WELCOME TO VIRTUAL YALLOURN - winner of Commendation Award Oct 2015 and Oct 2016 (two years in a row) from Royal Historical Society of Victoria - journey back with us to the old township of Yallourn in Latrobe Valley, Victoria – a unique town built between the 1920s and 1950s by the State Electricity Commission of Victoria (SECV) to house their workers and then dug up by the same SECV for the coal beneath in the 1980s. This is the only way we can revisit our town with our children and grandchildren.
See the many photos and house plans, navigate around our 3D Town, read information, memories and stories. Most of all, play a part in it with us by adding your own photos and memories and help us name the various people in existing photos - for everyone to share. (To contribute, contact julie@yallourn.org to set up an account.)
Ex-residents, please also take the time to add your family to the map (HERE).
For more information, visit YALLOURN ASSOCIATION at http://www.yallourn.org and please 'Like' our Facebook page - https://www.facebook.com/yallournassociation.
Special thanks for support given by Latrobe City & Public Records Office Victoria in preserving the history of Yallourn for all to share.

  • 32400

    Christmas Shopping in Yallourn - 1953

    07/12/2017 - 14:53
  • 32399

    1949 - Yallourn Taxi Collision

    "The driver and 5 passengers in this Yallourn taxi escaped serious injury when it crashed into a low trailer loaded with a bulldozer on the Princes Highway at Officer early on Saturday."

    Source: NLA: 22725887 THE ARGUS MONDAY 2nd MAY 1949 PAGE: 3

    23/11/2017 - 15:24
  • 32398


    The following letter to ‘The Age’ newspaper, in 1949, was written by a certain Mr L.P. Hutchinson, a resident of the Melbourne suburb of Hawksburn. In his correspondence, Mr Hutchinson refers to a previous article which appeared in the Literary Supplement regarding John Shaw Neilson.

    Mr Hutchinson talks about his relationship with Mr Nielson during the 1920’s when they worked at the coal mine at Yallourn. However, it was not as a coal miner that John Shaw Neilson ‘made his name.’ In time he became one of Australia’s foremost poets …

    “Think of Australian poets and the names Henry Lawson, C. J. Dennis and Banjo Paterson come to mind. Few recognise the name John Shaw Neilson, another skilled poet of their era…. He had quite an extensive range of styles and a whimsy that was lacking in most Australian poets….There was no doubt that he should have greater recognition.” ‘The Canberra Times’ September 20th 1986 Page: 4.
    Some readers of this website may recall a poem entitled: ‘Old Granny Sullivan’ which was published in the Victorian Education Department’s Fifth Book (usually the green covered textbook); and was a basic reader for primary school students in the 1940’s and the 1950’s.

    How many students, sitting at their wooden desks in a classroom at Yallourn State School 4085, could have imagined that the poem, about Mrs Sullivan, had been written by a former labourer at the Yallourn camp?

    The history of Yallourn is dotted with notable men and women; and John Shaw Nielson fits that ‘bill’ perfectly as he is regarded as one of Australia’s foremost poets; and was once described as…

    “…as the finest lyrist that Australia has produced.” ‘The Argus’ (May 13th 1942 Page: 3)…

    The footnotes and readers guide, which accompany this story, endeavour to assist readers to appreciate:
    • The creative talents of John Shaw Nielson.
    • The hardships experienced by the workers in the Open Cut coal mine in those early days of the settlement of Yallourn.

    "A.F." (Balwyn), who wrote the article on John Shaw Neilson ("The Age" Literary Supplement, 19/3), has apparently been charged by "W.T.S." (1/4) with "Indulging in flights of imagination" concerning the description he gave of the Australian poet — his personal appearance and "the roughness of his hands." "A.F." refers to the period of Neilson's almost intolerable hardship as a casual labourer. About the year 192x*(see below)-25 I had almost daily contact with John Shaw Neilson.

    He came to work at the old open-cut at the brown coal mine, which was then controlled by the Mines department, and subsequently was transferred to the S.E.C. when it commenced operations in the new cut at Yallourn.

    As the whole of the overburden was removed by miners having no mechanical equipment and the open-cut coal was worked from the face by blasting and placed in trucks by shovel, and by hand in large lumps, it follows that the great poet did really labourer's work for almost 18 months on that job. I met and talked with him daily; he lived in a tin hut at the township and batched and did all his own work, whilst writing at the same time. He was of a retiring disposition - L. P. HUTCHINSON. HAWKSBURN

    *Note: In the original extract the date is indecipherable but may possibly be: 1921.

