Nar Nar Goon

The small township of Nar Nar Goon is situated on the Gippsland railway line, about 63 km east of Melbourne. Mount Ararat pastoral run was taken up in 1844, occupying the foothills of the ranges to the north and flat land fringing swamps to the south. Land was sold in the 1850s and 1860s, with many of the settlers originating from the Monteagle estate in Limerick, Ireland.

In the early 1860s the coach road from Melbourne was extended into Gippsland, winding through the foothills close to the route of the Princes Freeway. A hotel, the Limerick Arms, was established on the coach road, north-east of the present town.

In 1877 construction of the railway from Melbourne into Gippsland was completed, the line passing about 1 km south of the coach road. Previously the locality was known at Mount Ararat but when a railway station was established in 1881, it was named Nar Nar Goon, supposedly an Aboriginal expression meaning native bear.

The name was first used for the Nar-Nar-Goon survey Parish, and a Nar-Nar-Goon school (later named Pakenham East) operated from 1874 until 1891. There were also outlying districts of Nar Nar Goon North and South, each with a school (1889 and 1937). Both closed when the Pakenham Consolidated School opened in 1951.

The railway opened markets for firewood, split posts, palings and sawn timber. Over the next 30 years several sawmills were established north of the town, hauling large amounts of timber to the railway station on wooden tramways. A township soon grew around the station. A general store commenced business and a hotel opened in 1883. A hall was built in 1888 and a school was established 2 km south of the township in 1882.

As the surrounding district was cleared of timber, grazing and dairying became the main farming pursuits. There was some timber milling in the district until the 1930s. By the early twentieth century the township had grown, with a butcher, baker and garage. Nar Nar Goon was described in the 1903 Australian handbook:

There was a racecourse which was also used for sporting events but in the 1920s land was purchased and cleared for a recreation reserve. The Hall was extended after 1918. In 1936 the school south of the town was destroyed by fire and the present school was built in the town in 1938.

Many of the early Irish families intermarried and the town was strongly Catholic. A church opened in 1905 and there was a Catholic school several kilometres south of the town. An Anglican church held services from 1894. About 1922, the Methodists acquired the band room from Walhalla to serve as their place of worship, and a Presbyterian church hall was constructed in 1959.

From 1952, St Mary’s Cooperative from nearby Maryknoll operated a joinery in Nar Nar Goon. Portable classrooms were constructed from 1963 and the cooperative also opened a hardware shop in 1966. A factory packing potatoes grown at Gembrook and the Koo Wee Rup Swamp is located near the highway. Also on the highway there is a service station.

For many years the township serviced a prosperous dairy farming district but from the 1970s there has been some diversification into horses, grazing and poultry. From the early 1980s some subdivision of larger blocks took place on the outskirts of the town. The township has several shops, a post office, a garage, a hotel, a hall and an Anglican church. Several buildings have murals. About 1 km north of the town centre there is a Catholic church (1905) and primary school (1975). In 2014 the State primary school had 247 pupils.

Nar Nar Goon’s census populations have been:

census date population
1911 564
1921 629
1933 600
1954 696
1961 762
2001 606
2006 611
2011 471

Notwithstanding Nar Nar Goon’s rural location, the largest occupation of employed persons at the 2011 census was technicians and trades workers (22.4%, Australia 14.2%) and the leading industry sector for employment was road freight (5.7% of total employment).

Nar Nar Goon North is an identified district, adjoining the west side of the town of Maryknoll. It has a public hall and had a primary school (1889-1951) and a post office (1917-71). Its census populations have been:

census date population
1933 102
1947 176
1954 173
1961 154
2011 708