Outtrim is about 10 km south of Korumburrra in the South Gippsland hills, and about 122 km from Melbourne. Land was selected in the area from 1882 and the dense forest began to be cleared for farming. When black coal was discovered in 1892 the Outtrim Coal Mining Company was soon registered. The company was named after A.R. Outtrim, the Victorian Minister of Mines at the time. When town allotments were privately surveyed and sold, the town took its name from the mine.
Some other companies were formed, but by 1894 an amalgamated company, Outtrim, Howitt and British Consolidated Coal Company, held the leases. Payable coal was found and the mine was developed. Initially some coal was transported by bullock team to the railhead at nearby Jumbunna. With the mine’s viability proved, the railway line was extended to Outtrim in 1896.
The first building in the town was a small accommodation house. Stores and houses soon followed and coal production increased. The company secured good contracts for its coal with Victorian Railways. There was soon a post office, police station, hall, library, hotels and coffee palaces. A school was operating and a building was constructed in 1900. The surrounding farms supplied fresh produce and timber for the town and agisted horses and bullocks. By 1901 there were about 1700 inhabitants and by 1902, about 2500. There were five churches in the town. Nearly a dozen lodges claimed members. A recreation reserve was set aside in 1902 and cricket, football, tennis and rifle shooting flourished. A racing club had a course south of Outtrim. The Australian handbook of 1904 described Outtrim at its peak when the mine employed about 650:
However, in 1903 a strike had begun. Victorian Railways, had dropped its rates for Outtrim coal so the mine management reduced wages and conditions for the miners. The strike lasted for 70 weeks, spreading to all mines in the district. The long dispute caused a rapid decline in Outtrim from which it never recovered.
By 1908 the workable areas of coal at Outtrim were being depleted. The opening of the Wonthaggi field in 1909 attracted many miners. Fires in 1912 and 1913 destroyed a large part of the business centre of the town. In 1911, there were 848 inhabitants and by 1913 only 700. Many of the houses and public buildings were moved away. The mine eventually closed about 1918.
From the 1920s a number of small companies extracted coal from old workings for local use and for small contracts in Melbourne. This ended with the availability of cheap briquettes. The railway ceased running to Outtrim in 1951. The site of the town of Outtrim has reverted to farmland. Little remains apart from the railway earthworks and mullock heaps. The main enterprise is dairying, but beef cattle and sheep are also grazed. The school closed in 1993 but a strong community is centred on the recreation reserve and hall.
Outtrim’s census populations have been:
B. Sykes, Change here for Outtrim!, 1977
Joseph White, The history of the Shire of Korumburra, 1988
Joseph White, The town called ‘Outtrim’, 1976