Origin of the name ‘Arawata’

One of the founding families of the district, the Holmes family, named their homestead after the steamship Arawata which brought them to Melbourne from New Zealand in the late 1880’s. The Arawata steamship was built in Glasgow in June 1875. 

Lawrence Holmes, who is Mr Don Peter’s grandfather (Fairbank Rd, Arawata) , was born in Bristol, England.  Lawrence started his working life as a sailor on a French freighter, becoming fluent in French, which lead to his next job as an interpreter in London. 

Lawrence Holmes sailed to Victoria , age 22,  following news of the Victorian gold rush and he was present at the Eureka Stockade in Ballarat. The lure of gold in New Zealand’s Otago region saw Lawrence jump across the ditch to Gabriel’s Gully, so named after Gabriel Read discovered gold in 1861. 

Gabriels Gully 1862 a year after Gold was discovered. Tents were pitched on the slopes, life was tough. 

Lawrence Holmes had fathered six children by 1877, when he brought his wife and brood back to Victoria on the steamship Arawata. The Arawata was built in Glasgow for Melbourne owners McMeckan, Blackwood and Co. The Arawata was a very handsome vessel with one funnel and two masts and was the sister ship to the Ringarooma. 

Steamship ARAWATA 1875

This from the Sydney News Sep 1875, “The Ringarooma is straight stemmed, schooner rigged and has a spar deck, thus giving her splendid passenger accommodation; and she is a very handsome specimen of naval architecture, reflecting credit on her builders” so we can presume that the Arawata was just as grand. 

 All Lawrence’s life experiences so far stood him in good stead for the challenges of the South Gippsland region. “The history of the southern dairy lands….is one of heroic struggle and endurance unsurpassed in any portion of the Commonwealth. The greatest difficulty confronting the pioneers of Poowong and Jeetho and the whole of the country known as the Strezlecki Ranges, was transport through the almost impenetrable undergrowth  in the great timber” (The Weekly Times 1929)

Lawrence Holmes failed in his bid to have land allocated at Poowong on MacDonalds track, so he ventured further south to Arawata which was then known as Korumburra. Once the Great Southern Railway was extended to Korumburra in 1891, the name Korumburra was taken away from the district. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/South_Gippsland_ railway-line) 

Hams  Squatting Map of Victoria (modified) 1851 

The new name “Arawata” was selected at a public meeting and Lawrence Holmes said that it meant ‘happy home’ which is not quite correct . The Holmes homestead was then renamed ‘Waihola’ which is a Maori word. The Maori language does not have the letter ‘L’ but Waihola is analogous to  the word Wai-Hora which means spreading waters. A fitting name for the homestead in a high rainfall region. !

There is a river in the Mt Aspiring National park in New Zealand called Arawhata. 

painting by P.J.O’Sullivan of the Arawhata River from http://www.trademe.co.nz

Arawata (without the “h”) is a Maori word from the Ngai Tahu dialect. It means bridge, ladder or stairs.  The perfect name for a new settlement which gave the founding families a bridge to a new life in a high rainfall, tall, dense forest.