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history of Sunshine


  • situated 13km west of Melbourne, on a volcanic clay-soil plain dominated by grasslands which were prized by the early grazers but with lower rainfall than the east of Melbourne and thus not as good for cultivation
  • the last lava flows presumably came from Mt Derrimut about 3 million years ago, which probably also formed the Organ Pipes in Keilor just to the north of Sunshine
  • Sunshine became a crucial town in the late 19th and early 20th century as it was the junction of the railroads that joined Melbourne and its ports in Williamstown & Newport to Ballarat and Adelaide in the west and Bendigo to the north, thus creating economic benefits of creating industries there whose product could be railed to most parts of inhabited Victoria and Sth Australia or exported overseas.
    • The dominant industry during this time was H.V.McKay's wheat harvester manufacturing plant.
  • After WWI, returned soldiers settled in the newer estates creating demand for more amenities
  • After WWII, immigrants from regions suffering upheaval migrated to Australia in several waves, with many settling in newer estates in the City of Sunshine, creating a multicultural society such that by 2001, 40% of residents were from non-English speaking backgrounds

Early European Settlement of the NW regions of Melbourne:

  • a clan of the Wurungeri aboriginal tribe called the Marin-Bulluck lived in the region
  • 1803, Charles Grimes, Surveyor General of NSW conducted an exploratory survey mission
  • 1824, Hume & Hovell passed through the grassy plains of Sunshine & Keilor, camping in the vicinity of Taylors & Sydenham Rds

the squatters' land grab

  • 1836: Thomas Wedge was one of the original settlers who followed John Batman to Port Phillip, and one of the few who stayed on for very long farming the land allocated as a result of Batman's supposed purchase from the Aborigines. When Government regulation came to the settlement Wedge took out a licence for 7 square miles on the Werribee River. The severe flood of 1851 washed away his homestead and killed several family members resulting in Wedge selling his land to Thomas Chirnside that year.
  • 1836, John Aitken arrived in Melbourne as the independent rivals to John Batman's Port Phillip Association and selected a large tract of land in the Gisborne region and developed the 640 acre property “Emmaline Vale” and established a merino sheep farm as well as a 10 square mile run at Mt Aitken / The Gap and the adjacent 3,242 acres of the Mt. Holden Run.
  • 1836 George Evans occupied the Buttlejorrk or Emu Bottom Run in Sunbury of 8 square miles
  • 1836 William & Samuel Jackson established their squatting run of 16 square miles on the banks of Jackson's Creek, Sunbury
    • Henry Howey selected land from near the present town of Riddells Creek through Gisborne to Mount Macedon and he also bought land at the first land sales in Melbourne where his name remains on the property, on the corner of Collins and Swanston Streets. Unfortunately, his small boat carrying him and his family from Sydney was shipwrecked on the Ninety Mile Beach.
  • 1836: Alfred Langhorn obtains a a grazing licence to 13,729 acres at Laverton
    • other 1st settlers in the region towards Mt Macedon were Hill who settled the “Turitable Run” on the South side of Mount Macedon, Stainforth in the area around the present Rosslynne Reservoir, Barbour and Matson at Bullengarook
  • 1835, John Batman camped at the junction of Deep Ck & the Maribyrnong River before moving north to Sunbury
  • newcomers arrived from 1835 onwards, disrupting the lives of indigenous occupants, they & their grazing animals soon displacing the kangaroos & emus from the open plains
  • 1837: the 1st squatter in the Kyneton region, Charles Ebden establishes the 'Karlsruhe' / Carlsruhe Run sheep station
  • 1939: NSW Govt introduces a £10 licence for each sheep grazing station, previously there were no fees, squatters could just select their own land based on loosely definded boundaries
  • 1840, James Watson named Keilor after a town in Scotland, and for the next 50yrs it became a thoroughfare for gold diggers travelling to Bendigo region
  • 1840, the first public building in the Gisborne district was called the Travellers’ Rest Hotel and the village that developed was called by that name until the name changed to Bush Inn, then to Gisborne in 1851.
  • 1840, John Carre Riddell and his cousin Thomas Ferrier Hamilton bought the land and much of the stock of the late Henry Howey - hence the name Riddells Creek.
  • 1840's: James Robertson settles on the Sydenham Run of 5,760 acres - his bluestone homestead is located at the end of the access road to Keilor Public Golf Course.
  • 1840-41: Michael and Joseph Solomon obtained a licence to depasture stock and later purchased land in Braybrook with Joseph's original house being located on the site of the present Medway Golf Course.
  • 1841: William Cross Yuille establishes the Rockbank Run.
  • 1842: Simon Staughton purchases Eynesbury and Exford runs, south of Melton from Dr John Watton who had settled there in 1839
  • 1842: William Cherry took out pasturage licences around the Kororoit Creek, Altona, calling the farm “Shandwick”. By 1861, he had purchased 2,500 acres at Crown land sales fringing Kororoit Creek from Brooklyn to Altona.
  • 1842: Robert William Wrede obtains the pastoral licence to what is believed to be Miller's Station in Altona and later successfully claimed the pre-emptive right in the district
  • 1843: a new requirement that the grazing licences now be obtained at auction at a minimum price of £5 per 640 acre section
  • 1843: Joseph Raleigh obtained a grazing licence and in 1847 purchased considerable land in the Maribyrnong Park region.
  • 1844: William Pomeroy and Anne Greene purchase 640 acres in the Parish of Yuroke which would become Woodlands Station which is now opposite Tullamarine airport.
  • in the late 1840's, Thomas Chirnside and his brother Andrew started buying up land in Wyndham (Werribee and Point Cook) following their earlier purchases at Mt William in the Grampians, a station on the Wannon, a chain of runs in the Western District including Victoria lagoon in the Grampians, Kenilworth South, Wardy Yallock, Curnong and Carranballac. They also went on to purchase 50,000 acres at Carranballac, near Skipton, the 38,900 acre Mount Elephant station, 23,800 acres of Koort-Koortnong, near Camperdown, and in 1853 Thomas purchased 89 acres of what is now the Melbourne suburb, Kingsville (near Yarraville) and in 1874 went on to build Werribee Park Mansion
  • 1848:
    • during a period of anti-Irish sentiment, three Melbourne residents acquired one square mile of land as a place for English people to live, and named it Braybrook. Its location is now in Sunshine North.
    • after the Braybrook village was surveyed, to the east, the land became Albion village, a name with an unmistakable English connection.
    • being situated on the Western Highway, the new Braybrook and Albion hotels were convenient stopping places
  • 1849: Francis Anderson leased between 6 & 9,000 acres (or 13 square miles) of prime grazing country in the parishes of Derrimut and Truganina. He presumably built Glengala homestead which was located off Glengala Road, Sunshine, near Kororoit Creek
  • 1849: John & Duncan McNab establishes the Arundel Farm, Keilor running cattle
  • 1849: William Taylor who had bought 13,000 acres in Keilor, builds Overnewton Castle - 1st as a colonial homestead, then in 1859 as a miniature Scottish Baronial Castle.
  • “ A pattern soon developed as a result of the early land sales with a small number of very large holdings covering tens of thousands of acres each held by Clarke, Staughton,Chirnside and a few others who consolidated their original squatting runs. Interspersed between these were the medium-sized pastoral holdings of 1,000 to 10,000 acres and then the small holdings of 30 to 350 acres between these”

