The district of Allambee encompasses steep and rugged country at the head of the Tarwin West River in Gippsland’s Strzelecki Ranges, about 10 km south of Yarragon and 122 km east of Melbourne. The parish was designated Allambee when surveyed in the 1870s and the land was selected in 1877 and 1878. According to Bunce's Language of the Aborigines of the Colony of Victoria (1859) Allambee is an Aboriginal word meaning to sit or to remain a while. Conditions were hard for the white settlers, contending with steep land, heavy forest and isolation. Many blocks in the eastern part of the district were soon abandoned and some were declared a timber reserve. The rugged terrain made road construction difficult and expensive, so selectors campaigned over many years for a tramway to Yarragon but were not successful. The first school in the district commenced in 1888.

Under pressure from settlers, the timber reserve was thrown open for selection in 1893. Thirty families settled in the area, which was known as Allambee Reserve. Inadequate roads remained a problem, but the farms were generally successful. A public hall was erected in 1905 and a school commenced classes in this building.

To encourage closer settlement, the government purchased land in the headwaters of the Tarwin River. In 1907 Allambee Estate, consisting of 32 allotments, was released for sale. Uptake of blocks was slow as the land was steep and only partly cleared. A school was opened in a hall in 1911 and another school commenced in the area in 1919. Although a few settlers worked reasonable farms, more and more blocks were abandoned, becoming overrun with scrub and vermin.

The road to Yarragon was improved in the 1920s and after World War I a few blocks were allotted to soldier-settlers. Several small sawmills utilised the timber on some abandoned blocks. In the 1920s, the Closer Settlement Board purchased vacant blocks. The land was released in 1927, with fences, houses and generous conditions of repayment. The blocks were quickly taken up, the settlers growing potatoes, dairying and raising pigs. New roads were built and the growth in population led to the establishment of two more schools in the area.

However, by the mid-1930s, the depressed economic conditions caused the abandonment of half of the farms and weeds, including ragwort, took over the land. Vacant blocks were leased to farmers and many of the empty houses were removed.

Allambee South, 10 km from Mirboo North, had the best farming prospects. It had a mechanics’ institute hall (1920) and a recreation reserve. The hall burnt down in 1938. The former school building (1936) has become a community centre.

In 1946 the Forests Commission purchased 246 ha at Allambee for the planting of pines and eucalypts. Australian Paper Manufacturers and private landowners have also since planted steep land with pines. The decline in population led to the demise of community groups and sporting teams. Allambee South school closed in 1978 and the Allambee Reserve school closed four years later. Allambee South remains a dairying area, at Allambee East the fertile river flats support grazing, but Allambee and Allambee Reserve are sparsely populated, mainly with hobby farmers and absentee landowners.

Census populations for the Allambee district have been:

census date population
1911 611
1933 451
1947 343
1961 269

Further Reading

Sandra Rickards, Allambee South: a road to remember, Mirboo North, 2001