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Author: Georgia Harris
Establishment of a Township at Yallourn
Plans for an S.E.C Garden City
Records of the State Electricity Commission of Victoria
Today, located near the Morwell River in the LaTrobe Valley is Australia’s largest open cut coal mine. However this site was once inhabited by a thriving self-contained community called Yallourn. Between the early 1920s and 1950s the State Electricity Commission of Victoria (S.E.C) built the town of Yallourn to house employees at the nearby Power Station complex. Establishment of a Township at Yallourn, located in VPRS 8916 Subject Files, gives a sense of the early planning that went into its construction.
The design of the town was influenced by the Garden City movement coming out of the UK at that time. A method of urban planning, this movement saw value in self contained communities that had an equal balance of industry, green areas and agriculture. Much of what is specified in the report reflects this, for instance it stipulates that each house should have room to grow vegetables.
Up until 1947, the S.E.C was the sole administrator of the town. This means that in addition to providing housing for their workers, they managed the majority of all other buildings. In addition to housing there were significant green areas, sporting facilities, schools, a hospital and a theatre.
While the town may not have developed in the idyllic manner that the early plan envisioned, a sense of community grew. This was until further coal resources were discovered to be lying beneath the town. By the early 1980s the town had been closed and removed from the site.
At the Public Record Office of Victoria we hold a significant collection of records created by the State Electricity Commission of Victoria (S.E.C) including many relating to the township of Yallourn. These date from the company’s inception in 1919 up until it was disbanded and its responsibilities dispersed in 1994. Prior to this the S.E.C maintained its own archive and library providing access to the records.