the Gold Rush and subsequent development

  • 1850's:
    • the gold rush largely bypassed Sunshine as the main route to Ballarat was via Geelong & Lal Lal, while the main route to Bendigo was via Keilor, Digger's Rest, Gisborne, Macedon (then called Middle Gully), the dreaded Black Forest with its bushrangers, and Five Mile Creek (later known as Woodend)
    • some of the early pastoral occupiers of Melbourne's west, such as 'Big Clarke', built up vast estates through land purchases, creating a virtual pastoral monopoly, which hindered settlement & development
      • W.J.T. Clarke, reputably Victoria's wealthiest man, held 2,500 acres between Rockbank and Gisborne, a fraction of the 120,000 acres he held in Victoria alone. He chose to live in his “Rupertswood” mansion in Sunbury, and in 1859, was instrumental in ensuring one of Victoria's 1st railway lines was through Braybrook to Sunbury. The Melbourne-Sandhurst (Bendigo) line was built in 1860 and extended to Echuca in 1864.
      • the majority of land sales on the Werribee Plains were sold at greatly inflated prices because of the demand from the Gold Rush.
      • James McIntyre obtained a grazing licence in 1852 and built a homestead located at the north end of McIntyre Rd, Nth Sunshine, adjacent to the Maribyrnong River.
      • John Doherty selected land in Truganina hence Doherty's Rd
      • John Fitzgerald owned land which later became Albion Primary School
    • the district was dotted with quarries, small farms, hotels, small businesses (eg. blacksmiths' shops, bootmakers)
    • street plan of  'Albion' drawn up using the names of English counties, was the basis of much of the later settlement of Sunshine
    • 1857: Werribee Railway Station opened. First train ran from Geelong to Newport on the 25th June 1857.
    • 1859: the 1st part of the Bendigo rail line opens passing through Albion-Darlington station and ending at Sunbury; in mid-1861 it was opened to Woodend, and opened to Bendigo in Oct 1862.
  • 1860's:
    • Braybrook Road District proclaimed in 1860 which extended from West Melbourne Swamp out to Melton, this became a Shire in 1871 with Shire meetings held in Maidstone
    • Albion quarry was opened in 1860 (later became the Sunshine tip, then the Sunshine Energy Park)
    • local government area known as 'Braybrook Road District' from 1861
    • the area south-west of Kororoit Creek was named Derrimut, while that to the north-east was Maribyrnong which included Keilor, Sydenham, St Albans and Albion
    • William Taylor buys the “Overnewton Estate” which stretches from from Keilor to Sydenham
  • 1870's:
    • Braybrook Shire created in 1871, stretched from Footscray, almost until Melton
    • main townships were:
      • 'Albion' - just south of Maribyrnong River (now Nth Sunshine)
      • 'Braybrook' - east of 'Albion' nearer Ballarat Road
      • 'Maidstone' - further east again
      • 'Kororoit Creek' - later re-named Deer Park
    • 1872: The timber industry had so denuded the entire mountain ranges around Melbourne, that the Government saw the need to establish the Macedon State Nursery, to encourage replanting of the mountain and to supply seedlings to all parts of Victoria.
    • 1875: Braybrook Junction formed when new rail line to Ballarat was made (this junction was re-named Sunshine in 1907).
    • late 1870's: Altona coal mine: Govt requests Frederick Taegtow to test his theory that vast black coal deposits lay underneath the Werribee plains by sinking a bore. His company only found small seams of brown coal, not black col so went out of business in 1884. Subsequent attempts by other companies saw little success. Later in 1908 the Melbourne and Altona Colliery Company, N. L., enlarged an earlier shaft and extracted at least 31,160 tons of brown coal between 1910-19 from a 69 ft. thick bed 324 feet below the ground. However, due to marketing difficulties and the S.E.C. decision to develop Morwell in preference to Altona, the mine closed in 1919. The brown coal bed underlies most of Altona and reaches a maximum thickness of 140ft. At the south-west corner of the municipality at Skeleton Creek. The seam is thought to run north westward to Bacchus Marsh and south eastward to the Latrobe Valley deposits. Beneath Altona alone it is estimated there lies 200,000,000 tons of brown coal.1)
    • 1877: Werribee Mansion completed

