Newborough is a rural suburb in the Latrobe Valley, Gippsland, and part of the Moe-Newborough urban area. It is immediately east of Moe and 125 km south-east of Melbourne.
The Yallourn coal-mining and power-generation area was immediately east of Newborough which, until 1942, was known as Moe East. By the late 1920s some families employed at Yallourn settled at Moe East, preferring to own their home rather than rent one from the State Electricity Commission. In 1942 the post office ran a competition for renaming Moe East, and Newborough was chosen.
The first postwar census (1947) recorded 296 residents at Newborough, which coincided with the opening of the Newborough public hall. A State primary school started in the hall in 1949, and three years later the school had its own building. Between 1944 and 1950 the Yallourn workforce went from 2500 to 8000. Many settled in Moe, but Newborough also had a house-building boom. The Commission imported British pre-fabricated houses.
The early 1950s were a time of rapid growth. A Catholic primary school opened in 1950 and the Newborough East State school opened the next year. On the Princes Highway a roadhouse and service station opened, quaintly named Gunns Gully. In 1954, two years after it opened, Gunns Gully was among Victoria’s top sales for petrol from bowsers.
Yallourn technical school was transferred to Newborough in 1957, and Newborough high school opened in 1962. Newborough shopping centre was near the hall (rebuilt 1953) and the Catholic school. A hotel was added in 1958.
The Commission’s pre-fab housing area was in the Yallourn works area. In 1953 the area was transferred to Narracan shire, and the Commission set about selling the houses to its employee-tenants. Moe and Newborough were severed from Narracan within two years, becoming an urban borough which, eight years later, became a city.
Newborough high school opened in 1962, which ushered in three decades of prosperity as the Latrobe Valley energy industry enjoyed expanding demand for its monopoly product. A unionised workforce extracted regular wage increases, keeping pace with the cost of living but heedless of a coming neo-liberal backlash in public sector employment.
In the 1970s the Yallourn township was ‘decommissioned’ as the Commission wanted to dig up the coal under its shops and houses. Some residents moved to Newborough, buying pre-cut houses that remained unsold at 1950s prices. Some also built new homes. The Commission built subdivisions and relocated Yallourn houses which were then sold to former Yallourn residents. Other Yallourn residents bought blocks in Newborough and moved Yallourn houses on to the blocks. A large retirement village was built in Newborough for elderly residents who had been living in Yallourn. The Commission provided community facilities in Newborough, as part of the resettlement process.
Because of its proximity to Moe, Newborough’s position as an independent town or a suburb has been a matter of debate. Newborough residents, however, are in no doubt of their separate identity. Despite the economic difficulties of the late 1980s, house prices in Newborough fared better than in Moe. While Moe’s median house price declined between 1987 and 1996, Newborough’s rose from $48,000 to $56,000. The three high schools at Yallourn, Newborough and Moe were amalgamated at Newborough in 1994. Plans to increase residential development at Lake Narracan in 2013 included pedestrian links between Moe and Newborough.
Newborough primary school had 152 pupils and Newborough East primary school had 316 pupils in 2014.
Census populations for Newborough have been:
Graham Goulding, A short history of Moe and Newborough, Moe, 2005
Meredith Fletcher, Digging people up for coal: a history of Yallourn, Carlton South, 2002