    1. John Shaw Neilson was born in Penola, South Australia in 1872. He was one of six children born to John and Margaret (nee: McKinnon) Neilson

    2. John Neilson (senior), who had emigrated from Scotland, was known in the Penola district as a ‘bush poet’; and he seems to have been a very strong influence on his son’s love of poetry. All texts agree that John Shaw Neilson received only a rudimentary education but relished reading; and, in later years, he described himself as ‘mostly’ self-taught.

    3. Sometime around 1880, the Neilson family left South Australia and settled in Victoria near Minimay (Shire of West Wimmera). Times were demanding for the John and Margaret Nielson; and throughout their lives they constantly battled to make ‘ends meet’. As Nancy Keesing (an authority on Australian poetry) wrote in 1978 … “Poverty curtailed Neilson lives….”

    4. The family left Minimay and settled at Nhill in 1889; and it was at about that juncture that John Shaw Neilson started out on his journey(s) to find meaningful work …
    “…Shaw Neilson spent much of his life in tents, in navvy camps and in cheap boarding houses while working at casual jobs all over Victoria (and in parts of New South Wales) to an estimated total of 200 jobs in thirty years” ADB Vol: 10: 1986

    5. In his chapter entitled: ‘The Navvy with a Pension’, John Shaw Neilson referred to himself as a ‘navvy.’ It is a word of a bygone era and is seldom heard today. It is defined as …
    “…a labourer employed in the excavation and construction of a road, railway, or canal.”
    The word is a contraction of the word ‘navigator’; and seems to have arisen in the early 19th century via the work done by men in building the system(s) of inland canals and railway lines throughout England.

    6. Throughout his life, John Shaw Neilson travelled far and wide looking for work. Some of the northern Victorian towns in which he worked (often with his father) included: Ellerslie, Warracknabeal, Birchip, Swan Hill, Mildura, Chinkapook and Merbein. He ‘tried his hand’ at many different occupations along the way…
    “He worked in harvesting, cattle driving, fencing, picking fruit, clearing, making roads, shearing sheep, working in quarries, and cutting wood. He often suffered painful injuries and walked hundreds of miles to places where he had heard there was work.” from Biograhy.yourdictionary.com (author unknown)

    7. In or about 1919, John Shaw Neilson turned his attention towards Gippsland in the hope of finding gainful employment. In his autobiography, he mentions the towns of Warragul, Mirboo, Boolarra, Trafalgar, Leongatha, Heyfield and, as written in the above newspaper extract, Yallourn. He was a rover; and, like most itinerant workers, was never in one place for very long.

    8. Of all the things that one learns in reading about John Shaw Neilson’s life, it is: How desperately poor he was; and how exacting and draining were the day to day trials upon his health (his eyesight particularly). Because of his humble existence and deprivation, Nancy Keesing described John as a ‘peasant poet.’

    9. According to former Swan Hill journalist Steven Stevens…
    “During these years he wrote constantly even though his eyes deteriorated from the constant exposure to the Mallee dirt. He also suffered from nervous depression and once spent five weeks in the Swan Hill Hospital recovering…”

    10. John Shaw Neilson arrived at Yallourn in 1921. It is hard to get a ‘fix’ on the exact date but it seems to have been in November. As many readers of this website will be aware, the Victorian Government established the State Electricity Commission in 1919; so when John arrived at Yallourn, the construction of the power station, on the banks of Latrobe River, was in full swing…
    “After New Year I went out to Yallourn and got on a pipe trench gang. We were put off in seven days. I don’t know exactly why. Such sudden changes were very common in Yallourn.” Page: 110.

    11. Further on in his story, John writes about the finding work in the Open Cut at Yallourn…
    “I was rather lucky. I got on at the Brown Coal Open Cut across the river. I worked there six months altogether. On March 8th this year I had a little piece of verse in the Bulletin. It was called ‘Maude Fane Departs’…” Page: 111.

    12. In his chapter (entitled: ‘The Worst Seven Years’), John describes the onerous nature of the work along the Latrobe River. His words are a sharp reminder of the extreme hardship faced by the men who worked at Yallourn in the early 1920’s. It seems that the back-breaking and exhausting work took a huge toll on John Shaw Nielsen’s health and happiness as he wrote the following about his working in Yallourn…
    “I went back to Yallourn and worked for about six weeks. I was working in sump hole. I was up to my knees in mud and every second night we had night shift. I got that tired that I could not get up in the mornings and I was frightened of rheumatics so I decided to sling the job in.” Page: 114.

