Jumbunna is now an agricultural locality in the South Gippsland hills, 8 km south of Korumburra and about 120 km from Melbourne. Land was selected in this area from 1878 and the district became known by its parish name, Jumbunna East. According to Bunce's Language of the Aborigines of the Colony of Victoria (1859) Jumbunna is an Aboriginal word meaning to mention, language or conference. However, there was confusion with mails for the neighbouring parish of Jumbunna, and about 1890 the name of the district was changed to Moyarra.

Black coal was discovered in the area in 1889. After a favourable geologist’s report, the Jumbunna Coal Company was formed and began developing the mine. In 1893 another company, the West Jumbunna Coal company, was set up. These two companies purchased land, subdividing it into building allotments. Financial problems soon forced the West Jumbunna company to amalgamate with the Jumbunna Coal Company. The township became known as Jumbunna, taking its name from the mine, and Moyarra became the name of a small settlement several kilometres to the south.

A railway line was constructed from Korumburra, on the South Gippsland line, to Jumbunna in 1894 to carry the coal to Melbourne. However, because of the location of the mine and the steepness of the country, it terminated about 1.5 km from the mine, necessitating the construction of an aerial tramway.

The township grew quickly and the Victorian municipal directory of 1896 recorded a large hotel, three stores, three coffee palaces and a mechanics’ institute at Jumbunna.

A school was opened in 1900, classes having been previously held in the hall. An Anglican church was built in 1901. There were butchers, bakers, a fruiterer, bootmakers, a saddler and timber merchant. There was a cricket club, football team, tennis courts, golf club and a brass band. By 1901 there were 155 houses in the town and about 800 people.

Coal had also been found about 2.5 km south of Jumbunna. In 1896, the railway was extended to this mine and township known as Outtrim. The route was altered to pass closer to Jumbunna mine. The aerial tramway had proved unsatisfactory and a new haulage system was now installed. During these years, the mine averaged 54,000 tons of coal each year.

The Australian handbook of 1903 described Jumbunna at its peak:

However, in 1903 a strike had begun which closed all mines in the district for 17 months. The economic effects on the town were severe, with the departure of miners and the closure of businesses. After the strike, output was maintained until 1912, but then gradually decreased. By 1933 there were only 312 inhabitants and the mine closed in 1939.

There was some small scale mining, the last in the 1960s. The rail line was closed in 1954, even though used by farmers to send pigs, calves and sheep to Melbourne. The township retained its hall (1894), but the school closed in 1988. The general store, closed in 1976, is noted as a heritage building in the Shire inventory.

Jumbunna’s census populations have been:

census date population
1891 43
1911 680
1921 437
1933 312
1947 208
1954 166
1961 138

Further Reading

J. White, The history of the Shire of Korumburra, 1988

J. White, The town called ‘Outtrim’, 1976