains and somebody just, "Look out! Something's comin'" "What is that you say?" It's a bit late then.

Narrator - While migrants adapted to the Australian way of life they also continued to celebrate their unique cultures. Migrants brought with them aspects of their rich, diverse cultures and shared them with their workmates on the Scheme. There was a sharing of culture on a scale possibly never before seen in Australia, between Australians and New Australians of 30 different nationalities. An influx of different foods came with the influx of migrants. The variety of delicious and for some not so delicious foods was a great point of discussion. On the Scheme, food brought people together.

Frank Rodwell - Well, we had never heard of a Delicatessen. We'd never heard of pizzas. And of course the Italians who came out here they wanted to be able to make their pizzas but didn't get tomato paste, we got tomato sauce! Which was part of our national cuisine. We have steak and eggs and tomato sauce. They brought their own recipes and food items. Mind you, I thought the Scandinavians were a bit barbaric eating raw fish. That was not my idea. And the Germans, they didn't waste anything as far as the pig was concerned. They even made pig's blood sausages! I wasn't gonna go there either. However, there were times when you were visiting friends and you'd bring out something that tasted pretty good and the Czechs had their Dileskis and all these new foods that came out. Whereas I was brought up on corned beef and cabbage and spuds yeah that was it.

Narrator - While the majority of workers on the Scheme were migrants, Australians also worked to build the Scheme. Many Australians found working with such a diverse range of nationalities to be enriching. It often broke down long-held prejudices against other nationalities; prejudices which were often formed as a result of being enemy nations during World War One or Two. Workers on the Scheme were able to appreciate that life experiences and core values had many similarities across cultures.

Frank Rodwell - I know that when I first came here in 1950, I don't think I had ever seen a migrant. And then suddenly I was in Cooma, there were more migrants than were Australians and no one was picked on because they may have come from a different country or whatever. Our commissioner Sir William Hudson very, very wisely and said very early in the piece that, "You are not Germans or Italians or Canadians or British. "You are Snowy people." I didn't know any cultural difference although if there was a fight in the camp, as there sometimes were, you could bet at the end that it would be between two Irishmen.

Peppi Pusswald- I feel that in Cooma, everybody knew everybody else. We all were working hard people and striving to build us a home and to bring the family up and everything. I mean, in other places sometimes I felt that people were a little bit estranged, you know, like maybe they were frightened of us newcomers. I don't know, but a little bit different you know. Not as multicultural as here.

Narrator - The rich diversity of people living and working on the Snowy, Snowy people, paved the way for a more multicultural approach in Australia's policy. The pioneering spirit that was generated by the multicultural workforce throughout the construction of the Snowy Scheme contributed in a major way to its success.

[End of transcript]

By providing a guaranteed supply of water to Australia’s dry inland, the Scheme brought stability and security to these areas, allowing them to prosper and develop.

Water a journey westward

In Water a journey westward video (6:37) find out how the Snowy Hydro has mitigated environmental impacts and what measures are in place to ensure minimal environmental degradation in the future, thus ensuring the continued viability of this hydroelectric scheme.

Episode 10

WARNING - Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that the following video may contain images and voices of deceased persons.

Archive film - A dream, to harvest the waste waters of the Snowy Mountains. Water to generate power for expanding secondary industries. Water to pass through the mountain. Water to defeat Australia's greatest enemy, drought.

Narrator - Australia is characterised by exceptional climate variability. It is the world's driest inhabited continent, but it's also subject to flooding rains. By providing a guaranteed supply of water to Australia's dry inland, the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Scheme brought stability and security to these fertile areas, allowing them to prosper and develop. In 1949, the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Power Act was passed and construction of the Snowy Mountains Scheme started on the 17th of October. The system of dams, tunnels and reservoirs are more complex than initially planned. The Scheme has 145 kilometres of interconnected tunnels and 80 kilometres of aqueducts, which collect and divert most of the inflows to the Snowy Mountains area. By providing a reliable supply of water, west of the Great Dividing Range, the Scheme assists in the production of multi billion dollar agricultural industry.

Archive film - This is the pay off, a prosperous countryside. The conversion of now barren lands to this. For the orchards and farms of tomorrow. Greatly increasing the present population with the plains, it will supply for many generations to come an ever increasing flow of fruits and vegetables, milk, meat, rice and other cereal. For this, the bulldozers roar in the gorges The rock-filled platter deep in the heart of the mountain. By 1960, the Snowy will flow inland.

