Toolangi, a rural village in the Dividing Range, is 54 km north-east of central Melbourne and on the road from Healesville to Kinglake. It is thought that the name derived from an Aboriginal expression describing a stringy-bark gum tree, possibly a reference to Eucalyptus regnans (mountain ash).
Timber cutters and paling splitters settled in the Toolangi area, and farm selections began in the late 1880s. In 1893 residents petitioned for a school, and two years later lessons began in a community building that was also used for church services, Sunday school and entertainments. A larger building was constructed in 1907. Sophie Basset was postmistress of the post office (1900), retiring from the position in 1940. She handled mail to and from Toolangi's most famous resident, poet C.J. Dennis, who camped at Toolangi with artist Hal Waugh in 1908. Dennis settled in Toolangi in 1915 at a property he named Arden, also known as the singing garden.
When timber was cleared around Toolangi it uncovered fertile, rich brown soil. Potatoes and strawberries grew well, and a potato research station was established in 1945. The timber was sawn at numerous forest mills and usually carried to the Healesville railway yard. Forest fires have been a constant risk. They have occurred in 1912, 1926, 1939 (Black Friday) and 2009 (Black Saturday). At least two lives were lost each time in 1939 and 2009, along with buildings. A rural fire brigade started in 1953.
In 1965 the Sands and McDougall directory recorded a hotel (1895), a guest house, a store and an Anglican church in Toolangi. Two years before, electricity had been connected to the district. In 1975 the hotel burnt down, and the replacement tavern dates from 2006.
Toolangi has a community house, a recent CFA station building (2000), a recreation reserve, the C.J. Dennis hall, a forest discovery centre and a primary school (25 pupils, 2014). There is a seismic observatory (1987) south-east of Toolangi.
Residents have a particular affection for the Toolangi State forest and the preservation of its habitat for rare and endangered animals. Among those animals is the endangered Leadbeater's possum, Victoria's faunal emblem. Residents were distressed by clear-fell logging of Nolans Gully, north-east of Toolangi. Instead of sit-ins they had knit-ins: protesters went by the name of the knitting nanas.
Nine strawberry runner growers in Toolangi were reportedly still using up to 30 tonnes a year of the banned pesticide methyl bromide in 2015, despite Australia agreeing to phase out its use by 2005. The banned pesticide depletes the ozone layer.
Toolangi's census populations have been:
|Toolangi||Toolangi and environs|
At the 2011 census, fruit and nut growing accounted for 10.8% of employment.
Sally Symonds, Healesville, history in the hills, Lilydale, 1982
Toolangi primary school, the first hundred years, Toolangi, 1995
Bob Pockett, 1953-2003: raking the trail: history of the Toolangi Rural Fire Brigade, 2005