Carrum - A Brief Local History.

Before white settlement the area where Carrum is now situated was part of a large swampland. The swamp had been created by waters from the east and the Dandenong Ranges flowing into the lower laying areas. It was about 15 kilometres long and covered a region that extended from Mordialloc to Frankston with its widest point stretching back as far as Bangholme. Excess waters from the swamp flowed into Port Phillip Bay through the Mordialloc and Kananook Creeks. [1

Carrum Carrum Swamp - Watercolour by James Curtis. 1872

There had been previous unsuccessful attempts by the English to colonise the Port Phillip District. It wasn't until 1835 when Sydney born John Batman crossed Bass Strait from Van Dieman's land and founded a settlement on the banks of the Yarra that Port Phillip was finally settled by white men. The impact of white settlement was to have disastrous impact on the local Indigenous people. The Port Phillip district had been home to five Koorie tribes who all spoke a similar language. They called themselves 'Kulin' meaning human and had lived in Victoria for at least 40 thousand years. One of those tribes, the Bunurong lived along the coasts of Port Phillip and Westernport Bays. Their land encompassed the Carrum Carrum swamp and stretched from Werribee River and possibly as far east Wilson's Promontory [2]

With the advent of European settlement the Kulin Nation people were dispersed from their lands. Conflict with the new settlers & introduced diseases killed many. Aboriginal birth rates fell dramatically. In 1840 Derrimut a leader of the Burrumbeet people said:

" You see all this mine - All along here Derrimut's once: No matter now, me soon tumble down - why me have piccaninny?

You have all this place. No good have children. No good have lubra, me tumble down and die very soon now" [3]

Derrimut died August 28 1864.

Throughout the region rapid change was ongoing. Trees were being cut down for houses and farming, swamps were in the process of being drained, soil that had never been disturbed was being ploughed for crops and local birds and animals were being hunted by the settlers and their guns. For the Kulin people life had changed forever. They were excluded from one area after another. The land was needed to fatten the settler's sheep and cattle. Fresh water holes were commandeered and the Aboriginal people were moved to less desirable areas. Mordialloc creek was a traditional Aboriginal area. For a short time a depot was established and the remaining Bunurong lived there. In 1863 the remnant people of the Kulin nation were moved to Coranderrk Reserve Healesville. Between the World Wars Coranderrk was gazetted for soldier settlement. All Aboriginal servicemen applications were rejected. The half acre Aboriginal cemetery was given back to the Kulin people. During the 1920's the Coranderrk Aboriginal people were transferred to Lake Tyers Settlement. (4) The last of the Bunurong tribe Jimmy Dunbar and his lubra 'Eliza' died in 1877. [5]

Group of Victoria Aborigines.

In 1866 the Carrum swamp was surveyed and the land between Mordialloc Creek and Keast Park Seaford was divided into 18 allotments and sold by auction for around three pounds per acre. In 1871 the government opened it for selection. The swamp was an impediment to the settlers there was much discussion on how to reclaim the land, the first contracts for drainage works commenced in 1873. Attempts to reclaim the lower swamplands were ineffective. In 1879 it was decided to cut a 10 metre wide channel to the sea. It was known as ‘Patterson Cut’ and had been named after a State Parliamentarian - the Hon. J.B. Patterson. He visited the area and recommended that the Government make money available for drainage works. [6] The Carrum Swamp was gradually drained and was used for farming, market gardens and grazing. Patterson's Cut was to become the Patterson River.

According to some early pioneers Carrum was a paradise - William Bruton memories were:

"When I first visited Carrum, there was no ti-tree (or tea-tree) on the foreshore from Carrum to Kananook Creek. There was however a small patch of ti-tree about two miles from Carrum called the scrub, which had not grown to the height , or spread as it has since done, but there were plenty of the east side of the road.

The foreshore was a growth of honeysuckle ferns and wild currants, and when the trees were

flowering, a large number of birds were seen, Magpies and crows preferred the other side of the swamp.

The call of the Kookaburra was heard everywhere and amongst the trees wattle birds, leatherheads,

woodpecker, thrushes, kingfisher, robins and many different kinds of parrots, and as we camped near the swamp ti-tree when - Oh! wild turkeys - they know the human beings, and are up and off quickly. But what are those tall things over yonder? a uflock of native companions. Rare as they are, they are still birds, but they are far more conceited than any other bird.

Here the gum trees lay prone where they have lain for hundreds of years, and others in the full glory of life send their spreading limbs and luxuriant foliage out, displaying their pride of life. Here also are

the possums in plenty disporting themselves amongst the branches.

And so it seem that the energy of the axeman, the drainer, the builder have turned this heavenly paradise of thousands of years, into a joy somewhat like unto the dog of old, racing with the jam tin, which rascally

boys have attached to his tail." [5]

In 1882 the railway line from Caulfield was extended to Frankston. Between Mordialloc and Frankston there was a one passenger station located at Carrum. Its establishment was to foresee rapid development in the area. 1901 tea-tree blocks from an ½ acre to 5 acres were being sold and within a year cottages were being erected near the station for people who owned swamp land. They were to build a private road from Wells Road to the station to make it easier to get their produce and stock to markets. Railway sleepers were put down to improve it and subsequently it was named Plank Road. However unfavourable weather conditions often made the road impassable. Following a great deal of protests about the road's condition 1910 saw the council step in and reconstruct it. It was renamed McLeod Road. [6]

In 1902 half acre blocks of land on the beachside of Nepean Road were selling for fifty pounds. By the early 1900's a school was operating in the local Wesley Church and by the end of the decade a general store, bakery, two butcher shops and several other business's had been established. It was the beginnings of a thriving community.

Carrums early settlers were largely farmers however the railway was bringing holiday makers into the area and it was proving to be a popular seaside resort. With a burgeoning population. It was growing.

Prior to the arrival of the motor car people walked, rode horses or used horse drawn carriages for transport. From the time the first white settlers began arriving in the

Carrum Swamp region right up until fairly recently there have always been people riding around Carrum on horseback.


Carole Ross


1 McGuire F. They Built A River. City of Chelsea Historical Society.

2 Presland Gary. Aboriginal Melbourne. The Lost Land Of The Kulin People. Hariland Press. 2001

3 Victorian Royal Commission on Aborigines. 1877

4 Hindsight. 11 May 2008. Retrieved November 2009.

5 Bruton W. Local History Carrum to Cheltenham. Leader Newspaper. 1930A

6 Hubbins. G.M. A History of the City of Springvale. Constellation of Communities. City of Springvale, Lothian Publishing. 1984

7 McGuire Frank. Chelsea , A Beachside Community. Argyle Press Pty. Ltd.1985

Photos courtesy of

Cameron Howe

Picture Collection: State Library of Victoria.