Narrator - Snowy Hydro work collaboratively with landowners, local communities and national parks to manage water in the Scheme and catchment area. Water quality is important to Snowy Hydro because it relies on a healthy system for hydroelectricity and irrigation. Snowy Hydro is responsible for monitoring water quality and taking water samples regularly from the reservoirs and dams. Many of these dams and reservoirs are popular recreational sites in the local area. This is increased human pressure on the natural environment. National parks, private landowners, government and Snowy Hydro work together to manage and minimise environmental impacts and maintain water quality in the region. Regulation of the Snowy River has reduced flows to less than 1% of its original volume. The dwindling flows have left sediment to build up over the riverbed and smother habitat for aquatic plants and animals. Many of the rivers within the Snowy Mountains Scheme including the mighty Snowy River have also been significantly affected by other land and water management activities in the catchment. Vegetation clearing and grazing has caused major soil erosion problems in some areas, resulting in rivers siltation and weed infestations. The Australian, New South Wales and Victorian Governments are working to restore the Snowy River's mighty flows and the aquatic habitats they support. From the very first days of construction, the Snowy Mountains Authority recognised the Scheme would have a number of environmental impacts. Preventing harm to the environment as much as possible, became part of business as early as 1955, when the budget for soil conservation alone was 8 million.

Archive film - Counteraction against erosion in the Alps, centres on re-vegetation. To establish suitable plants on slopes, the movement of soil particles by surface erosion must first be arrested. Low fences, which are woven with pliable brush and brunches between pegs, were built across this bare slope, so that the water runoff is divided into many tiny trickles and any soil particles which may wash away will be deposited against these fences.

Narrator - Business and community expectations have evolved and changed over time. Snowy Hydro continues to make a positive contribution to the environment. Principally through its role as the single biggest provider of renewable energy available to the grid in South Eastern Australia. So what specifically are Snowy Hydro doing to minimise environmental impact? They are developing well-designed infrastructure, such as dams and power stations that are efficient and reliable. They employ skilled employees and labourers including engineers, environmental scientists whose roles are to protect the Scheme and the local environment. They also consult regularly with land and other stakeholders in management and collaboration. Snowy Hydro infrastructure adjoins national parks and private lands. Many different agencies and organisations are responsible for recreational management in this area. This is all very complex. Some questions you may be asking yourself, "What next? "What will the Snowy Scheme look like 50 years from now? "Will the Snowy Hydro Scheme continue "to benefit our environment as a source of natural renewable energy?" "Was this construction worth the impact on our environment?" These are all questions you might like to consider in more detail.

End of transcript

Explore the future of hydroelectricity in Australia.

The need for renewable energy

The need for renewable energy video (6:03) explains the future energy needs of the ‘energy generation’ and the construction of Snowy Hydro 2.0, which has a greater capacity to meet these needs.

Episode 11

WARNING - Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that the following video may contain images and voices of deceased persons.

Narrator - Imagine this, not having enough energy to light up your room, your home, cook your food, run your fridge, your washing machine, or even worse, charge your mobile phone. You are the energy generation but how will we meet your future energy needs? In this episode, you will learn about our energy needs for the future and why it is desirable to have renewable energy sources such as hydroelectricity for clean and sustainable energy production. So what are the energy needs of the future? Why is there a need for hydroelectricity? The global demand for energy has risen dramatically over the past 30 years and continues to rise. Fossil fuels such as crude oil, coal, and natural gas currently supply approximately 80% of our global energy consumption. There is a limited supply of fossil fuels in the Earth's crust. Of course, supply of fossil fuels is only one issue. Global warming and climate change linked to the burning of these fossil fuels is a huge global concern. Carbon dioxide, emitted when fossil fuels burn, traps heat within the Earth's atmosphere causing the temperature to slowly increase over time affecting the Earth's climate. This begs the question what needs to be done to meet the energy needs globally whilst creating a clean, sustainable future for our planet. Electrical energy needs to be produced from renewable and clean energy sources. Sources such as solar power, wind power, and water power may be our main suppliers in the future. Snowy Hydro have started to think about these future prospects. Here, Kent Allen from Snowy Hydro discusses the future possibilities.

Kent Allen - Certainly, you know, our current Scheme has a capacity of 4,200 megawatts delivered back into the Eastern grid. But as the Eastern grid decarbonises, coal fired power stations are retired off that needs to be replaced. And some of that's going to be replaced by wind and some by solar, but we also need certain capacity. These machines provide certain capacity. We can turn them on when we need them.

Narrator - Ideally in the next 50 to 70 years, our energy needs would be sourced exclusively from these renewable resources. This is where hydroelectricity comes in. Hydroelectricity captures the energy from flowing water to produce electricity. Flowing water falls from a height passes through pipes and turns generators in power stations. Hydroelectricity is a clean energy source. It won't pollute the air with carbon dioxide like burning fossil fuels does. Hydroelectricity is also a domestic source of energy, allowing Australia to produce its own energy without being reliant on international energy resources. Today the Snowy Hydro Scheme helps to light up the morning and evening rush hours of all homes and businesses through the national electricity grid that runs from Rockhampton in Northern Queensland, right round the East coast to Adelaide and even down to Tasmania. But the original Snowy Scheme, Snowy 1.0, hasn't got the capacity to meet the energy needs of the future. Snowy 2.0 has a greater capacity to meet these needs.