    13. John returned to Yallourn on at least one occasion; and, in March 1923, he wrote briefly about the Maltese men who made up about 50% of the work force at the Open Cut.
    Note: See a story, on this website, regarding the valued and lasting contribution that the Maltese migrants made to the SECV and community life in the Latrobe Valley.

    14. In his autobiography, John Shaw Neilson stated that 3000 men were employed on the SECV project along the Latrobe River; and he also referred to the illegal gambling and the numerous sly grog shops that existed in and around the river-side camps.

    15. On page: 120, John recounted the police raids which were quite common in those days at the Yallourn camps. The following excerpt is taken from the ‘Traralgon Record’ and was written at about the same time that John Shaw Neilson lived in Yallourn…
    “RAID AT YALLOURN -A hut at the Electricity Commission's works at Yallourn was raided on Tuesday morning by Senior Detective McCann who was accompanied with plain clothes Constable Cavanagh and two other officers. They were reinforced by a number of the Gippsland police. Ten men were arrested and charged with illegal betting, keeping a sly grog establishment, and a common gaming house. The arrested men, who were allowed out on bail will appear at the Morwell Petty Sessions on 17th April.” ‘Traralgon Recorder’ March 30th 1923 Page:2.

    16. It is believed that John Shaw Neilson wrote more than 600 poems; and among his best known works are ‘Ballads and Lyrical Poems’ (1923) and ‘New Poems’ (1927). In 1934, another volume of his poems entitled ‘Collected Poems’ was published. Several essayists believe that the John’s life as a rambler, in the wilderness of the Australian bush, often sparked his imagination and inspired him to write freely about his inner feelings and experiences…
    “…’Though the bush tormented his family with droughts, floods, plagues, and fires, Neilson was fascinated with its beauty, wildlife, and freedom” from Biograhy.yourdictionary.com (author unknown)

    17. The last collection of his verse ‘Beauty Imposes’ was published in 1938; and quite a few of his poems were set to music between 1925 and 1954.

    18. Despite a lengthy search (and contacting numerous people with an interest in the poems of John Shaw Neilson), it seems that he may not have penned a poem about his experiences along the banks of the Latrobe River at Yallourn.

    19. In about 1928, he found permanent work with the Country Roads Board and he lived in Footscray during those years. With his failing health and poor eyesight, writing became extremely challenging; and it said that he wrote very little verse in the 1930’s.

    20. From about 1932 onwards, he lived in Gordon Street Footscray. Sadly, following extended illness, John Shaw Neilson passed away in May 1942. One reference said that he had died of a heart attack.

    21. John Shaw Neilson was buried at the Footscray Cemetery. Four years after his death the Footscray City Council took action to ensure that his name of would live on…
    “In 1946 a bronze sculpture of the poet was commissioned for the opening of the Footscray Children’s Library in Buckley Street and is now on display at Footscray Library.”
    Note: In 1964 the Nhill and District Historical Society erected a memorial to John Shaw Neilson.

    22. The grave(s) of John Shaw’s sisters can be found in the Swan Hill Cemetery; and the inscription on the grave marker states…
    “In Memory of Margaret Stuart Neilson 26th June 1873-July 1903 and Jessie McFarlane Nielson 4th September 1975-September 1907- Daughters of John and Margaret Nielson - Sister of John Shaw Nielson.”

    23. There is much more to John Shaw Neilson’s life; and some readers may like to use the reading list below to glean more information about this truly great Australian poet. He was a wordsmith to rank with the best…

    “The late Professor Brereton, after meeting Neilson, remarked privately: “It seems incredible that such a hard hand should have written such delicate poetry.” Robert Guy Howarth’ ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ May 1942. Page: 7.

    24. In conclusion, while John Shaw Neilson’s stints at Yallourn were brief, his experiences along the Latrobe River, particularly at the Open Cut coal mine, add another absorbing chapter to the history of the formative years of the township of Yallourn.

    • ‘The Autobiography of John Shaw Neilson-With an introduction by Nancy Keesing’ (ISBN 0642 991170-National Library of Australia Publications (1978).
    • J. Devaney: ‘Shaw Neilson’ (Sydney-1944).
    • H. Anderson and L. J. Blake: ‘John Shaw Neilson’ (Adelaide-1972).
    • Helen Hewson: ‘John Shaw Neilson: A Life in Letters’ (2001).
    • Judith Wright (Editor): ‘Witnesses of Spring: Unpublished Poems by Shaw Neilson’ (1970).

