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As the post-WW.II immigration from predominantly central and southern Europe increased, so too did the expansion of urbanised greater metropolitan Melbourne. One such area was Clayton, along the south-east railway and highway corridor from Oakleigh to Dandenong.

Due east of the more urbanised Oakleigh, Clayton, like its surrounding areas of Waverley to the north, Mulgrave to the east and Springvale to the south, had remained fairly un-urbanised and retained much of its market gardens and rural farming until the 1950s. To cater for the ever-increasing immigration numbers and the relative abundance of cheap open land, Clayton started to attract urbanised housing estates and various new factories. However, this development was often slow to be matched by associated municipal infrastructure, such as paved streets, town sewerage, maternal and childcare services, not to mention community centres, libraries, medical facilities, shops and improved public transport. Also, Clayton overlapped parts of four intersecting municipalities, which added to the infrastructure difficulties.

Many of the residents of Clayton, which straddled the municipal intersection of the Shires of Mulgrave and Springvale & Noble Park, plus Cities of Moorabbin and Oakleigh, felt that they had been neglected with the allocation of services. As a result, on 23 November 1955 a public Meeting was held at the Clayton Public Hall, hosted by the Clayton Progress Association, to establish a sub-committee to investigate the viability and hopeful establishment of a new, separate, “Borough of Clayton”, carved out of parts from most, if not all, of the surrounding intersecting municipalities. (1)

This feeling of neglect may well have been further fuelled by the decisions of the Shire of Mulgrave Council, in both 1952 and 53 (2), to replace the existing, albeit far too small Shire Office, used since December 1920, in nearby Ferntree Gully Road, Notting Hill, with a new much larger building to the north-east on Springvale Road, Glen Waverley, with specific infrastructure works, including an adjoining maternal and childcare services centre. The new two storey Shire Office was opened on 11 August 1955.

Source: Clayton & District Progress Association Records, History Monash Inc. Archive

By February 1956 (3), initial proposed maps showing the boundaries had been prepared. They were then refined over the next 12 months, until the preferred “Borough” boundaries were settled upon in February 1957.

Source: Clayton & District Progress Association Records, History Monash Inc. Archive

Basically the proposed “Borough of Clayton” would have parts of Ferntree Gully and Boundary Roads as its northern boundary, May, or Blackburn, Springvale and Westall Roads as its eastern boundary, Heatherton Road as its southern boundary and Clarinda Road, Prince Charles Street/Flora Road and Macrina Street as its western boundary.
As can be seen in these proposed maps, particularly the third map, the proposed “Borough of Clayton” north-west boundary follows the then boundary between the City of Oakleigh and Shire of Mulgrave, thus excluding possible objections from the Oakleigh City Council.

Initially, Shire of Mulgrave Councillors gave their support for the creation of this new “Borough” (4), even though it meant losing land area. There was not uniform support from the other affected municipalities and/or other local residents’ Progress Associations. Polls (votes) of affected Ratepayers were held in August 1956 (5) and again on 24 August 1957 (after the removal of any part of Oakleigh from the proposed Borough) (6) , about the proposed new “Borough of Clayton”. On both occasions, clear majorities in all the affected areas of each of the existing municipalities supported creating a new municipality.

Over the following 15 months, detailed discussions and lobbying occurred by the campaigners for the proposed Borough. This included analysis of expected rates revenue and outgoings. This culminated on 3 December 1957 with the State Local Government Advisory Board holding a meeting in Clayton to receive submissions from both those in favour and those against the idea of this new municipality (7). At this hearing both of the mainly affected Shires, those being, Mulgrave and the Springvale & Noble Park Shires, formally opposed any such new municipality.
In March 1958, the Minister for Public Works, Sir Thomas Maltby, announced that he had rejected the proposed “Borough of Clayton” (8). Instead, he suggested that most, if not all, of Clayton’s unhappiness would be resolved if most of the rejected “Borough” territory be transferred to the City of Oakleigh. This solution was rejected by the Clayton Progress Association, who requested that a new “official” referendum be held, and then act on the result. This request was refused by the Minister. The Mulgrave Shire Council also rejected the referendum request, saying that as the people of the Shire’s South Riding appear clearly wanting to leave, then it would be a waste of the Shire’s ratepayers’ money. Mulgrave Shire Councillor, Victor L. Smith stated, “It is a matter for the people of Clayton to deal with the municipality they wish to attach themselves to.” (9)

Melbourne Planning Scheme 1954 – Extract (Reproduced in “Remembering Melbourne 1850–1960”, p.194 – 2017)

After a year of discussions between the State Local Government Department, City of Oakleigh and Shire of Mulgrave, the State Government announced in the Victorian Government Gazette, No.43 – 27 May 1959, page 1484, municipal boundary changes affecting Clayton’s municipal location. Basically, the City of Oakleigh acquired approximately 95% of the rejected “Clayton Borough” proposal, including
those parts that were in the City of Moorabbin and Shire of Springvale & Noble Park. Approximately 50% of the transferred land, 3 square miles or 1,920 acres, came from the Shire of Mulgrave. By comparison, the City of Moorabbin lost 640 acres, and the Shire of Springvale & Noble Park lost 2.5 square miles or 1,600 acres. The City of Oakleigh more than doubled in size to 7,486 acres. The re-shaped municipalities of Mulgrave/Waverley and Oakleigh now looked as outlined on the following modern map of the area.

It is interesting to note that after just over a century of being separate municipalities, as Oakleigh and Mulgrave/Waverley, all of the pre-1949 area of Oakleigh, together with the 1959 acquired “Clayton Borough” area, were forced by the then State Government to merge on 14 December 1994, with Waverley, to form a new City of Monash. The Monash municipality in boundary shape and area, except for one excluded triangle piece of land mid-way along the southern boundary, is identical to the original Shire of Oakleigh (December 1871–March 1891). Later in February 1897, the Shire of Oakleigh changed its name to the Shire of Mulgrave, to distinguish it from the 1891 created Borough of Oakleigh. “What goes around, comes around”, so says the proverb.

By Ralph G.C. Bartlett

1. “Southern TORCH News”, Sat., 25 February 1956, p.1 (History Monash Archives – Federation Centre, Oakleigh)
2. “Cattlemen to Commuters”, by Susan Priestley (John Ferguson Pty. Ltd. 1979), p.182 and “Wondering Around Waverley”, by Wyn M. Hartwell 1990, p.155.
3. Minutes – Borough of Clayton Formation Committee Meeting, 26 February 1956 (History Monash Archives, Oakleigh)
4. “Southern TORCH News”, Sat., 17 March 1956, p.3 (History Monash Archives – Federation Centre, Oakleigh)
5. Letter from the Clayton & District Progress Association to Parliament House, Melbourne, dated 25 February 1957.
6. Letter from the Clayton & District Progress Association to their Lawyers, in Melbourne, dated 5 September 1957.
7. “The Clayton-Springvale-Noble Park Standard”, Sat., 7 December 1957, pp.1 & 16 (History Monash Archives – Federation Centre, Oakleigh)
8. “The Clayton-Springvale-Noble Park Standard”, Fri., 28 March 1958, p.1 & Fri., 16 May 1958, pp.1 & 4.
9. “The Clayton-Springvale-Noble Park Standard”, Fri., 16 May 1958, p.4 (History Monash Archives – Federation Centre, Oakleigh)

Author’s note:
I should like to thank History Monash for access to their archival files relating to the Clayton Borough Proposal, plus their collection of local newspapers. This article has also been published in the Waverley Historical Society’s journal, “History Here” No. 242.