The Rise of Braybrook Junction:

  • 1880's:
    • the region was still largely basaltic plains of open paddocks covered with small boulders, divided by dry stone walls made from lumps of volcanic rock or basalt, with few made roads, and few trees near a lonely house, red gums along the creeks, with views to ranges on the horizons to north, south and east, but few industries:
      • Aust. Explosives & Chemicals Factory - a dynamite factory in 'Deer Park' commenced in 1876
    • the animal by-product industries had developed along the Maribyrnong River which was used as a drain, and the offensive air pollution gave Footscray & Braybrook an unsavoury reputation
    • the new railroad-based industries tended to be metal trades and were much more acceptable to live near
    • early community was dominated by 'railway families', employees of the Railroad Dept.
    • Melbourne was amid a property boom with speculators using borrowed money to buy land, sub-dividing & promoting new estates, in the west, this was mainly Footscray, but extended to Sunshine after its railroad station 'Braybrook Junction' opened in 1886 which was the junction for trains to Bendigo and the newly opened Ballarat line (opened in 1884). St Albans station opened in 1887 although only 8 steam trains a day extended to St Albans.
    • an 1884 map2) shows subdivision of the Shire of Braybrook (Parish of Cut Paw-Paw; County Bourke) on each side of Ballarat Road which are south of Salt Water River (later called Maribyrnong River) and westwards from O'Connell St/Cardigan St (now called Summerhill Rd and Rosamond Rd) to just west of Hampshire Rd and as far north as Berkshire Rd and as far to the south and west as the Bendigo/Ballarat Railyway lines
      • the 1st estate in “Braybrook South” of 48 allotments was just east of Braybrook Junction bounded by Dickson St, Martin St, Railroad Pde & Durham Rd and promoted in 1886 as the “Greatest Junction in Victoria” with trains every hour, destined to become the 'principal manufacturing centre of Australia', 'the Manchester of Australia', forecasting 10,000 men would be employed here within 12 months. Purchasers required a £5 deposit.
      • the 'Braybrook Station Estate' to the south-west of Braybrook Junction, bounded by Anderson St & Railway Rd and included the streets of Morris St, Benjamin St, Chapman St & Couche St, all of which crossed Hampshire Rd
      • in 1888, Messrs G and IG Johnson and G.P Mills purchased 133 acres land from Joseph Solomon on the Koroit Creek. In 1889, the estate was surveyed and laid out by Walter Madden and the Yan Yean water supply was brought to the property.
      • most new houses were weatherboard, some very small (20' wide) and although most allotments were 40'x120', some builders put 2 houses on one allotment, while rows of single-fronted brick houses were built in Benjamin St by 1891.
      • the streets were still unformed, unmetalled and many uncleared of boulders & impassable by drays, there was still not a night-soil collection service and no basic amenities such as a post office, and poor water supply
      • suburb of St Albans was architecturally designed with intention of luring professional people there as it had a healthy climate, but the crash of the 90's ended that hope.
    • new industries commenced:
      • Braybrook Implementation Company on Devonshire Rd (1889-1904)
      • The Mellor Bros of Sth Aust. made farm machinery and bought 63 acres of land in 1888, started an office in 1889 and would become the nucleus of H.V.McKay's Sunshine Harvester Works when H.V. McKay bought the factory in 1904 which allowed him to move his Ballarat factory which was then closed down.
      • Wright & Edwards carriage works chaired by Sir Benjamin Benjamin (the land is now a park - 'Parson's Reserve')
      • huge quarries in 'Albion' which exported crushed rock overseas:
        • Albion Quarries owned by Sir Matthew Davies
        • Parson's Quarry owned by Rev Joseph Hay, on a site formerly known as McDonald's farm
  • early 1890's:
    • the new community fought for basic amenities:
      • 1890:
        • water supply from Yan Yean completed, but was not connected to houses or even some industrial factories yet
        • post office
        • nearest doctor was in Footscray, nearest hospital in Melbourne central.
        • Wesleyan Sunday services & Sunday School
        • public health inquiries into contamination in Braybrook dairies
      • 1891:
        • epidemic of typhoid signalled the unsanitory conditions
        • finally get their 1st State School “Braybrook Junction” (later renamed Sunshine Primary School), school number '3113', which opened on the former private school building with its 1st head teacher being Thomas Flynn, his son John, who completed his secondary school training at University High, a private school in Carlton, and then Uni. of Melbourne, was to develop the world's 1st aerial medical service.
    • new estates:
      • “Post Office” estate bounded by Anderson St, Derby Rd, Hampshire Rd, Norman St
    • industry:
      • by 1891:
        • nearly 1000 men were working in factories & quarries in the area, most travelled by train, but some 50 tradesmen lived at the Junction with their families
        • Phoenix Fireworks Company, just north of Ballarat Road
        • several companies brought land but did not develop for some years:
          • Danks & Barnes - smelting & ore treatment (1894)
          • Edmund Parsons horsehair factory near Kororoit Ck (1900)
        • 3 main shops at Braybrook Junction - Caflisch's general store; Armstrong's grocery; Aminde's butcher's shop;
        • Derham's Braybrook Hotel
      • by end of 1891, leading companies collapsed (eg. Albion Quarries; Wright & Edwards) & hundreds of men lost their jobs

