Dookie campus is an agricultural facility set on the tranquil rolling hills between Shepparton and Benalla in Victoria, Australia.
We acknowledge and pay respect to the traditional owners of country, their elders past and present and for their ongoing custodial care of this place. This includes the Yorta Yorta but also to the near south the Tuangwurrung of the Kulin peoples.
Dookie campus has played a key role in the development of agriculture and agricultural teaching and learning in Australia since 1886 and it remains a focal point for the key research, teaching and technology development that is helping to shape the future of agriculture in Australia.
Situated on 2,440 hectares the campus includes a small community which houses our students and teaching staff, merino sheep, an orchard, robotic dairy, winery and a natural bush reserve.
At the Dookie Campus farm estate, work is underway with partners in industry, government and the community to help meet the challenge of food security.
Dookie’s broadacre farm is home to crops including 220 hectares of canola and 430 hectares of wheat, and 5000 merinos pastured on 1200 hectares of clover, lucerne and phalaris. The broadacre farm is a valuable resource for food security and climate change adaptation research and teaching.
Dookie campus leads the Victoria Drought Resilience Adoption and Innovation Hub, which will help farmers, agricultural businesses and communities become more resilient to the impacts of future droughts and implement innovative technologies and practices.
Research on the broadacre farm includes:
- A carbon flux tower to measure greenhouse gas emissions related to pastures and crops
- Microwave control of weeds in cropping systems
Our ultra-modern dairy comprises robotic milking machines, milking shed and feeding systems with capacity for 180 cows. The new shed has been draped with solar panels to produce 30 kilowatts of electricity, which is about half the three-stall robot's needs.
A 250,000 litre rainwater tank take care of vat cleaning, and water from the dairy drains into a closed loop of settling ponds to allow for maximal recycling.
The 43 hectares of irrigated pastures are also automated with solar-powered moisture probes calibrated to produce optimum growth using the least amount of water.
Research at the facility will include optimising animal nutrition, maximising welfare, modifying behaviour and stock management, and securing water efficiencies in operations.
The improvements are part of a $5 million investment in Dookie’s farm, ensuring the greater Dookie campus remains the leading agricultural educational facility in Victoria.
Established in the late 1970s, the Dookie orchard is home to three hectares of Pink Lady apples. Located on the southern slopes of Mount Major, the orchard is a valuable resource for food security and climate change adaptation research and teaching.
Previous research at the orchard within a major water efficiency study, Farms, Rivers and Markets, developed innovative automated irrigation technologies for apricots, apples and wine grapes.
Researchers found that automation technology has great potential to optimise horticulture and viticulture irrigation, using water measurement techniques such as crop evapotranspiration, crop water stress index, and soil moisture depletion.
The Dookie farm is a living laboratory for studies delivered at Dookie including the Diploma in General Studies and Diploma in General Studies (Extended), undergraduate breadth studies, the Bachelor of Agriculture, research degrees, and single subject studies through the University of Melbourne’s Community Access Program (CAP).
Dookie's history of teaching winemaking and viticulture dates back to the end of the 19th century when the winery was built in 1896.
Dookie's history of teaching winemaking and viticulture dates back to the end of the 19th century when the winery was built in 1896. These days the winery is equipped with all the modern tools to for boutique winemaking. Our students undertake wine and viticulture intensives at Dookie to learn about the science of grape growing and wine-making as well as the operation of the winery. In our Vine to Wine intensive subject they create wine from the harvest to the bottle. Students also visit vineyards in the King Valley, Nagambie Lakes and Goulburn Valley regions to learn about the wine industry and how wine is made.
Dookie Bushland Reserve
Dookie Bushland Reserve provides an excellent location for education programs and research, facilitating insights into natural resource management issues including fuel reduction, flora and fauna, conservation, restoration, and pest, animal and plant management.
The Dookie Bushland Reserve is the largest of its kind on an Australian university campus. The reserve is a nationally significant area of 270 ha, comprised of mainly white box and grey box grassy woodland. Such vegetation types are rare in South Eastern Australia, particularly of this size and quality. While they were once very common across the Riverine Plains of Northern Victoria and Southern New South Wales, more than 98% of the original distribution has been cleared or modified for agriculture.
Flora and fauna
The Dookie Bushland Reserve boasts an impressive array of native flora and fauna providing excellent diversity and species habitats.Over 166 native and 80 introduced plant species are present in the bushland reserve. Of the native species, nine are classified as rare, endangered or vulnerable.
The extensive fauna species inhabiting the reserve include:
- 111 native and 5 introduced bird species
- 5 frog species
- 15 reptile species
- 26 native and 4 introduced mammals
Of these, 7 birds, 3 reptiles, and 2 mammals have been classified as rare, threatened or vulnerable. These fauna include Squirrel Gliders, Swift and Turquoise Parrot, Bush Stone Curlews, Blind Snakes, Bandy Bandy Snake and Brush Tailed Phascogales. Rare birds such as the Regent Honey Eater and Grey Crowned Babbler have been sighted in the past however have not been seen for some time.
