Monbulk is township and farming area 40 km east of Melbourne and 8 km south-east of Mount Dandenong. Its name derives from the Parish of Monbulk which in turn derived from the Monbulk pastoral run on the Lysterfield area, some 10 km south-west of the present Monbulk.
The name derived from an Aboriginal expression, monbolloc, thought to describe a hiding place or sanctuary in the hills. There is also a Monbulk Creek which runs through Lysterfield.
In 1893 a Village Settlement of 76 ten-acre farms was created by the excision of a large amount of land from the Monbulk Forest, of which what remained is now the Dandenong Ranges National Park. The area was in the Parish of Monbulk, and the settlement's area adopted that name. Today Monbulk is reduced in area, the original district having been encroached on by Kallista and The Patch. By the late 1890s the rich soil had made berry growing a major industry. A fruit grower's co-operative was formed in 1897, leading to the Monbulk Jam Factory.
A school was built in 1897, a store in 1900 and three churches by 1906. A bushfire in 1913 destroyed the school and the mechanics' institute. After the 1939 bushfires the Monbulk Fire Brigade was formed (1941). Two years before a Monbulk timber merchant milled fire-damaged mountain ash trees, and grew to become a firm which was the area's biggest employer.
The jam factory became the Monbulk Preserving Company with interstate factories, diversifying into canned fruit and meats. The Monbulk factory employed 125 workers in the 1960s. It had also been a means for immigrant settlers after World War II to get a start. During the 1970s berry growers came to depend less on the factory, as sales of fresh fruit to the metropolitan market increased. In 1990 after several changes of ownership the Monbulk factory was closed, detracting from the local economy in both retail and accommodation areas – the caravan park had accommodated seasonal workers.
The horticultural industry diversified into other fruits, vegetables, cut flowers and plant and bulb nurseries.
The Monbulk township has a substantial residential component, a short main-street shopping area, two recreation areas with sports facilities, Anglican, Catholic and Uniting churches and a public hall. Out of the town is Monbulk college (1962) and several tourist facilities, including Nathania Springs Receptions, a guest house in the early days of tourism. An entry from Fleming's Nursery in Monbulk was awarded the prestigious Silver Gilt Flora Medal at the Chelsea Flower Show in London in 2004.
In 2014 Monbulk primary school had 226 pupils and Monbulk college 504 pupils.
Monbulk's census populations have been:
Helen Coulson, Story of the Dandenongs, 1838-1958, Melbourne, 1968
Dorothy Williams, A century of Monbulk jam, Monbulk, 1989
Dorothy Williams, Monbulk: living in the Dandenongs: a social history, Avonsleigh, 1998
Dorothy Williams, Monbulk in photographs, 3 vols, Monbulk, 1990-93
Betty Hotchin, A walk through historic Monbulk, Monbulk, 1999