The 'Bad Times':

  • 1887: Thomas Chirnside mistakenly thinking he was bankrupt killed himself with his shotgun.
  • the depression years of 1892-1900 which followed the collapse of many companies, even banks, after the 1880's boom years resulted in unemployment with many people leaving Braybrook Junction, never to return.
  • 1891: Melbourne's sewage problem and smells had come to a head resulting in the formation of the MMBW to develop a sewage plan.
  • 1892:
    • during 1892, 6 in every 7 people living in Braybrook Junction found they could not pay their rates & the shire council's income dropped accordingly.
    • as the council regarded the housing estates as “private” it would not pay for street lamps, whilst quicklime was sprinkled on pools of sewage lying in streets twice a week
    • locals gained some sustenance from mushroom-hunting and eel fishing in Kororoit Ck
    • new State School building at Braybrook Junction
    • works commence to create the Werribee sewage Farm and this would open in 1898.
    • those with large land holdings were forced to sell and this allowed population to grow with these holdings being sub-divided.
  • while the Braybrook Implementation Company had thrived building its stump-jump ploughs in a virtual monopoly while many other companies had to close in the early 1890's, a severe drought that ended the century left the company struggling, affected by difficulties of farmers, and was destined to close in 1904 after stiff competition from imports as well as Australian manufacturers.
  • Footscray connected to Sunshine by road by the opening of Napier St in 1895.

The Federation years - new life:

  • Braybrook Junction was a small township of 51 dwellings, population 250, when the new nation - the Commonwealth of Australia - was born in 1901.
  • 1905: pastoralist William Angliss builds his meatworks on the banks of the Maribyrnong in Footscray and nearby to the Newmarket sale yards. This soon became the largest in Australia and the largest single employer in Footscray.
  • 1906: Lachlan Fairbairn of the Western district purchases most of the Sunshine land / Glengala Homestead which was formerly owned by Francis Anderson and his son Thomas from 1849-c1892 and then owned by Frank Little from c1892-1906. The land was then sub-divided in the 1920's.
  • H.V.McKay:
    • with the demise of the Braybrook Implementation Company in 1904, H.V.McKay, who came from a farm in Drummartin, was an already famous & successful manufacturer of his 'Sunshine Harvester' from his Ballarat factory, purchased the Plant and Works of the Braybrook Implementation Company and 4 acres of land for £3651 sterling with option to buy remaining 16 acres at £15 per acre.
    • the plant was renamed “Sunshine Harvester Works”, and he gradually moved his Ballarat works there and the move was almost complete by 1907, most of its employees came by train particularly from Nth Melbourne & Footscray.
    • Braybrook Junction quietly changed in name to 'Sunshine' after his harvester in 1907
    • in 1906, H.V.McKay decided to branch out into the land selling business:
      • purchased 276 acres from Charles Holdfeldt Houen, a grazier, who had brought the land in 1901, which stretched from Ballarat Rd to the Kororoit Ck, and just beyond the Bacchus Marsh railway line - what is now regarded as 'Albion'
        • a 25 acre paddock he owned opposite his factory was pegged out as 76 large allotments to form the “Sunshine Estate” which were put up for sale in 1907:
          • the 1st houses were his own house “The Gables” and his brother's house next door “Kia Ora” in Talmage St
            • this was destroyed by fire in 1950's?
          • his employee, George Bult among the 1st to build in King Edward Avenue
          • in 1909, he built a row of concrete houses on the south side of Ridley St to rent out to employees, and also commissioned the establishment of gardens & tennis court as well as donating land for a Presbyterian Church adjacent to it.
          • many of the families settling now had come from Ballarat
          • many of the new houses were built in 'Federation-style' although using weatherboard and corrugated iron roofs rather than bricks & tiles
          • by 1916, houses cost £340-400 to build and including bathrooms, scullery & pantry next to kitchen, 2 bedrooms and a living room, whilst the toilets were outside.
      • purchased lots in some of the older subdivisions, which allowed:
        • development of Hampshire Rd east side as the main commercial centre of Sunshine, so by 1908, the Bank of NSW had opened, the Post Office moved
    • in 1911, a 13 weeks strike by workers disrupts activity and showed there was a shortage of skilled labour, providing an impetus for H.V.McKay to push for:
      • establishment of a technical college for which he donated the land, and opened in 1913
      • apprenticeship schemes
      • immigration of Scottish skilled labourers (hence the formation in 1912 of the Sunshine Scottish Society)
    • during WWI, the factory had Commonwealth contracts to make ammunition shells
  • April 1908 Sunshine train crash kills 44 and injures 431 when a 20min late Bendigo express train travelling at 40-65kph crashed into a 40 minute late Ballarat extended carriage train at around 11pm with combined passengers numbering around 1100 who were returning from Easter breaks
  • 1913: Sunshine Technical School opens

