Yallourn is a town memorialised in fountains of good memories. The only thing missing in the way of a memorial is a fountain. One of the benefits of an expiration date, with a defined ending makes people consider the good things which they put in writing. Sharing stories of their town to whoever would listen to save it, would cement a lot of those stories—reminiscing over the good things that happened united them. While the site of the town is no more, they have preserved a virtual Yallourn. A place of reminiscing and loads of photos, and a community, while no longer located in the same space, a vibrant community none-the-less. They have annual reunions.
I should back up for the readers who aren’t in the Latrobe Valley, or wider Gippsland.
History and naming of Yallourn
Yallourn, the name is a combination of two Gunai-Kurnai words: Yalleen meaning Brown and Lourne meaning Fuel or Fire. The Brown Coal (also known as lignite coal) was the reason for its inception, and it’s destruction. Establishing Yallourn was the second attempt to mine the brown coal in this area. A previous attempt had failed due to the moisture content and the NSW black coal being more viable. When the Victorian State Government set up the State Electricity Commission Victoria (SEC as it was more commonly known). The SECV hired of some German experts making briquette from lignite coal. Then Yallourn was born as the powerhouse of the whole state. The power industry and mining created an employment boom; the population in the town and surrounding camps grew.
Yallourn was a company town, run by the company to house the workers and administration which created problems. In the 1930s volunteer community groups had sprung up to help build Yallourn and bring heart and soul, with dancing, bands, and a whole host of other communal activities. The Boulevard completed as initially planned shortly after world war one, with shops and the theatre.
In 1968 there were discussions the town was too costly to maintain, and in 1971 the residents told it would shut down. The residents rallied to save the city, to no avail. By 1981 the town was a ghost town, the last residents remember watching the bones of the town left on the back of trucks, it wasn’t the same place they’d fought to save. The brick buildings, built with bricks stamped with the towns name on them, were also shipped out as they dismantled buildings and made them elsewhere. A little piece of Yallourn has moved to all corners of the state, a lot of it stayed in the Latrobe Valley, but some of those houses moved far away.
Welcome to Little Europe: Displaced Persons and the North Camp by Josef Sestokas
This book is an excellent history of the people who migrated and lived in the North Camp. It has a history of Yallourn as well because that was the major employer in the area. This book also looks at immigration policy and how that affected migrants of the North Camp. It describes the conditions from the early settlement of Yallourn and the surrounding camps. I found it an enthralling read and excellent resource on Yallourn and the Brown Coal Mine (which was the North camp and today is called Yallourn North).
ABC Radio National – The Model Town and the Machine: A history of Yallourn.
I found this inspiring listening to the accounts told and feelings conveyed throughout.
‘Our Yallourn’ is a beautiful collection of stories from residents of Yallourn with a little bit of an introduction at the start. There are lots of pictures, and personal recollections are an excellent record of everyday life in and around Yallourn.
“To Yallourn with Love”
The photos in the header, postcard and broadway are both out of copyright but here is the link to find them at the State Library of Victoria.