An Un-official HomePage of:
The History of Sunshine
Throughout its history the fortunes of Sunshine have inspired and reflected the fortunes of Australia. For more than a century the influence of this tight-knit community has extended across the world. Its people and its products have turned a one-time sheep run into a commercial and industrial powerhouse. As we approach a new century it seems certain that Sunshine will continue to symbolise a vigorous and fortunate nation.
Before Europeans found Australia the Wurundjeri people made their home on the plains where Sunshine now stands. Their occupation of the hunting and gathering lands around the hills and rivers extends back thousands of years.
Evidence of this once-thriving community has been identified through remains of camping grounds - the tools and cooking sites they used; the trees they marked to build their canoes. Almost certainly these were the people who watched the arrival of John Batman's party. A way of life that had lasted for millennia was to vanish within a few years.
Probably the first European to see the area where Sunshine now stands was Edward Grimes, who explored the fringes of Port Phillip Bay in February 1803. He noted the sweeping plains and distant mountains, remarking on two salty watercourses - the Kororoit and Skeleton creeks. He was not particularly impressed with what he saw, dismissing the soil as 'poor'.
In the early years of white settlement sheep played an important role in the development of the Sunshine district. Two vast sheep runs were established by men named Cotterell and Solomon, and many of the stock they produced went to a cannery developed at Maribyrnong by Joseph Raleigh. This grew to be the largest cannery in the nation, employing up to 300 men at peak times.
By 1849 Braybrook was well established. A pound was built as a holding yard for livestock, and as the gold rush began the district became a staging point for prospectors on their way to the diggings. In 1860 the Braybrook District Roads Boards was established, to be superseded when the Shire of Braybrook was formed in 1871.
In 1861 a census determined that 463 people lived in the townships of Maidstone, Albion and Braybrook, but as railway lines were pushed through to Bendigo and Ballarat - meeting at Braybrook Junction - the population grew. During this period the districts main industries were grazing, quarrying for bluestone, chaff mills, abattoirs and the cannery. It was simply a bustling little country community known as Braybrook Junction until the turn of the century, when inventor/industrialist Hugh Victor McKay bought the Braybrook Implement Works and began to develop it as the factory for his new-fangled Sunshine Harvester. The district was named after the harvester, not the other way around as many people assume.
Within six years the Harvester works employed 1300 people, and eventually became the largest manufacturing plant in the southern hemisphere. The firm had a vigorous export market, and its products took Sunshine's name across the world. For the first time Australia had become a competitor in world markets, instead of importing everything from older nations.
The pathway to prosperity was not always smooth. Sunshine author Prue McGoldrick, in her book When The Whistle Blew, describes the harsh conditions at the Harvester and other factories. Workers were regularly stood down immediately before Christmas, with no notice and no pay.
Union activity was always strong in the Sunshine district, and in 1906-7 a breakthrough in industrial negotiations came with the Harvester Judgement, which resulted in wages for unskilled labor of seven shillings for an eight-hour day. This set the standard for industry throughout Australia, and reinforced the claim of Sunshine to be the heart of the nation's industrial growth.
During the Great Depression there were massive redundancies; hundreds of people standing at the factory gates looking for jobs that were rarely there.
During both World Wars the Harvester group devoted itself to the war effort, producing munitions, tank parts, rifles and vehicles. On the home front there was still huge demand for agricultural equipment, and the company enjoyed spectacular production during the war years.
This was also a time of great industrial growth. Firms such as Spaldings, Crittalls, Darling's Flour Mill, Sunshine Potteries, Phoenix Fireworks, Pridham, Pennells and Nettlefolds went into production, and the giant ICI factory grew from the explosives works that had been at Deer Park since the 1870s.
Waves of migration helped swell the population: 5000 in 1925, 20,000 in 1950, almost 100,000 today. These residents represent more than 50 nationalities; one of the most cosmopolitan communities in Australia. For example: The Sunshine library now has collections in 16 languages- Arabic, Chinese, Croatian, French, German, Creek Italian, Macedonian, Maltese, Polish, Russian, Serbian, Hungarian, Turkish, Vietnamese, Ukrainian. There are 22,000 items in languages other than English.
Sunshine today has facilities never dreamed of in former years; facilities for health, education, leisure, housing and the entire infrastructure of an ultra-modern society. For many reasons the municipality is one of the most fortunate in Australia. It is close to the centre of things; close to the city centre, the airports, the waterfront, the arterial roads that carry freight. There is still room to expand, and new industries are constantly bringing new employment opportunities.
Sunshine faces huge challenges in its administration; the greatest since the Shire of Braybrook became the City of Sunshine in 1951. Local government amalgamation throughout Victoria means the boundaries are to be changed. Many things will change, but many aspects of life will improve. The Sunshine City Centre which includes the soon-to-be-developed Harvester site will form a key focus in economic and community growth.
It is true that, since the recent amalgamation of Sunshine and Keilor into the City of Brimbank, there is no longer a City of Sunshine - but there will always be a Sunshine, a Deer Park, a Maidstone, a Maribyrnong... and all the other communities we know today. Combined, they will always form an urban giant which can face the future with confidence and pride.
Sunshine - The Name
The City of Sunshine owes it's name to the famous Sunshine Harvester which was invented by H.V. McKay around the 1880's. This machine revolutionized wheat harvesting around the world.
The Harvester itself was named after McKay attended a Church service held in Ballarat in 1896 where the guest speaker was a Dr. Talamadge a travelling evangelist with the Presbyterian Church from Scotland. Apparently McKay had the honor of transporting Talamadge home that evening and was so impressed with the man that he named his harvester after the sermon title for the evening: "The Sunshine In Your Life". McKay himself was a very strong Presbyterian and therefore a teatoller; he would not allow any pubs to be built in what was then Braybrook Junction, later to be re-named Sunshine after his Harvester.
This Site is Sponsored by the Rotary Club of Sunshine.
Most of the information and graphics used were supplied by the Sunshine City Library.
The WebPage itself was constructed by Rotarian Larry Blackmore.
Last Updated: 17 November 2012