Ashburton, a mostly postwar residential suburb, is 12 km south-east of central Melbourne. The locality's name arose when the station on the Outer Circle railway line (1890) was named Ashburton, at the suggestion of a former local councillor, E. Dillon who had lived in Ashburton Terrace, Cork, Ireland.
An unrealised objective of the railway line had been to stimulate residential development, but the locality was best known for the Ashburton forest, overlooking Gardiners Creek, as a site for picnics. The Outer Circle railway, originally from Oakleigh to Melbourne via Fairfield, was abbreviated to spur lines from Camberwell within a few years, northwards to Deepdene and southwards to Ashburton, and no other fixed rail transport was provided for Ashburton. The residential development of Ashburton awaited Melbourne's postwar metropolitan expansion and increased car ownership.
In the 1920s Ashburton had a few shops, orchards and market gardens, supporting sufficient population for a primary school to be opened in 1928 (549 pupils, 2014). There was a public hall in High Street near Johnston Street where Catholic and Presbyterian church services were held in the late 1920s. In 1948 the railway line was extended by one station to Alamein, a postwar suburb with almost entirely wartime street names such as Victory Boulevard, Benghazi Avenue and Tobruk Road. Much of the housing was built by the Housing Commission.
Ashburton extends south to Gardiners Creek. As well as containing Alamein, it also includes the locality of Solway in its south-west. Sparsely settled until the early postwar years, the Solway school opened in 1950 with the name Darling East. It was renamed Solway in 1956 after the Postmaster-General's Department opened in Solway post office near Solway Street.
Ashburton has an active strip shopping centre along High Street near the railway station. Nearby is a large Catholic church, St Michael's. The Ashburton Catholic parish was separated from Glen Iris parish in 1946 and a Catholic primary school opened that year. The present church was built in 1955. Ashburton Park and Warner Reserve have modern indoor and outdoor swimming pools and associated facilities. Along Gardiners Creek there is the Malvern Valley golf course.
The small shopping centre in Victory Boulevard, Alamein, was reduced to one convenience store by 1997. Opposite the shops the Alamein primary school (1950) had been closed, and the land given to housing. The new houses are in colonial, federation and modern two-storey styles, offering a contrasting opulence to the functional postwar Commission housing.
In 1987 the median house price in Ashburton was 30% above the median for metropolitan Melbourne and in 1996 it was 36% above the metropolitan median.
Ashburton's census populations have been:
The Alameiners: from mud to palaces, Ashburton, 2004