Kent Allen - Wind turbines only produce power when the wind's blowing and solar when the sun is shining. Sometimes we need power, any point in time, and we may not have wind or solar there and available, so we know that capacity at the click of a finger back into the, into the marketplace. So Snowy 2.0 is actually going to deliver, as I said before, 4,200 megawatts capacity in our current hydro scheme. It's going to add another 50% increase to that, so another 2000 megawatts into the marketplace. And once again, we'll be able to turn that on very, very quickly and respond to the market when demand is there for power, and we can continue to provide that. And when there's excess power in the market place and the consumers aren't consuming we can actually turn that power to pump water back up to our reservoir. So it's ready for when our demand is required back in the marketplace.

Narrator - Snowy 2.0 has raised questions. Are we looking at building more dams and tunnels that potentially will cost taxpayers dollars and damage the environment? We put these questions to Kent Allen Area Manager for Snowy Hydro Limited.

Kent Allen - What it's about is it's about connecting to existing storages. So not building any new dams, just connecting two existing stores, Tantangara and Talbingo together through a power station. And that power station will also have pumping capability

Narrator - Today, renewable energy production is more cost efficient and it is the way of lower emissions future. Snowy 2.0 is extremely important in providing Australia with sustainable energy. In this episode, you have learned that fossil fuels are expected to be depleted in your own lifetime. Even Snowy Hydro and the expanding of the Scheme with Snowy 2.0 will not be enough to serve our future energy needs. Our nation still overwhelmingly relies on non-renewable resources. More needs to be done in reducing waste and researching power alternatives that are sustainable for our future generations.

End of transcript

Explore the legacy of the Scheme and its special place in Australia's history.

Legacy and national identity

Legacy and national identity video (4:34)

Episode 12

WARNING - Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that the following video may contain images and voices of deceased persons.

Archive film - In October, 1972, Tumut 3 power station was officially opened by the Governor General, His Excellency, The Right Honourable, Sir Paul Hasluck.

Narrator - What is legacy? We often use the term legacy to talk about the lasting ideas or impacts from an historical person or event. Legacy refers to the impacts, either positive or negative, from these people or events in the past.

Interviewer - So what would be your fondest memory of your time working?

Frank Rodwell - The fact that I worked for the Snowy, now looking back on it, I think how fortunate I was. It's the meeting of the people from countries that I had not heard of. You had to look at the atlas to see where they came from. And we were the crew working for the Snowy.

Narrator - So what is the legacy of the Snowy Hydro? What are the lasting and significant impacts we see today that may carry us into the future? The ambitious programme of the Snowy Scheme in 1949 seemed insurmountable. Yet, the vision, expertise and dedication of a diverse range of people; Australians, migrants, experts in the field of science and engineering, all contributed to making the Snowy Mountains Hydro Scheme a successful engineering wonder of the world.

Archive film - In July, 1967, the Murray 1 project was officially opened by the late prime minister, Right Honourable Harold Holt. And history was made with the diversion of the Snowy waters from the east of the Dividing Range to the Murray River on the West. As Mr. Holt pulled the switch, 1 of the 10 95,000 kilowatt generators spun into action. The units that the station are now producing peak load electricity, a network for New South Wales and Victoria.

Narrator - The Snowy Hydro Scheme put the Snowy Mountains on the map of Australia. And Australia on the map of the world. It helped pave the way for Australia's multi-cultural identity that we see today. The towns of the Snowy were really the first multicultural towns of Australia. A place where strangers from opposite ends of Europe, and sometimes the world, came together to achieve a common goal - the construction of this groundbreaking scheme - and transformed Australia's identity in the process. Today, as the stores of fossil fuels, such as coal, become depleted, more and more emphasis is being placed on creating and using renewable sources of energy. The Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Scheme is one of Australia's major renewable energy suppliers. Producing 32% of our renewable energy. The Snowy Hydro Scheme really has transformed the story of our nation. One individual at a time.

Christa Fischer - Such a special project! And I think word got around. The biggest ever in Australia. We think, and we should have had lots more projects like that going.

Hans Fischer - And I could drive along, go to anywhere, and I can say 'I've built this.' And it's always something that I can see. That I've achieved.

Frank Rodwell - It's all part of the progress of the country. And that is important to everybody.

End of transcript

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