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(3020, 12 km W, Brimbank City)

Located in the geographical heart of Melbourne's western region, Sunshine was first established as the settlement of Braybrook Junction during the 1880s land boom. The rail junction, created in 1884 when a branch line to Ballarat was built from the main Melbourne-Bendigo line, attracted immediate attention from city land speculators and industrialists, and the first land sales were held in 1886. Early manufacturing industries included Albion Quarries (1885), the Braybrook Implement Co., makers of stump jump ploughs (1880), Wright & Edwards, manufacturers of railway rolling stock (1889), and a smelter and fireworks factory (1893).

The town's revival after the 1890s depression was the result of the purchase in 1904 of the Braybrook Implement Works by the industrialist Hugh Victor McKay of the Ballarat Sunshine Harvester Works. Appreciating that relocation to Braybrook Junction would provide room to expand his factory, shelter from metropolitan labour legislation and convenient rail access both to his inland market and to the port to service his export trade, McKay relocated his enterprise in 1906. Renamed Sunshine the following year, the town's reputation as a model working-class community grew as McKay subdivided surrounding land, provided amenities and acted as patron to the town's burgeoning social institutions.

Momentous events following McKay's relocation thrust Sunshine to the centre of the national stage. McKay's application in 1907 to the Arbitration Court for exemption from paying excise on his manufactures on the basis that his workers received 'fair and reasonable' wages (New Protection) led Justice Henry B. Higgins to formulate his principle of the minimum wage based on 'the normal needs of the average employee, regarded as a human being living in a civilized community', a concept that influenced Australian industrial relations for decades. The Sunshine Railway Disaster of 1908, caused when the Melbourne-bound Bendigo train ploughed into the Ballarat train, killing 44 and injuring 431 (many of whom were holiday-makers returning to Melbourne), was the worst rail accident in Australian history until Sydney's 1977 Granville disaster. The Harvester strike of 1911 (16 February - 9 May), in which over half the 2000 strikers were Sunshine Harvester Works employees, was the longest industrial dispute to that time in Victoria's history.

Sunshine's growth was stimulated by the arrival of several multinational and interstate manufacturing firms in the 1920s, but stagnated during the 1930s depression and restrictions on domestic building during World War II. Rapid wartime industrialisation continued into the early postwar period, accompanied by extraordinary suburban expansion, fuelled by young couples from the inner western suburbs, postwar European immigrants and settlers from country Victoria. The City of Sunshine, proclaimed in 1951, boasted more houses under construction than any other Victorian municipality and by the mid-1960s had become the largest and fastest growing industrial centre outside Central Melbourne. However, the progressive reduction of tariff protection from the 1970s dealt a considerable blow to Sunshine's manufacturing industries, leading to high unemployment, especially among the young, and fostering a range of negative stereotypes about the area's increasing material and cultural impoverishment, expressed in the phrase 'the Deprived West.'

Economic change and social stigma were accompanied by an erosion of the suburb's established identity. After almost 100 years, agricultural implement manufacture at Sunshine ended in 1986 when Massey-Ferguson, which had acquired the Sunshine Harvester enterprise from McKay's heirs in 1954, ceased production. The factory, the largest agricultural implement-manufacturing works in the Southern Hemisphere, was progressively demolished (save for one building) and replaced by a cinema and retail complex. In 1994 the City of Sunshine itself disappeared when the eastern portion of the municipality was annexed to the newly created Maribyrnong City, the remainder amalgamating with Keilor to form Brimbank City. Regeneration has come from successive waves of immigrants. Statistics published in the final year of its existence showed the City of Sunshine to be a true melting pot, with 40% of its population from non-English speaking backgrounds, the major immigrant groups being Vietnamese, former Yugoslavian, Maltese, Italian, Polish and Filipino, while over 40 % of residents were under the age of 24.

Damian Veltri

Ford, Olwen, Harvester town: the making of Sunshine, 1890-1925, Sunshine & District Historical Society Incorporated, Melbourne, 2001. Details
McGoldrick, Prue, When the whistle blew: a social history of the town of Sunshine, 1920-1950, Gippsland Printers, Morwell, 1989. Details