The Dookie Bushland Reserve has a varied land use history, with no agricultural impact until the 1960s when areas were used for grazing. Some areas were used for timber harvesting, while others were used for gravel extraction. The central area is in pristine condition with little or no impact since European settlement.
Since the reserve’s declaration in 1992, conservation strategies have led to major achievements including reduction of pest animals and major weeds, and massive regeneration of natural plants.
A 7.5km feral animal fence surrounding the reserve is less than 1.5 metres high, allowing kangaroo passage and deterring introduced animals including rabbits, foxes, hares and cats. Campaigns against major weeds have reduced Horehound, European Olive, Spear Thistle, Pattersons Curse and St. Johns Wort.
Regeneration of native plants was achieved through controlling the Eastern Grey Kangaroo population and limiting grazing stock access to the reserve. Areas that have not regenerated naturally since declaration are undergoing active revegetation assistance to connect the reserve with continuous vegetation along the Broken River and Mt Major.
A mature woodland environment now exists in the reserve’s centre. Typified by mature trees, a sparse shrub layer and a ground layer dominated by grasses of a tussock nature, this habitat supports native fauna.
Dookie Biolinks Program
The Dookie Biolinks Program is a community initiative, developed by a local representative committee to protect and connect existing vegetation, creek lines and wetlands throughout the Dookie region.
A significant cropping and agriculture district, fragmentation of Dookie’s natural vegetation has exposed threats to the survival of many native flora and fauna species in the region. Of the 150 bird species recorded, for example, 26 are considered threatened. The Diamond Firetail and Brolga are examples of the region’s threatened woodland and wetland birds.
The woodland vegetation in Dookie provide open grassy habitat for Bush Stone-Curlew, nectar resources and tree hollows for Squirrel Gliders and roadside trees and shrubs for Grey-Crowned Babblers.
The creek lines and wetlands provide significant habitat for many wetland flora and fauna species, like the Brolga, and it is our aim to increase and connect these remaining habitats throughout the landscape.
- Improve biodiversity in the Dookie region by protecting and connecting existing habitat through the landscape
- Improve quality and quantity of habitat specific to the requirements of threatened species in the district, focusing on wetlands, woodlands and grassy plains environments
- Engage and inform the Dookie community on ecological protection and enhancement
The Dookie Biolinks Program aims to increase the abundance and distribution of:
- The endangered Squirrel Glider
- Selected woodland and wetland species known to be in decline e.g. Diamond Firetail, Brown Tree creeper, Jacky Winter and Brolga
- Significant plant species e.g. Western Silver Wattle, Rock Correa, Dookie Daisy
Natural assets in the region
- Box Ironbark Forest vegetation
- Cypress Pine Woodland vegetation
- Grassy Woodland vegetation
- Wetlands and major creek lines
- Mount Major, remnant Grassy White Box Woodland
- Indigenous flora and fauna species
- Connecting within the Dookie Hills landscape and the Broken River
- Protect and enhance woodland and wetland communities
- Fence remnant vegetation, creeks and wetlands on private land
- Enhance remnant vegetation, creeks and wetlands through understorey plantings, retaining logs for habitat, pest, plant and animal control and managing for regeneration
- Coordinated weed control programs
- Coordinated rabbit, fox and hare control programs
- Revegetation projects, linking habitat across the landscape
- Adopting management plans for ecologically significant natural sites
The University of Melbourne’s Dookie campus is Victoria’s oldest and Australia’s second oldest agricultural college.
Dookie's association with the University of Melbourne began in 1910 when Bachelor of Agricultural Science students spent a year at Dookie as part of their degree studies.
The campus is part of the lands of the the Yorta Yorta but also to the near south the Tuangwurrung of the Kulin peoples. In 1836 Major Sir Thomas Mitchell was the first recorded non-Aboriginal to travel through the Dookie district and the huge Benalla Pastoral Run was registered in 1842 as a result of his glowing reports. The squatters' runs were broken up after the Land Acts of the 1860s, and the Dookie district was surveyed in the early 1870s. Dookie campus was one of four sites reserved in the Benalla district in 1875 for the purpose of an agricultural college and experimental farm. Dookie was chosen as the best site because it was sufficiently extensive for a college, contained the greatest variety of soil types and aspect with both hill and plain acreages, and climatically was representative of the whole of the northern farming districts of Victoria.
