The small settlement of Newmerella is situated on the western side of the Snowy River, about 5 km south-west of Orbost and about 375 km east of Melbourne. The first inhabitants were the Krauatungalung tribe who hunted and fished along the river. Europeans occupied the area when the Newmerella pastoral run was taken up in 1847. Newmerella is an Aboriginal expression possibly meaning valley of plenty.

In the 1870s selectors settled along the river, draining marshy land and clearing dense timber. Maize became the main crop, being transported by paddlesteamer and barges to Marlo at the mouth of the river where it was transhipped into seagoing vessels. Maize was also fed to pigs which were walked to market at Bairnsdale, to the west. When a butter factory commenced at Orbost in 1892 many farmers turned to dairying.

Settlement was on the river flat where there was a post office and a school (1889).

About 1912 work began at Newmerella on clearing the track for the railway line from Bairnsdale to Orbost. A canvas town sprang up on the higher land adjacent to the river flats. Local farmers supplied meat, milk and fresh produce to the camp, as well as gaining employment carting and labouring. The line opened in 1916, the Orbost railway station being built on the Newmerella side of the river. The township became established on the hill, with stores and a bakery. In 1928, the school moved up into the hall, until a school building was constructed in 1939.

About 1920 the forest around Newmerella was opened for the cutting of railway sleepers and sawing of mill logs. At its peak there were about 120 sleeper cutters working in the district. A forester was resident at Newmerella for many years. Green beans became a viable crop after the opening of the railway line. Picking of beans and other vegetables employed many people, but crops were later picked by machine. Dry beans were also produced. Snowy River Seeds, producing sweet corn seed, located to Newmerella about 1978. Other enterprises in the area have been apiaries, the growing of vines and hops, the production of charcoal and a peach cannery in the 1920s.

Quite a large Aboriginal community has resided at Newmerella since the 1880s. Some houses were specially built for Aborigines in the 1970s. The Moogji Aboriginal Council was established in 1991, with offices in Orbost, to provide services for the local Aboriginal community.

The township has a store, motel, hall, sawmill and school (87 pupils, 2014) and showground.

Census populations for the Newmerella district have been:

census date population
1911 275
1933 425
1954 363
1966 192
2006 336*
2011 441*

* The census area extends from Marlo to Lake Tyers and from the Princes Highway to the coast.

Further Reading

Newmerella – valley of plenty, 1978