Yallourn, Victoria was a company town in Victoria, Australia built between the 1920s and 1950s to house employees of the State Electricity Commission of Victoria, who operated the nearby Yallourn Power Station complex. However, expansion of the adjacent open-cut brown coal mine led to the closure and removal of the town in the 1980s. Whilst the township no longer exists, at the 2006 census, the adjacent region classified as Yallourn had a population of 251.
Often mistakenly thought to have been designed by Walter Burley Griffin, who planned Canberra, Australia’s capital city, the town was planned by A.R. La Gerche, the State Electricity Commission’s Architect.
The design of Yallourn incorporated lessons learnt from the early UK garden cities of Welwyn Garden City and Letchworth Garden City inspired by Ebenezer Howard. The design of Yallourn established a formal central square adjacent to the shopping area and a formal “Broadway” bounded by parks between the shopping area and railway station. The whole town area was surrounded by a green belt varying between native vegetation, open parkland and sporting and recreational complexes.
The majority of the land and buildings, with the exception of the churches and several minor properties, were owned by the S.E.C.V. Residents were charged below market rentals and the S.E.C.V. adopted the role of paternalistic landlord in addition to its role as employer to the majority of the town’s income earners. The conflicts this created caused continuing concern throughout the life of the town. For the majority of the town’s life, citizen involvement was limited, residents being represented in their dealings with the S.E.C.V. by a Town Advisory Council that was established in 1947.
Houses within the town were constructed to a limited number of designs but these were varied by differing external detailing and surface finishes. A brick and tile manufacturing plant was built near the town and produced a characteristic terracotta roofing tile which was used to clad most homes. The pitch of the roof structure and overhanging eaves remained similar throughout the town, providing a common theme without the sameness characteristic of English garden city developments. The homes were placed on large plots, typically of 1000 m2, the design brief from General Sir John Monash, the initial S.E.C.V. chairman requiring that each plot should have sufficient land to permit the tenant to keep a horse and a garden.
The town boasted outstanding public facilities many years in advance of similar rural or suburban communities of similar size, the majority funded by the S.E.C.V. A close community spirit developed within the town, in part through enthusiastic usage of the excellent facilities.
The Yallourn railway line was opened to the town in January 1922 as a branch junctioning at Hernes Oak on the main Gippsland railway; this line was replaced by a one on an easier gradient extending east from Moe in September 1953, which was electrified in 1955. The local railway station closed to passengers in the 1960s, with the line then being used primarily to haul briquettes from the Yallourn briquette factory. When the factory closed, the line was used to haul briquettes from the Morwell factory to Yallourn, as briquettes were used as the initial fuel when lighting the furnaces in the power station until enough steam was generated to dry the brown coal used as the main fuel. Closure of the line occurred in 1986 when the transport of briquettes shifted to trucks.
Yallourn Post Office opened on 8 October 1923 (being renamed from Western Camp which opened the previous year) and closed in 1980 when the town was removed. An earlier Yallourn Post Office opened in 1921 and was renamed Eastern Camp in 1923. Another Western Camp Post Office opened in 1924 and closed in 1968.
At its peak the town’s population reached 5000. However, in 1968 the S.E.C. decided to demolish the town to make way for further mining and by 1983 demolition was complete, the underlying brown coal reserves being used to feed the Yallourn W Power Station. Many of the people who were relocated from Yallourn built homes in Moe, Morwell, Newborough, Traralgon, Yallourn North and other surrounding towns in the Latrobe Valley.
Many of the houses from the town were removed, either to these nearby towns, or on occasions moved further afield. The timber framed buildings were reclad, although most retained their characteristic Yallourn tiled roof. The S.E.C.V. developed some properties, particularly in small developments in nearby Newborough where Yallourn houses were removed and samples of the conversions that were possible were showcased. These transplanted Yallourn homes remain popular with former Yallourn residents.
Golfers play at the course of the Yallourn Golf Club on Golf Links Road in neighbouring Yallourn Heights.
In 1951 Yallourn was the champion soccer club in the state of Victoria.
In June 1952, during the 1952 VFL season, a senior Victorian Football League (VFL) game was played at Yallourn Oval. The match was organised as part of an effort by the Australian National Football Council (ANFC) to promote the sport, and the other matches in the round were played in Albury, Brisbane, Euroa, Hobart, and Sydney (all non-standard venues). The match in Yallourn was affected by rain, but still drew a crowd estimated at 3,500 people.
Author, Gaele Sobott, was born in Yallourn.
In 1974 the SEC made a living history documentary about Yallourn, Born to Die. In June 2008, the ABC Radio program Hindsight presented a two-hour radio documentary about the history of Yallourn, The Model Town and the Machine: A History of Yallourn.
The Weddings, Parties, Anything song Industrial town is about Yallourn. The band’s frontman Mick Thomas was born in Yallourn and lived there as a child, where his father worked for the SEC.
- Australian Bureau of Statistics (25 October 2007). “Yallourn (State Suburb)”. 2006 Census QuickStats. Retrieved 31 October 2010.
- “State Electricity Commission of Victoria”. Public Record Office Victoria. Archived from the original on 6 October 2009. Retrieved 7 March 2010.
- S.E. Dornan and R.G. Henderson (1979). Electric Railways of Victoria. Australian Electric Traction Society. p. 88. ISBN 0-909459-06-1.
- “Yallourn Railway Station”. Monash University ARROW Repository. arrowprod.lib.monash.edu.au. Retrieved 2008-06-19.
- “VR History”. www.victorianrailways.net. Retrieved 2008-06-18.
- Premier Postal History. “Post Office List”. Retrieved 2008-04-11.
- Golf Select. “Yallourn”. Retrieved 2009-05-11.
- Frank Walsh (18 June 1952). “Yallourn says “come again““. Sporting Globe. Melbourne. p. 12.
- Yallourn – All Games, AFL Tables. Retrieved 15 December 2016.
- “Gaele Sobott”. austlit.edu.au. University of Queensland. Retrieved 19 January 2018.
- Peter Read Returning to Nothing: The Meaning of Lost Places 1996 – Page 98 “The film Born to Die commissioned by the SEC gave inhabitants — unlike the Adaminaby residents — opportunities to speak about their feelings. ‘It’s not born to die it’s born to live and it’s living now; Isn’t this a town worth keeping; How much is …”
- Australian Folklore -1995 Page 167 “These records include several official Inquiries, the draft of the play ‘The Yallourn Show’, the exhibition ‘Yallourn Revisited’, the film ‘Born to Die’, the complete series of the Yallourn newspaper (under several titles) and many transcribed …”
- ABC Hindsight: “The Model Town and the Machine: A History of Yallourn” Part 1 of 2; Part 2 of 2
- Time Out Melbourne “Mick Thomas: Interview” 6 June 2013 Retrieved 1 March 2015.
- Edwards, Cecil (1969). Brown Power. A jubilee history of the SECV. State Electricity Commission of Victoria.
- Gill, Herman (1949). Three Decades: The story of the State Electricity Commission of Victoria from its inception to December 1948. Hutchinson & Co.