The name is thought to have been derived from an Aboriginal word meaning mother's milk, as Moorabbin was reputedly a place where mothers and children stayed while male tribesmen went further afield. Certainly there was a series of springs or soaks through the area, notably at Cheltenham.
The first settlers in the Moorabbin area were the brothers John and Richard King (1846). (It is thought that the came from the Westernport area, but they were not of the better-known King family which occupied Bunguyan near Hastings.)
In the 1850s the pastoral runs in Moorabbin, were subdivided for increased settlement, but the district relied on the Brighton township and smaller villages at Sandringham and at Cheltenham. Moorabbin grew as a farming and market garden area. In 1854 the Wesleyan church opened a primary school which continued until 1872, when it was replaced by a State primary school. In 1862 Moorabbin, which included Sandringham, Mentone and Mordialloc, was made a Road Board District and on 27 January, 1871, it was made a shire.
When the railway extension from Caulfield to Frankston was opened in 1881 a station was provided at Moorabbin, but most excursionists made for Mentone and Mordialloc where there were seaside amusements, fishing and game-shooting. Moorabbin's small township had the Plough and Harrow Hotel as its main building, and was known as South Brighton until 1909. In 1917 Sandringham borough was formed by severance from Moorabbin shire and in 1920 Mentone and Mordialloc shire was severed. In the remaining Moorabbin shire the Moorabbin township (1,770 persons), was much smaller than Bentleigh (7,700) and Cheltenham (4,100) in 1933. The shire, nevertheless, grew in population during the 1930s, and on 10 October, 1934, it was proclaimed a city. Land was also suitable for the location of factories, the flat sandy soil providing large and stable sites. In 1949 The Australian Blue Book described Moorabbin shire as -
The Moorabbin township was described in The Victorian Municipal Directory in 1949 as -
The Moorabbin district's flat ground had attracted flying activities when the first Aerial Derby was held at the Epsom racecourse, Mordialloc, in 1920. In December, 1949, metropolitan Melbourne gained a second general airport when the one inland from Mentone and Mordialloc was opened. It is now the Moorabbin (Harry Hawker) Airport, and during the 1960s was the busiest in Australia with high numbers of small and medium planes.
Between 1947 and 1954 Moorabbin city's population more than doubled to 65,000 persons. In another twelve years it exceeded 100,000. The Council opened a new town hall and offices in 1963. The St. Kilda League Football team moved its home ground from an area of declining population to the growing south-eastern area at Moorabbin in 1965. The area between Bentleigh and Moorabbin was filled with residential subdivisions and the Victorian Railways opened the Patterson station in 1960. During the 1950-70s Moorabbin city was metropolitan Melbourne's burgeoning "sand belt" residential area.
Between 1950 and 1963 three more primary schools were opened in Moorabbin, of which one had closed by 1995. A technical school was opened in 1954 and a high school in 1963. The high school has closed and the Barton TAFE is on the site of the technical school
The Moorabbin township's hub is at the busy intersection of South Road and the Nepean Highway. The town hall and offices are at the corner, and the shopping centre a little away from them, separated by the railway line and station. In addition to the Moorabbin football ground there are several neighbourhood reserves with ovals. There is a small strip shopping centre at the Patterson railway station.
Moorabbin East is mainly industrial with factories and warehouses. The Phillip Morris cigarette manufacturing plant and several other large plants are in Chesterville Road. Coca Cola Bottlers is nearby.
When local government boundaries were changed in 1994 about half of Moorabbin city was united with Glen Eira city and about half with Kingston city.
In 1987 the median house price in Moorabbin was 3% above the median for metropolitan Melbourne and in 1996 it was 10% above the metropolitan median.
The census populations of Moorabbin municipality were 7,443 (1921), 19,006 (1933), 29,236 (1947), 95,669 (1961), 109,588 (1971) and 94,161 (1991). The census populations of the Moorabbin township were 727 (1911) and 1,688 (1933).
Sheehy, Tom, A Short History of Moorabbin, Standard Newspapers Ltd., 1965.
Sheehy, Tom, "Battlers Tamed A Sandbelt: Moorabbin 50 Years A City",
City of Moorabbin, 1985.
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