Yea is a town in Victoria, Australia. It is in the Shire of Murrindindi local government area. Located 109 kilometres (68 miles) north-east of Melbourne via the Melba Highway, Yea sits at the junction with the Goulburn Valley Highway, and 172 metres (564 ft) above sea-level. At the 2006 Census, Yea had a population of 1,052.
The area was historically inhabited by the Taungurung people. The first Europeans in the area were a party of explorers led by William Hovell and Hamilton Hume, who crossed the Goulburn River at a point near the locality in 1824. Their favourable report of the grazing land they had observed contributed to the formation of a new settlement that is now known as the state of Victoria.
The first settlers in the district were overlanders from New South Wales, who arrived in 1837. By 1839, settlements and farms dotted the area along the Goulburn River.
The town was surveyed and laid out in 1855. Town lots went on sale at Kilmore the following year. Settlement followed and the Post Office opened on 15 January 1858. The town was originally known as Muddy Creek, until 1878 when it was officially named after Colonel Lacy Walter Yea a British Army colonel killed that year in the Crimean War.
When gold was discovered in the area in 1859 a number of smaller mining settlements came into existence, including Molesworth. Yea expanded into a township under the influx of hopeful prospectors, with the addition of several housing areas, an Anglican church (erected in 1869) and a population of 250 when it formally became a shire in 1873.
After the proceeds of the goldrush, the town of Yea survived on farming and logging. The heyday of the Yea sawmilling industry was from 19071915, when the Great War saw many men enlist, and then another boom was between 1923 to 1930, after which the onset of the Great Depression saw production greatly reducing as demand fell. In these times of huge production, there was in excess of 2,500,000 board feet (5,900 m3) of timber sent out each year over the tramlines to Cheviot.
What later became the railway to Mansfield arrived in 1883, with an extension to Molesworth in 1889, chiefly for timber transport to Melbourne. Running steam trains, the train service cut through steep hills and undulating country to connect the shire with the main city. The line was closed on 18 November 1978, with the last passenger service running on 28 May 1977. Although much of the railway property has been appropriated by nearby farmland, the original tracks and crossings may be still be discerned across the countryside. The railway station, built in 1889, is now managed by the Yea Friends of the Railway. The station is used for many activities including the monthly Yea Country Market. The former railway line through Yea is in the process of being converted to a rail trail which, when complete, will run all the way from Tallarook to Mansfield. The Goulburn River High Country Rail Trail is scheduled to open in December 2011.
Yea was promoted as something of a tourist centre in the 1890s with trout being released into King Parrot Creek to attract recreational anglers. A post office was built in 1890, followed by a grandstand and a butter factory in 1891. There was a proposal in 1908 to submerge the town under the Trawool Water Scheme but the plan was abandoned.
By 1911 the towns population had increased to 1126 and has remained relatively stable, despite two severe floods in 1934 and 1973 and a major bushfire in 1969.
Yea is known for the wetlands located at the eastern end of the township, which are home to a rare species of damselfly. A Discovery Centre is to be built adjacent to the Yea Wetlands, starting late in 2011. There is also a community art project the Riparian Project under development, which will promote the value of fencing to protect rivers and riverbanks from the damage caused by grazing cattle.
A fossil site in Limestone Road, to the east of Yea, has been registered in the National Estate due to the discovery of fossils of the Baragwanathia plant, the most ancient leafy foliage so far found on earth.
Yea has a secondary school (Yea High School), a public primary school (Yea Primary School) and a Catholic School (St Marys). In the realm of sport there are numerous clubs including Australian Rules football, netball, tennis, swimming, a golf club and two horse racing clubs, which hold a total of four race meetings each year.