Hernes Oak

Hernes Oak is a rural locality and dormitory suburb of Yallourn in the Latrobe Valley, eastern Victoria. It is about midway between Moe and Morwell.

The country between Moe and Morwell was known as the Haunted Hills, reputedly because stock riders believed that cattle were easily alarmed by nocturnal sounds. The change of name to Hernes Oak occurred in or before 1922: in Shakespeare’s play The Merry Wives of Windsor, Herne’s ghost appeared by an oak tree and terrified cattle.

The Yallourn brown coal mine was commenced by the Victorian State Electricity Commission in 1918, and in 1922 a branch railway line was opened from Hernes Oak to the Yallourn works area, a distance of less than 3 km. Houses were built at Hernes Oak, several of their owners’ securing occupation under miner’s right law. A progress association was formed in 1932.

Postwar industrialisation stimulated expansion of mining and electricity generation, and the Hernes Oak community gained a hall (1946) and a school (1948). Within four years, however, the source of Hernes Oak’s growth emerged as the cause of its demise, as the Commission announced its intention to mine coal under Hernes Oak.

There was 50 metres depth of brown coal under a 15 metres overburden. Property acquisitions began in the late 1960s, and the school closed in 1975. The last building was the hall, demolished in the early 1990s.

On Haunted Hills Road, as it approaches Newborough, there is the Yallourn cemetery. The entrance is flanked by gates from the Yallourn works area. Several burials are of workers who lived in Hernes Oak and Yallourn, often with eastern and southern European names on headstones. The cemetery is well cared for.

Hernes Oak’s populations (reported by the Electricity Commission) were 142 in 1932 and 340 in 1940. Census populations were:

census date population
1947 451
1961 653
2011 424*

*census area mainly south of Princes Highway

Further Reading

Stephen M. Legg, Heart of the valley: a history of the Morwell municipality, Morwell, 1992

Dorothy Squires-Taylor, Across the old bush track: the history and story of Haunted Hills, later re-named Hernes Oak, Victoria, the author, 1992