Launching Place and Don Valley

Launching Place, a rural township with a substantial residential area, is on the route between Lilydale and Warburton. It is situated on the Yarra River, 55 km east of central Melbourne, near where the river is entered by the Little Yarra River.

When the Wood Point and other Gippsland goldfields were discovered a track was cut from Melbourne through the vicinity of Launching Place. Supplies were brought in by the track as far as Launching Place, and were then transported further upstream on flat bottomed boats, which were launched at that location. (More commonly, though, goods were transported along pack tracks).

During the 1860s the hamlet was also known as Ewart’s after David Ewart’s Home Hotel. Despite the presence of the hotel, two nearby settlements grew at the expense of Launching Place. Don Valley, to the north, was the site of a primary school in 1884, which closed in 1894 when a school was opened in Launching Place’s neighbour, Yarra Junction, 2 km to the east. Launching Place was described in the 1903 Australian handbook:

Launching Place gained a railway station when the line between Lilydale and Warburton was opened (1901), but its school did not come until 1926. The railway made Launching Place accessible for tourists for the forest scenery and fishing, and a boarding house provided accommodation additional to the Home Hotel’s. Local industries included sawmills, dairying and fruit growing.

The original village centre is near the hotel, where the Yarra River flows close to the main road and the Don Valley Road. The railway station and train line (1901-65) were also nearby. Launching Place’s residential area is on the Melbourne side of the village centre, and began during the late 1970s. It contains the school (267 pupils in 2014), two reserves and a few corner stores.

Don Valley

North of Launching Place is Don Valley, formed by two spurs from the northern ranges. Its heavily timbered slopes were opened up for farming around the early 1900s, but the area closer to the flatter ground where the Don River meets the Yarra River proved to be better for settlement. Don Valley’s first school opened in 1917 and the present building was constructed in 1955. The enrolment in 2014 was 44.

About 1.5 km north of Launching Place is Haining Farm, on mainly river flat country. It has a dairy herd and is run for community groups and school children to give them experience of a working farm.

Launching Place’s census populations have been:

area census date population
Launching Place 1901 51
  1911 231
  1961 497
  1981 1004
  1991 1518
  2001 1600
  2006 1576
Launching Place and environs 2006 2599
  2011 2492
Don Valley 2011 377

At the 2011 census, technicians, trades workers and labourers accounted for 33.2% of the workforce, compared with 22.9% for Victoria.