Aerial view of Albion looking east in 1918 showing houses only in the east end of Drummartin St

Aerial view of Albion looking west c 1925 - my grandfather worked for H.V McKay as a blacksmith and built a house in Drummartin St as shown.

my uncle Cliff also worked at H.V.McKay's as a gear cutter and is shown here seated in far left of the photo taken in the early 1920s.

another view of H.V.McKay's workshop in the early 1920's.

After the war, the roaring Twenties:

  • the end of WWI saw the return of soldiers to Australian soil and the formation of local RSL and plans for War Service Homes on land south of Ballarat Rd & north of the original McKay Sunshine Estate and by early 1920's virtually gave Sunshine a new suburb, 'Albion'.
  • influenza epidemic of 1918-20 resulted in Sunshine Tech. School being converted into a temporary hospital with 32 beds, and to complicate matters, on 4th March 1919, severe flooding of the Kororoit Ck further disrupted the community.
  • the Ayton family move to Sunshine from Tasmania, my grandfather working as a blacksmith at the Harvester Works
  • 1919, Australian test cricketer, Keith Miller AM MBE was born in Sunshine and later went to Melbourne High School where the principal was Bill Woodfull, the Australian Test Captain.
  • by 1921, Braybrook Shire had 4,431 residents, doubling since 1911, but Sunshine's population had grown to 5000 by 1925 compared with 250 in 1901
  • 1922: H.V.McKay reaches the top of Victoria's social scale and buys “Rupertswood”, the historic Clarke mansion in Sunbury, together with 8000 adjoining acres.
  • H.V.McKay dies in 1926 from cancer, once Victoria's richest man & the man who made Sunshine
  • new industries:
    • Aust. Reinforced Concrete Engineering Company (ARC) established a factory at Albion in 1919
    • Sunshine kitchen cabinet works in 1919
    • John Darling & Son built its flour mill at Albion, one of the largest & most modern in Australia in 1922. The original mill exploded due the very flammable fine flour dust and caught fire and was re-built with insurance money in 1926.
    • Drayton Bros pottery firm (est. 1916?) became Sunshine Porcelain Potteries in 1922
    • bluestone quarries were again being worked including the Albion Quarries 1st started 30yrs before
    • Nettlefolds screws and fasteners in 1924
    • Spaldings sporting goods manufacture in 1925
    • Wunderlich asbestos / cement sheeting and terracotta in 1925
    • Sunshine Advocate newspaper commenced 1924
  • new facilities:
    • moving pictures at Shire Hall from 1918
    • Baptist Church, Sydney St opened 1919
    • Roman Catholic School opened 1919
    • municipal offices opened 1922
    • King Edward Ave hospital started by the Carruthers in 1922 & later known as St Andrews
    • baby health centre 1925
    • Sunshine Golf Club 1925
    • Selwyn Park land sold to council by HV McKay for £1000 in 1924
    • Albion State School opened in 1926
    • MFB builds Hampshire Rd Fire Station in 1927
    • Sunshine Catholic parish created in 1927, parish priest started 1935 (church and primary school in Drummartin St Albion opened in 1951)
  • new housing estates:
    • 'Garden City' style estates:
      • 'Leith' - south of the Sunshine State School (1924)
      • Hampshire Rd, south of Ballarat Rd (1924)
    • extension of the Sunshine Estate westwards to Kororoit Ck to meet the Soldier's Estate to north and west of it
    • Sunshine Heights along Glengala Rd

The Depression years of the Thirties:

  • the Depression years following the sharemarket crash of Oct 1929 hit Sunshine hard and those who had a job could count themselves lucky, the others joined queues looking for jobs each morning or for hand outs of food and blankets.
  • the company  of H.V.McKay goes into partnership with Canadian firm Massey Harris in 1930
  • in 1930, the State Electricity Commission showroom in Sunshine promoted indoor electric lighting, while electric irons, toasters, jugs and radiators gained acceptance in addition to gas heaters, although most relied on wood-fired slow combustion stoves for cooking (many still did into the 1970's - chopping wood and lighting the fire ready for dinner time was one of my chores in the 1970's).
  • crime rates rose in 1930-31 and police mainly walked or used pushbikes, and occasionally, a horse.
  • Ballarat Rd between Duke St & McIntyre Rd was widened by 30' to provide two-way traffic lanes with a plantation in the middle.
  • 7th Jan 1931 saw a fierce hailstorm lashing the Albion area in particular, damaging houses and more than 50 windows at Darling's Mill.
  • 1931, new Sunshine State School brick building opens and the old timber classrooms demolished to be replaced by the Sunshine Girls' Technical School.
  • 1932, Chalmers Bootery goes into liquidation with stocks being brought by H.J. Wittner of Footscray, whose novel use of Xrays to see if shoes fitted your feet attracted customers.
  • by 1932, at its lowest ebb, unemployment in Australia reached 30%, and in Sunshine, those seeking jobs started each day early to walk or cycle doing the rounds of the local factories looking for work and queuing at the factory gates in hope. By 1937, unemployment rates fell to almost pre-depression levels.
  • of a population of about 9,500 in the Braybrook Shire, 435 were recorded as drawing sustenance from the Shire in 1932, falling to 196 in 1933, and none by 1940. Sustenance “susso” was introduced in 1930 to provide just enough food to enable the person to go and look for work. Payment was initially in bags of groceries and later as coupons redeemable at shops but were unsuccessful. Those who did relief work which was often demeaning (eg. stone works on roads, cleaning gutters, draining swamps) received 40 shillings a week, whilst those without work received only 29 shillings a week when base male working wage was nearly 4 pound per week, although female shop assistants may have earned only 11 shilling per week.
  • single unemployed men and women, living at home, received no assistance.
  • many men came from the rural areas to Sunshine hoping to gain work at Massey Harris, but even though this company was able to put on many men in the hope of increased production, in 1935, just 3 days before Christmas, they were forced to put off 1,400 workers.
  • some employers gave preference to married men, the breadwinners for most families, over single men and married women.
  • hawkers plied their wares, including the often welcome “Rawleigh Man” selling condiments, panaceas, potions & salves at affordable prices. American Rawleigh products had come to Australia in 1928. A similar product range was marketed by door-to-door salesmen of Watkins products.  
  • farms still existed in the inner Sunshine district such as Jenning's farm on corner of Anderson Rd & Forrest St, and Cameron's dairy on the corner of Gunnedah & Sydney Sts, grazing their cows on the north side of Ballarat Rd and drove them across four times daily.
  • South Rd to Duke St was still open paddocks with only 1-2 houses, while Monash St was quite well developed with housing.
  • ABC starts radio broadcasts throughout Australia in 1935
  • 1936 - MMTB's bus service was extended to Sunshine in opposition to the local bus service run by Trezise Bros.
  • Australia was in the grips of a serious polio epidemic in 1937 during which 10 children in Sunshine district contracted the disease.
  • despite sewer connections during the mid-1930's, rats had become a problem in 1937 with Council offering rewards for each rat tail caught, while drains and un-sewered lavatories were disinfected with Lysol and phenyle.
  • 1936 - R.V. Seymour moved his manchester and menswear store from 200 Hampshire Rd to cnr Sun Crescent & Hampshire Rd.
  • Trahair's Men's Store opened in 1937 on Hampshire Rd site formerly occupied by G. Penrose.
  • from 1938, Sunshine was also served medically by the Footscray & District Outpatients' Clinic & Welfare Centre at Footscray.
  • by 1939, most of the town had been connected to sewer
  • Sunshine's sun turned dark red with smoke from the Black Friday bushfires that ravaged Victoria in 48degC heat on 13th Jan. 1939.
  • the Melbourne Pig and Calf Market opened in McDonald Rd (Market Rd) in 1939.
  • 1939, Shire Council fails in its last bid to get the Footscray tramway extended to Sunshine.


  • McKay Massey Harris factory was used for making radar equipment, parts for armoured vehicles and other military items including shell bodies.
  • Albion Explosives Factory, built between 1940-45 and 1954-80, was in Deer Park
  • 1940 - Council and resident groups push for a subway under the railway junction at Derby Rd / Monash St.
  • 1940 - Drayton Refactories, manufacturer of spark plug insulators, opens in Market Rd becoming the first factory for “Tinytown” - South Sunshine after it was rezoned as light industrial instead of residential to accommodate it, and in the process, giving up 150 quarter acre residential blocks.
  • Sunshine took precautions for air raids with brown-outs (eg. neon lights turned off at night), installations of camouflage, anti-aircraft guns and search lights as it was at risk due to the railway junction, McKay factory and local ammunition factories. Indeed in 1943, genuine air raid alarms were raised and gunshots heard - presumably in response to Japanese aircraft.
  • rationing was introduced in 1941 to release goods & services to supply the armed forces
    • Government issued ration books of coupons which had to be surrendered when buying petrol, food & clothing.
    • weekly ration per person: 1 lb sugar, 0.5lb butter, 2 lb meat, 0.1lb tea, zero cream; coffee rare; 
    • many put their cars up in blocks (to save their tyres) for the duration of the war when petrol was rationed to only those that needed it for essential travel.
  • 1941 - Monsanto Chemicals moves to a 70 acre site on Somerville Rd, Brooklyn, impregnating everything in the region with a chemical smell, even the mail.
  • 1942 - population of Braybrook Shire (Sunshine) reaches 13,000.
  • Government introduces Austerity wear in 1942 - no frills clothing, while women wore head scarves instead of hats.
  • uniform income tax introduced in 1942 & Commonwealth War Loans were raised by public appeal to pay for Australia's war effort.
  • communities started fund raising activities with patriotic fervour.
  • 1943 - State Gov. over-rules local gov. to allow N. Smorgon & Sons to built a meat cannery at Brooklyn.
  • 1944 - the 12 operator manual telephone exchange converted to automatic.
  • in 1945, Sunshine residents gave more money to Commonwealth War Loans than any other metropolitan municipality.
  • 1945:
    • Prince Philip, once Philip of Greece and Denmark, at age 24, sailed into Melbourne as an exiled Balkan prince and now second-in-command of the Royal Navy destroyer Whelp. He fell into the company of two sisters named Mary and Roma Fowler, whose parents owned the Derrimut Hotel in Sunshine and stayed as a guest in the Derrimut Hotel. He had been introduced to the Fowlers by a fellow Royal Navy officer, Melbourne-born Michael Avison Parker, who later became the prince's long-serving personal secretary.3)
  • 1946:
    • new factories open:
      • Rubbertex opens in a temporary building on cnr Albury St & Ballarat Rd. 
      • Alliance Printing Works opens at 107 Ballarat Rd.
    • Housing Commission build low quality pre-fabricated houses in Albion.
    • 14 bed Sunshine and District Community Hospital opens in King Edward Ave replacing St Andrew's Hospital.
    • Australia's massive immigration program commences bringing in 170,000 over 4 years, many of whom settled in Sunshine.
  • rationing of food & clothing continued until 1949, and until 1950 for petrol.
  • manpower shortage brings self-service shopping to Robinson's grocery.
  • doctors included Drs D. Wise, Hickey, K. Brennan, Waters, C.Byrne, G.P. Jeffree & J.H. Dorman.
  • 1948:
    • portable chest XRay van to screen for TB first brought to Sunshine.
  • 1949:
    • a J. Ayton (presumably Jackie), played in the Sunshine Cricket premiership team.
    • RAAF base set up in Tottenham on the west side of Ashley St along with temporary pre-fab houses which remained for 30yrs.
    • Dyecraft opens its textile factory on Ballarat Rd.
    • migrants, especially Ukrainians, caught trains to Albion and walked to Ardeer where land at 35 pounds a block, although relatively cheap then, was still a lot of money to save. They set up home in tents and fibro-cement shelters, building their houses piecemeal as time and money would allow. There was no electricity and kerosene was used for cooking, heating & lighting. For a while, there was only one community water tap to supply all these settlers. Women washed clothes in Kororoit Creek. Forrest St at 5.30am became thick with cyclists going to work.