    • My appreciation is expressed to Perry Middlemiss for his assistance in writing this story for the Virtual Yallourn website.
    • Sincere thanks to Bryan McKenzie (ex-Swan Hill Genealogical & Historical Society) for his advice on researching John Shaw Neilson’s times in and around Swan Hill.
    • ‘Thank you’ to Bet Jenvey, the Research Officer for the S.H.G & H.S, for the information about the burial sites of John Shaw Neilson’s sisters ( Margaret and Jessie) .
    • ‘Thank you’ to the staff at the Rosebud Public Library and the City of Footscray Public Library for their help in obtaining various reference materials related to John Shaw Neilson.

    The above story is part of an on-going project regarding the history of Yallourn. The story was researched and written by Roger Spaull and presented and posted by Julie George for the Virtual Yallourn website in November 2017.

    The above article from ‘The Age’ newspaper has been faithfully reproduced. The only amendments to the original copy are the font style, font size and spacing, so as to enhance the article for purposes of posting on the Virtual Yallourn website.

    22/11/2017 - 11:45
  • 32397

    Dad Brewer's funeral cortege travelling down Southway in March 1948. Over 72 vehicles followed the hearse to the Yallourn Cemetery. His grave is in the first row inside the gates.

    21/11/2017 - 16:30
  • 32396

    Researched and written by Roger Spaull - a Tribute to Vic Lawrence...follow this link - http://boylesfootballphotos.net.au/article101-Vic-Lawrence-The-Big-Heart...

    10/11/2017 - 09:58
  • 32394


    History shows that by early 1940, Australia was on a war footing and serious discussion turned to the possibility of attacks on Australian cities and key industrial centres. Yallourn was one of several industrial towns deemed to be ‘vulnerable’ if air raids over Australia eventuated.

    Fears of aerial bombing were very real; and the government authorities went to great lengths to prepare contingencies for any attack on Yallourn and its power generating installations. People are often surprised when learning that the residents of Yallourn were provided with materials to build back-yard air-raid shelters during that era…
    “…each household was given enough timber to construct a five feet by seven feet underground air-raid shelter.” Prue McGoldrick ‘Yallourn Was’ Page: 122.

    Among the emergency plans that were considered, during those war years, was a scheme to evacuate children from major cities and key industrial towns if bombing raids became a reality.

    The following brief news item appeared in the ‘Benalla Ensign’ in December 1941 (just eight weeks prior to the bombing of Darwin ); and reports on two young evacuees, from Yallourn, arriving in the Benalla district as part of the Wartime Evacuation Scheme.

    Note: The issue became ‘very real’ when the first air raid on Darwin, by Japanese aeroplanes, occurred on the 19th February 1942. It is documented that at least seventy (70) people were killed in the raid; and, as can be imagined, the news heightened fears across the nation and hastened the urgency of the issue regarding the evacuation of children.

    Can you help with this story?

    It is not known how many children were evacuated from Yallourn during World War: II; and perhaps the children mentioned, in the extract below, were the only two. The evacuation of children from Yallourn, during World War: II, remains a mystery; and there may be a reader with further information regarding this little-known aspect of the town’s history. Please feel welcome to add to this story if you are able. Thank you.



    First Evacuees Arrive in Benalla
    Yallourn will be the first town to come under the Government evacuation scheme and yesterday saw the, arrival of the first evacuees in Benalla district. They were William and Sandra Sheehan*, who are at present staying with their relatives. With the evacuation of Yallourn thousands of children will be billeted throughout various districts of Victoria, and amongst them is the Benalla district.
    This will not include the town, as the area within five miles of the Benalla post office is declared a vulnerable area.

    1. In the original copy of the ‘Benalla Ensign’ parts of the brief report were indecipherable but it is seems that the family name of the children was either ‘Sheehan’ or ‘Sheeran.’

    2. It was difficult to find any articles directly related to the evacuation of children from Yallourn during the war. However, there are more than 200 items, in other metropolitan and regional newspapers, about the general topic of the wartime evacuation of children. For example: ‘The Argus’ newspaper in 1941 carried the following article…
    “EVACUATION OF CHILDREN“ Supply of food for country centres should evacuation of children from seaboard areas become necessary was discussed at the conference of Victorian Federation of Mothers Clubs at Central House yesterday. Transport of much food would be difficult because of troop movements and transport of war materials it was thought...” ‘The Argus’ December 10th 1941 Page: 6

