Hamilton Institute of Rural Learning (HIRL)
The Hamilton Institute of Rural Learning (HIRL) is a multi-purpose, native based precinct that showcases sustainability values in its buildings, gardens and parklands. The building was designed by students from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology and is made out of mud-brick with a soaring high galvanized roof supported by reclaimed power poles. Aimed at providing new skills to the long-term unemployed, the building was funded by the community employment programmes and completed in 1986.
HIRL is the gateway to the Eastern Barred Bandicoot and native grasslands/bush enclosure. Encompassing an indigenous food garden, children’s native play garden, red gum carvings, nature trail, veggie garden, picnic areas, and Creative Arts Centre.
Eastern Barred Bandicoots. Take a walk through the Parklands to see the endangered Eastern Barred Bandicoots in their Parklands Enclosure. The enclosure is roughly 100 hectares of grassy woodlands enclosed by a 1.8m high predator fence. While 150 Bandicoots were initially released between 1991 and 2007, their population has greatly increased and now occupy the entire reserve. Visitors are welcome to take a walk through the woodland to try spot one of these endangered animals.
Gardens. Volunteers at HIRL pride themselves on planting, fostering and maintaining a wonderful collection of native flora. With beautiful manicured gardens surrounding the main building area as well as having a veggie garden open to the public. Growing lots of different native plants, HIRL also has an indigenous food garden which lets visitors learn about the food that indigenous people living within the Greater Hamilton area would have utilised. The garden is very well maintained by the team of volunteers and open to the public to walk through and experience. A children’s native play “walk through” garden has also been established at HIRL, developed to provide children with a sensory experience. The garden is designed with paths, walking stones and logs for children to meander on throughout as they develop an awareness of the joy of native plants and discover the garden animals. There are multiple picnic areas spread throughout the gardens for visitors to use.
Nature Trail. The HIRL nature trail takes a walker through the native bushland surrounding the HIRL reservoir. Take in the 12 informative signs displaying magnificent paintings of the local flora and fauna. The walk around the reservoir in its beautiful natural bush land takes a little over half an hour and along it you will see native birds and wildlife, as well as the native plants representative of the western district bushlands and grassy plains.
Wetlands. A sanctuary for native wetland plant and animal life, the HIRL wetlands delivers the environment and natural spaces for native flora and fauna to thrive. Visit the wetlands to experience a traditional, native Australian wetland garden and listen to the melody of nature’s creatures. Meander through the bushland and try spot the many species of birds and frogs that call this area home and keep an eye out for a bandicoot during your walk – not all of the bandicoots stick to their enclosure!
Creative Arts Centre. With the community in mind, a Creative Arts Centre has been established at HIRL in order to help foster the arts in the Hamilton district – another of HIRL’s objectives. The Centre has multiple rooms for artists to use, including a dedicated pottery studio. Set amongst the picturesque HIRL gardens, the centre’s location nourishes creativity. Many special art events and workshops are held in the Creative Arts Centre as well as a variety of weekly workshops and art classes run by local artists.