The New Migration & Baby Boomer Years:

  • many of the displaced persons from WWII who migrated to Australia in the 1950's, settle in Sunshine, particularly in Sunshine Heights, Ardeer, Sunshine North, St Albans, Keilor East and Keilor with many new schools opening: St Theresa Primary and church in Albion in 1951, Sunshine East Primary 1951, Sunshine High 1955, Sunshine Heights Primary 1955, St Pauls primary 1956, Sunshine North Primary 1956, Sunvale Primary 1957, Sunshine North Technical 1960, Sunshine West High 1960, Albion North Primary 1961, Marian college 1962
  • Sunshine municipality underwent very rapid postwar population growth in the 1950s, from an estimated 22,000 in 1951 to 62,321 in 1961
  • 2nd generation families dominate the population of Sunshine
  • Victorian Railways erect many pre-fabricated houses under the “Operation Snail” scheme, along with migrant workers from the UK.
  • 1950
    • a series of strikes in 1947-50 left Melbourne without power, coal and transport including 9 weeks in 1950 when there was no public transport.
    • G.J. Coles chain store buys out J.W.McGrath's grocery & hardware store in Hampshire Rd.
    • lead factory opens in Forrest St
  • 1951
    • Peerless Plaster opens in Cannon St off Wright St.
    • Sunshine Cavalcade, a souvenir booklet, was produced for the proclamation of the City of Sunshine, which at this time included over 100 factories and a population of 22,000, with the immigration would expand to over 70,000 by 1966.
    • East Sunshine State School opens.
    • Medway golf course opens.
    • St Theresa church and school opens in Drummartin St Albion
    • Fire at HV MCkay's factory Dec 1951.
  • 1954:
    • Sunshine City Public Library opens
  • Keilor which had remained primarily a pastoral region until the 1950's, is proclaimed a City in 1961 when its population had grown to 33,000 as the Overnewton Estate became sub-divided
  • 1955 - H.V.McKay is bought out by Massey Ferguson
  • 1965 - Cumberland Newspapers acquires the Sunshine Advocate newspaper from origonal editor and proprietor Clarence Carlton

Christmas show at the ETA factory in Braybrook c 1962 - photograph by my father

The Seventies and Eighties:

  • fad for demolishing houses and replacing with very ordinary looking brick double story residential “flats” begins the degradation of residential quality in the region
  • legendary VFL/AFL footballer Doug Hawkins (born in Braybrook 1960)
    • played as a youth for Braybrook Football Club with Robert Groenewegen where they won 6 premierships4) (and both also for Sunshine YCW Cricket Club)
    • captains Footscray Junior team in 1976 then joined the senior team with with Robert Groenewegen in 1978 where he played 329 games before moving to Fitzroy for the 1995 season when he then retired from football 5)
  • establishment of Big Sam's supermarket in St Albans and introduction of Friday night shopping impacts on local traders in Sunshine, who by early 1980's were in considerable trouble competing with the massive Highpoint shopping centre in Maribyrnong, which lead to redevelopment of Hampshire Rd shopping centre in attempt to lure local shoppers back.
  • many retailers closed their doors such as Waltons, Clark Rubber, Fosseys, original Safeway
  • in 1982, plans were developed to turn the industrial land to north-east of Hampshire Rd and Service St into a new stage 1 of the Sunshine Centre Plaza
  • competition with imported manufactured goods leads to closure of many local industries which had commenced in 1920's including Spaldings, Nettlefolds, Massey Ferguson (previously H.V.McKay), ARC, John Darling & Sons as well as the large govt ammunitions factories in Maribyrnong
  • reform of the State Education system results in amalgamation of High Schools with Technical Schools to form colleges, with resultant closure of Sunshine High School and redevelopment of Sunshine Technical College and closure of its Trades Building.
  • immigrants from the Vietnam War arrive in migrant hostels in Maribyrnong and later settle in Footscray & Sunshine in particular as the younger European generations move out of those areas into new suburbs on the fringes or to more affluent suburbs.
  • suburbs of Kealba and Keilor Downs commences in mid-1970's after the Green Gully municipal tip was filled in
  • the more up-market suburb of Taylors Lakes commences 1981 with sub-division of Overnewton Estate lands which had been sold to the Walton family (a retailer which was bought out by Myer in mid-1970's), initially the land east of Sunshine Avenue was subdivided and then in late 1980's, the land to the west of Sunshine Avenue was subdivided
  • 1989: Sunshine Football Club no longer in VFA after VFA contracted to only 1 Division and Sunshine had been uncompetitive at that level and financially struggling - club had formed in 1938 and had joined the VFA in 1959 when it played its home games at Selwyn Park, but these were moved to Skinner Reserve, Braybrook, in 1966. Albion Football Club was it's Thirds team before AFC ventured out on its own in 1961.

The Nineties:

  • reconstruction of industrial zones:
    • the old Massey Ferguson/HVMcKay site converted into Sunshine shopping plaza with cinema complex
      • in 1994, Woolworths Ltd purchased two-thirds of the former Sunshine Harvester Works site for $10 million, and submitted plans to build a $70 million shopping complex containing a Big W department store, Safeway supermarket, cinemas, and around 50 shops. The Sunshine Marketplace opened in 1997.
    • the old Spaldings site redeveloped as Bunnings Warehouse
    • the old Nettlefolds site redeveloped as Coles Myers' Good Buy Store then taken over as Harvey Norman
    • the old Sunshine High School site redeveloped as retail stores and Victorian TAFE facility
  • development of a major hospital - the Sunshine Hospital on Furlong Rd in St Albans, initially as a paediatric and maternity hospital with geriatric facilities in Feb 1990, being part of the North-Western Health Service, resulting in closure of the very much smaller King Edward Avenue Hospital.
  • opening of the Western Ring Road has dramatic impact on traffic flows throughout western suburbs
  • Vic Local Govt Boundary Restructuring results in City of Brimbank being formed in 1994, covering 123 sq. km and a population of 150,000.
  • Sunshine Advocate newspaper is renamed Brimbank Advocate in 1995
  • residential subdivisions spread further to west and north-west with new suburbs of:
    • Keilor Lodge (north of Keilor-Melton Rd)
    • Sydenham and adjacent Hillside
    • Caroline Springs
  • old factory sites to east of Maribyrnong near Medway golf club redeveloped as housing estate
  • major retail centre developed at Watergardens, Sydenham

The New Millenium:

  • Sunshine Hospital expands to include adult services as well as mental health services
  • in 2004, a major redevelopment program of the Sunshine Marketplace was undertaken and included a new 300 seat Diners Life precinct, refurbishment of the inner and outer facades, additional stores inside and the Village Cinemas Megaplex
  • electrification of railways finally makes it to Sydenham where it is named Watergardens Station after the adjacent shopping centre.
  • ammunition factory site along west bank of Maribyrnong River near Highpoint subdivided into housing estate
  • plans for a massive redevelopment of Sunshine Hospital to relocate acute services that currently exist at Western Hospital in Footscray.
  • Brimbank Advocate (formerly Sunshine Advocate) now owned by Fairfax Media is renamed Brimbank Weekly in 2010 and in 2015 it became Star Weekly following merger with competitor Star News Group
  • in 2012:
    • the residual shell of the ETA factory in Braybrook is finalised demolished to make way for new industrial buildings
    • Western Ring Road is widened to cope with increasing traffic demands
    • metropolitan Watergardens train line is extended to Sunbury

more photos

The following photos have been sent to me via email and thus I am unable to verify true source at present:

Sunshine railway accident April 20th 1908

Sunshine 1915

Sunshine 1936 - H.V.McKay collection

Sunshine August 1947 looking north from Sunshine Station with H.V.McKay factory at right rear - H.V.McKay Collection

Sunshine Auto ES Exchange apparatus

Sunshine signal box and gates.

Sunshine signal box and level crossing (later replaced by an road overpass) c1958 - the Sunshine Market is on the right where my father opened a stall selling confectionary and haberdashery in the early 1950's. The stall was sold by my mother c1980 when the opening of Highpoint Shopping Centre threatened to decimate local shopping.

Sunshine Station from the Signal Box c1958.


  • Harvester Town, Olwen Ford, S&DHS 2001
  • When the whistle blows, Prue McGoldrick, Gippsland Printers, 1984
history/h_aust_vic_sunshine.txt · Last modified: 2022/04/18 14:48 by gary1

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