Melton Shire

Melton shire is a residential and rural shire headquartered in the town of Melton which is 36 km north-west of central Melbourne.

The shire is on undulating basaltic and alluvial plains, although its northern area includes foothills of the Lerderderg State Park. The basaltic plain was formed by lava flows from volcanic cones such as Mounts Cottrell and Kororoit. The open plains were ideal for hunting and coursing. An early settler, Thomas Pyke, had a property in the Toolern Vale area and organised several hunt meetings in the 1840s. It appears that the emerging village on the Toolern Creek was named after the fashionable hunting grounds at Melton Mowbray, England.

The Melton road district was created on 16 September 1862, with an area of 242 sq km. It became a shire on 24 March 1871 and over the next 100 years was gradually enlarged by additions from Braybrook shire (Rockbank), Bulla shire and Keilor shire. When municipal amalgamations came in 1994 Melton shire grew further by additions from Bulla shire (Diggers Rest area) and Werribee city (Exford). Its area then was 528 sq km.

Much of the shire in the nineteenth century was held as large pastoral estates. Simon Staughton’s Exford estate grew to about 100,000 acres by the mid-1860s and Sir Rupert Clark’s Rockbank estate was of a similar scale. The Melton village on the road and railway to Ballarat had a few hundred people by 1900. Diggers Rest (on the railway to Bendigo), Rockbank and Toolern Vale, between them, had about 600 people.

The shire was described in the 1946 Australian blue book:

In the early 1960s Melton was identified as a potential satellite suburb, in company with Sunbury. Urban growth began in the late 1960s. Housing spread into adjoining new suburbs, Kuranjang and Melton South, in the next decade. Melton and adjoining suburbs became the shire’s dominant place:

area population
  1966 1996
Melton and suburbs 1386 30,304
Melton shire 2559 39,169

In the late 1990s another satellite suburb began, east of Rockbank. Named Caroline Springs, it too developed into a number of new suburbs such as Burnside, Burnside Heights, Hillside, Brookfield and Taylors Hill, the latter merging with Sydenham in Brimbank city. The Caroline Springs development was more rapid than Melton’s.

area population
  2001 2006 2011
Caroline Springs 2823 11,352 20,366
Burnside 2909 5792 4385
Burnside Heights     5000
Hillside 9174 14,416 16,326
Brookfield   3168 6104
Taylors Hill   6541 11,785
Totals 14,906 41,269 63,966

Diggers Rest and Toolern Vale had a combined population of about 3150 (2011).

Melton was among metropolitan Melbourne’s ‘most affordable’ (lowest-priced) places for houses. High or low-priced households find the price of community centre and council playgrounds cost about the same as in higher-priced suburbs, but residents’ financial circumstances put a cap on rate revenue. The shire council relies on top-ups from State and Federal budgets.

Notwithstanding the shire’s urbanisation, opinion in 2010 was divided on changing Melton’s name from a shire to a city. Housing estates in Diggers Rest and Toolern Vale added to the debate.

Melton shire’s census populations have been:

census date population
1871 1243
1891 1189
1911 1217
1921 1430
1933 1493
1947 1266
1954 1424
1961 1804
1966 2559
1971 5974
1976 13,586
1981 20,599
1986 28,812
1991 34,736
1996 39,169
2001 51,685
2006 78,912
2011 109,259

About 84% of the population growth during 2001-11 occurred in the suburbs. About 90% of Melton shire’s dwellings are detached houses (2011). Among residents who expressed a religious affiliation in 2011 there were:

religious affiliation % of population
  Melton shire


Catholic 36.8 25.3
Eastern Orthodox 6.2 2.6

Further Reading

J.H. Pollitt, Historical record of Melton, Melton, 1962

Joan Starr, Melton – plains of promise, Melton, c1986

Brookfield, Burnside, Caroline Springs, Diggers Rest, Eynesbury, Hillside, Kuranjang, Melton, Melton South, Melton West, Mount Cottrell, Rockbank, Taylors Hill and Toolern Vale entries