It’s hard to imagine that the Moorabbin Junction we know today – with its busy highway, public transport interchange and thriving arts precinct – was once a quiet rural area, heavily covered with red gums, wattle, she-oak and ti-tree.
The name Moorabbin is believed to come from the Aboriginal word for “resting place”, although some consider the meaning to be “mother’s milk”.
The earliest development in Moorabbin was a post office in 1857, constructed just one decade after Melbourne was proclaimed a city. Moorabbin then began to take shape as a market garden. The rich soil of Moorabbin provided much of metropolitan Melbourne with its fruit and vegetable supply for more than a century.
Local government came to the area in 1862 under the name of the Moorabbin District Roads Board. The Board’s priorities were to construct and maintain local roads and introduce road tolls and rates.
Getting around became easier in 1881 when the railway line between Caulfield and Mordialloc was built and a station was constructed in the heart of Moorabbin.
Residents enjoyed a tipple and were spoilt for choice, with 12 local hostelries, three Australian wine saloons and licensed bars at two railway stations.
Moorabbin’s population continued to grow until it reached 9,668 post WWI when the Depression brought home building to a grinding halt and it did not begin to recover until the late 1930s.
By the time Moorabbin became a city in 1934, many changes to its border had already occurred. Sandringham, and Mordialloc, Parkdale and Mentone left the City of Moorabbin to form their own municipalities.
The housing market eventually picked up and by the 1950s, Moorabbin was one of the fastest-growing cities in Australia. Moorabbin Town Hall (now Kingston City Hall) was built in 1962 and in a nod to the heritage of the area, the Mayor’s gavel was carved from a tree that grew on the site of the building. From the City Hall spread a mix of residential areas, marketing gardening and industrial complexes.
To cater for the growing population, a football venue was built by the City of Moorabbin and various footy clubs were approached to move to Moorabbin Oval, including Richmond and Fitzroy. In early 1964, the Saints came “marching in” to Moorabbin, signing a 75-year deal to lease the grounds.
Moorabbin’s boom continued until the city reached a population of 100,000 in 1964, making it one of the largest municipalities in Victoria at the time. Expansion continued at a steady rate until the 1970s when the local population started to decline.
Industrial growth continued and by the early 1990s, the City of Moorabbin had more than 2,700 warehouses, factories and sand extraction businesses.
In 1994, further changes were made to the boundaries of the City of Moorabbin. Local government amalgamations in that year split a 132-year-old municipality across four new cities (Kingston, Bayside, Glen Eira and a small section of Monash).
Nowadays Moorabbin – the suburb itself – has a population of 5,228 and saw only a marginal increase of 120 residents between the 2006 and 2011 Census periods. Development also appeared to bypass Moorabbin and head to suburbs such as Cheltenham and Mentone. However, following the adoption of the Moorabbin Activity Centre Structure Plan in 2011, interest in Moorabbin has steadily been growing, with a number of new apartment developments, a new private hospital, as well as street and park upgrades all proposed. The Moorabbin Junction website was launched in 2014 to support the renewal of Moorabbin Junction.
Moorabbin: A Centenary History 1862-1962, Published for the Moorabbin City Council by J. & E. Handfield (Public Relations), 1962.
Moorabbin: A Pictorial History 1862-1994, John Cribbin, City of Kingston, 1995.