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(3189, 16 km SE, Bayside City, Kingston City)

The Shire of Moorabbin once covered an extensive area of the south-eastern suburbs, land where the Boon wurrung people had hunted, fished and collected water from the natural springs near Beaumaris and Cheltenham. The Boon wurrung reputedly called this district Mooroobin, a name that Richard and John King adapted to Moorabbin for the cattle run they established in the mid-1840s. The Kings had been preceded in the district by Henry Dendy, whose Brighton Special Survey extended across Brighton into Moorabbin. North, South and Centre roads are said to delineate the boundaries of Dendy's land.

Two major land speculators assisted in the division of Moorabbin into small, market garden-sized farms. Josiah Morris Holloway purchased large amounts of land from the Crown in 1852, particularly in the Sandringham and Cheltenham districts. Holloway subdivided much of this land for sale as 2-acre (0.8 ha) blocks. Another major investor was Thomas Bent who had, in the 1850s, been a market gardener in the Bentleigh area. In 1873 Bent purchased much of Dendy's Special Survey from Nicholas Were. He subdivided the Brighton portion into suburban properties, but his holdings in Moorabbin were largely rented out to market gardeners. Bent was a Moorabbin councillor from 1865 to 1909 and represented the Brighton electorate, which included Moorabbin, in the Victorian Parliament for many years. His dubious activities probably helped the district of Moorabbin in some ways. The extension of the railway from Caulfield to Mordialloc in 1881, for instance, provided several stations in the Shire of Moorabbin, although Bent was accused of skewing the course of the line through the Shire to benefit local property owners. The railway line to Sandringham from Brighton Beach was opened six years later.

Until the first decade of the 20th century the township of Moorabbin was called South Brighton, although the District of Moorabbin separated from the Brighton Municipality to become a shire in 1871. It was a large though sparsely populated shire, extending from the border of Brighton to include Bentleigh, Cheltenham and Heatherton, as well as the coastal areas covered by Sandringham, Beaumaris and Mordialloc. In 1917 Sandringham seceded to form its own municipality, followed three years later by Mordialloc. Although South Brighton became the seat of municipal government, with a town hall built there in 1867, Cheltenham appeared to take the lead as the local commercial centre. The sandy soil of much of the district proved suitable for market gardening which flourished in Moorabbin from the 1850s. Some districts, such as Highett, remained largely devoted to cattle, while fishing was a major activity in the coastal villages.

Moorabbin's population remained tiny throughout the 19th and much of the early 20th century with less than 1000 ratepayers in the shire. When the more popular coastal resort areas of the shire seceded after World War I, Moorabbin was left as an under-serviced, still largely rural area. It was not until the 1930s that the population rose above 20 000. By the late 1930s poultry farming had been added to market gardening as a local industry. But northern sections of the city, such as Bentleigh and McKinnon, were beginning to develop as residential areas. The local council took steps to attract industry and new residents to the city by erecting reputedly the largest neon sign in Melbourne at the time on the Point Nepean Road (later Nepean Highway), pointing out that plentiful residential and industrial land was available.

Several large industrial concerns soon established themselves in Moorabbin, mainly along the Point Nepean Road. In the decades after World War II the Nepean Highway at Moorabbin became both a residential centre and a major industrial axis. During the war the Housing Commission of Victoria began building homes for workers employed in local war-related industries, such as food processing. The Commission expanded its activities in the municipality with a large estate built in the 1950s. Privately built homes encroached on the market gardens. Patterson railway station was opened in the 1960s, a symbol of the growing population which jumped from around 30 000 just after the war to over 100 000 in 1966. In the same decade the Nepean Highway, always an important thoroughfare, was duplicated and widened. After the war the Commonwealth Government established Moorabbin Airport on the edges of Cheltenham, Heatherton and Mentone. Before Melbourne Airport opened at Tullamarine, Moorabbin was reputedly the busiest airport in Australia, serving small, domestic planes. Because of the location of the airport much land surrounding it was reserved from residential or industrial development.

During the 1960s St Kilda Football Club relocated to Moorabbin, becoming one of the first to break from its traditional ground in inner Melbourne. Other recreational areas in Moorabbin include the Royal Melbourne Golf Course and the Kingston Heath Course.

Jill Barnard

Sheehy, Tom, Battlers tamed a sandbelt: Moorabbin 50 years a city, City of Moorabbin, Melbourne, 1985. Details