    3. A clue to the gravity of the situation, for the people of Yallourn and Yallourn North, can be found in an extract from the ‘Live Wire’ from February 1942 which mentions the evacuation of children and demonstration lessons in relation to incendiary bombs ( i.e. combustible bombs). It must have been perturbing for local residents to be forced to consider such contingencies; and in Kath Ringin’s book entitled: ‘The Old Brown Coal Mine’ it is stated…
    “Volunteer Defence Corp extended. More civilians needed for instruction. Hundreds of thousands of camouflage nets will be needed. The Fire Brigade are to give a demonstration at Yallourn on how to deal with incendiary bombs. All should attend. More volunteers needed for Air Raid Precaution services. Registrations are being taken for the evacuation of children”

    4. A ‘Letter to the Editor’ in the ‘Morwell Advertiser’ in July 1939, highlighted the genuine dread of air raids in the district. The insightful letter, which was written by O.J. Howard, clearly outlined the situation for others to heed…
    “ Air Raid Precautions.
    Dear Sir-
    It is not for me to say whether war is imminent or not, but persons in a position to judge, describe the position as critical. Should hostilities commence, what are we going to do to protect the children in towns such as Yallourn and possibly Morwell?
    Yallourn is a key-town, without defence, and could be bombed with ease. Until an interception squadron of aircraft, is located to the East of Yallourn, 'the destruction of this vital electric service is easy…..”
    The Air Raid Precautions authorities consider that in the event of war, the children, and mothers of young children, should be evacuated from Yallourn and the Morwell Shire Council has been requested to make some provision for their accommodation.
    I am submitting for consideration a plan which will give food for thought. The main points for consideration are Transport, Accommodation and Maintenance…” ‘Morwell Advertiser’ July 27th 1939 Page: 5.

    5. Another piece of correspondence, by the same O.J. Howard, suggested options for sheltering children of Yallourn in the event of an air-raid…
    “… as the Junction hall would be of value as a training depot, or it may be used as a shelter for children from Yallourn. How many people realise the ease with which an enemy raider could catapult planes to bomb Yallourn and that the women and children would have to be evacuated at a moment's notice…” ‘Morwell Advertiser. ‘

    6. During World War: 2, air raid shelters were built at various points around Yallourn; and anti-aircraft batteries were installed at Yallourn and Yallourn North during those years.

    7. The following quote from the Australian War Memorial Research Centre, regarding the issue of ‘vulnerable towns’, mentions Yallourn in the national air raid precaution plans….
    “…of potential evacuations of parts of mainland Australia is described in “War in the Far East, December 1941–January 1942”, chapter 1 of The Government and the People, 1942–1945 by Paul Hasluck, Australia in the War of 1939–1945, Series 4 – Civil, Volume II. There is an outline of Air Raid Precaution plans and the classification of risk to a number of towns and cities, including Yallourn, in Appendix 1, “Civil Defence Organisation”, of the same volume…”

    8. Thankfully, large scale evacuations of children throughout Australia were not necessary during World War:II. However, younger readers may be interested to know, that during the war three million children in Britain were evacuated to ‘safer’ parts of the nation (and overseas e.g. Canada, USA, New Zealand, Australia and South Africa).

    9. Those who have found the above story, regarding the planned evacuations from Yallourn during World War:II , interesting may enjoy reading a book entitled: ‘When the Children Came Home’ by Julie Summers. The story tells of the mass evacuation of children from the cities and industrial areas of England. The British evacuation scheme was named ‘Operation Pied Piper’.

    This story is part of a history project entitled ‘From the Newspapers’ and a full list of titles in this series can be obtained by contacting Julie George. The research and writing was completed by Roger Spaull and presented and posted by Julie for the Virtual Yallourn website in October 2017.
    The above extract from the ‘Benalla Ensign’ has been faithfully reproduced. The only amendments to the original copy are the font style, font size and spacing, so as to enhance the story for the purposes of posting on the Virtual Yallourn website.

    27/10/2017 - 16:02
  • 32395

    Original Source : Not known

    Caption: Welfare ladies: Mesdames O’Kane, McKay and Hoath 1942

    27/10/2017 - 16:01
  • 32393

    Placing a wreath at the unveiling of the War Memorial at Yallourn in 1953

    Source: Museum of Victoria. From State Electricity Commission Collection (MM: 9798)

    17/10/2017 - 10:47
  • 32388
    SEC Ball 1953, Hill, Brown, Wolff King

    SECV Ball - John & Lorna Wolff, Jim & Gwenda Hill, Mr & Mrs Brown, Moira King, ??

    16/10/2017 - 15:39
  • 32387
    Albert Cooper, Jim Hill, Briquettes, Stowing, 1959
    Albert Cooper, Jim Hill, Briquettes, Stowing, 1959

    Albert Cooper & Jim Hill stacking hand packed briquettes on pallets

    16/10/2017 - 15:36