Clearing and fencing began in 1877 for what was known as the Cashel Experimental Farm. The first Farm Manager was British agricultural college graduate John Low Thompson, an imposing Scotsman with a distinguished agricultural career both at Home and in the Colony. He brought his new wife to a bark hut in the remote scrub where, with the assistance of contractors and the first two students, he carved out the Experimental Farm. Within a year he had established the nucleus of the farm's flocks and herds, as well as personally setting out experimental plots to a wide variety of cereals, grasses, vegetables, tares, pulses, flax and hemp. The following year these were joined by wheat varieties from the great Paris International Exhibition, and plantings of olives and fruit trees (plums, peaches, apples, pears, almonds, oranges, figs, pomegranates) as well as table grapes and wine grapes (Hermitage, Tokay, Madeira, Riesling, Verdelho, Pedro Ximinez and Cabernet varieties). Student learning was by 'ocular demonstration' (i.e. by seeing) gained whilst working on the farm five days a week. The original size of the farm was 1938 hectares and it has since been altered by various purchases and extensions to the present 2440 hectares.
Teaching at Dookie
Dookie Agricultural College commenced operation on 4th October 1886, and was managed by the Council of Agricultural Education following the implementation of the Agricultural Education Act 1884. The first course offered was of two years duration, and students need to be male, at least 14 years old, and have satisfactorily completed State School education. In 1911 the three-year Diploma of Agriculture was introduced, and in 1923 the entry requirements were lifted to a minimum age of 15 and passes required in specified Intermediate Certificate subjects. During this period Hugh Pye was a particularly distinguished Principal. Pye was initially science master and then Principal at Dookie Agricultural College for 22 years from 1895. While Principal, Hugh Pye gained worldwide recognition for his pioneering work in wheat-breeding and established Dookie as a research centre of national importance. Pye was also a Fellow of the Royal Horticultural Society of England, having been nominated by his friend and colleague, Baron von Mueller.
In 1945 control of the Victorian Agricultural Colleges moved to the newly created Division of Agricultural Education within the Department of Agriculture. From 1910 to 1922 and 1943 to 1963 the University of Melbourne sent its Bachelor of Agricultural Science students to Dookie for the second year of their degree. During this year the students gained practical farm experience and were involved in teaching the Dookie students academic and applied subjects.
Dookie was a centre of rural training for returned servicemen following both world wars. From 1918 to 1921 full-time courses were run to equip participants with farming skills for the Soldier Settlement Scheme, as well as short-courses to extend existing knowledge. In 1946 the Commonwealth Government established the Rural Training Centre for ex-servicemen at Dookie. The centre offered both the two-year Diploma and eight-week short courses until 1950 when its resources were taken over by the Victorian Government.
In 1966 the three year Diploma of Agricultural Science replaced the Diploma of Agriculture, and the entry requirements were lifted again, this time to 16 years of age and passes in five Leaving Certificate subjects and for the first time women were allowed in the course. In 1973 five female students commenced the Diploma, however the first female student at Dookie enrolled in 1947 and graduated in 1949. Now the gender balance in all courses at Dookie is approximately 50/50 male/female. In 1976 the Diploma of Applied Science (Agriculture) was introduced, and was joined in 1980 by the Diploma of Applied Science (Food Production Horticulture) and the Certificate in Farming.
Dookie Farm and Viticulture
The township of Dookie was established when the railway line was extended from Shepparton in 1879 and soon vineyards were developed on the rich red soils of Mount Major. The vineyards had disappeared by 1910 due to the vine pest Phylloxera and the Depression, and since then cereal crops have dominated the Dookie landscape. Viticulture is now making a comeback and the Dookie Hills wine region is gaining an international reputation. Dookie Campus played an important role during each period: pioneering wine grape varieties in the district since the 1870s, and contributing to vineyard and wine making techniques and research. The Winery, built in 1896, is still used in teaching and research.
Since its inception, the campus has been the site of research and experimental trials by students, academics, and industry.
Peace and quiet down on the farm.
Dookie campus is a small community with a variety of housing from dormitories to self-contained cottages, a range of conference venues, recreational and sporting facilities, and a natural bush reserve and Mount Major within its surroundings. Ten kilometres away on the north side of Mt Major is the small township of Dookie with a population of 600.
At Dookie you can contemplate the panorama of stars at night, you can watch the sunrise over the Great Dividing Range to the east and you can enjoy the beauty of the countryside in a peaceful setting isolated from the bustle of everyday life. The Dookie campus has a large dairy farm, sheep, cattle and cropping operations, an orchard, vineyard and operating winery. You can enjoy the farm experience, observe kangaroos in their natural bush habitat or just savour the peace of the countryside.
Booking and Enquiries
The University of Melbourne - Dookie Campus, Dookie VIC 3647
P: 03 5833 9233
Office hours: 9am-5pm, Monday to Friday
940 Dookie-Nalinga Road,
Dookie College, VIC 3647
Ph: +61 3 5833 9200