In the legends of the Romans, there existed a race of sinister animate plants, former crops who had rebelled against the wise rule of Ceres and become the sworn enemies of all the gods. Their name translates into English as ‘The Evil Green’; in the original Latin, it is il malverdi, later modified by medieval translators to malverni.

These legends are, of course, mere myth. There never was a species of evil vegetables famed for their ability to intoxicate and bewitch, nor any plant that was known to be carnivorous. The very idea is ridiculous.

There are, however, plants whose stickiness, thorniness or prickliness makes them seem decidedly evil to the human mind, fond of anthropomorphising as it is – and all the moreso if these plants should be adapted to bend against an ever-shifting wind. Such a wind as Melbourne as infamous for, say.

A dense stand of such trees originally stood along a roughly north south alignment where Glenferrie Road now runs, from Gardiner’s Creek in the north to Dandenong Road in the south, and posed a major obstacle to anyone seeking to reach the other side. Although it was eventually put to the torch and razed, the forest inspired one of the overly-educated classicists who made up the English officer class in those days, and he named the area Malvern in acknowledgement of a vanquished yet worthy foe.

Suburbs near Malvern:


There are few substances in the world to have as many nicknames as marijuana. Only heroin even comes close. But it is one of Mary Jane’s many noms du crime that concerns us here today. In some parts of the world, that most nearly legal of all illegal drugs is known as Sassafras. Australia, for the most part, is not one of them.

But in the late nineteenth century, two Americans saw a way to an easy fortune – much easier than working the goldfields, and less dangerous too. They planted large quantities of marijuana in the area that they nicknamed Sassafras Gully, and the plants grew well. The Americans (who went to no small trouble to hide their identities – and were not unsuccessful in this goal, as the current text clearly attests), developed a thriving business, with runners carrying their product far afield, to miners in Ballarat, whalers in Port Fairy and farmers in Bairnsdale alike. Their income allowed them to bribe the majority of the local constables, keeping news of their enterprise from reaching higher than the local captain.

But one man objected to this. Constable William Slicington was young and naive at the time, and believed in the law above all. Ordered by his superiors not to investigate or arrest the Americans or their employees, Slicington found a loophole. He had not been forbidden to destroy their product – and in an area as prone to bushfires as the Dandenongs are, who would suspect a carefully targeted fire? Slicington had no doubt that the Americans would mobilise quickly enough to prevent any collateral damage, but he could at least throw a flaming spanner into their works.

Slicington, in his naivete, had overlooked one thing: the narcotic properties that the vast amount of smoke generated would possess. And unfortunately for him, he was trapped by the blaze in a location that meant he would inhale more that smoke than anyone else. Slicington, or Mad Bill as his fellow coppers now called him, was never quite the same again, and was shortly pensioned out of the police force into a nice little sinecure as postmaster of nearby Kilsyth, in the hope that the lowered stress would restore his sanity.

The fires had drawn the attention of the authorities, who now wondered why this area was called Sassafras. In response, careful efforts were made to transplant native sassafras trees to the area, and they thrived as much as their illegal predecessors had done. The Americans receded, with their ill-gotten fortune, into the mists of local history, but the name stuck.

Suburbs near Sassafras:

South Wharf

South Wharf is named for Sir Reginald Wharf, the first commanding officer of the British Navy to land in the port of Melbourne after Australia achieved its independence from the mother country in 1901. It is, in fact, not at the actual site where this event took place, which was the now-demolished West Wharf in Port Melbourne, which stood alongside Station Pier on its eastern side, and was named after Captain Benjamin West, the first captain to land a ship there after its opening in 1851. Captain West’s ship, the Stupidly Optimistic, was carrying over a hundred gold miners who had given up on California to try their luck in Victoria’s gold fields.

One of these miners was the legendary former boxer Seth “Southie” Sutherland, who only failed to win Olympic gold when he was unfortunately born about 60 years too early. Southie was only on the ship because he’d been drinking the night before it sailed – after several years of fruitless attempts to find gold in California, he was heartily sick of the pursuit. Upon reaching Melbourne, Southie, who was notorious for the traditional Boston ‘Southie” accent that he showed no signs whatsoever of possessing (it helped that he rarely met anyone in Melbourne who had ever been to Boston – his actual accent reflected his birthplace of Cleveland, Saskatchewan), became a stevedore.

He joined the union of his profession and rose through its ranks quickly. In 1864, it was under his leadership that the stevedores went on strike (in support of the carpenters, who were striking to support teachers and nurses), and Southie was a participant in the deadly ‘riot’ of April 16, 1864, when police raided the union headquarters (located at North Wharf, which named based on its having been the northernmost wharf in Melbourne at the time of its construction, but was located on the banks of the Yarra to the south of the modern Docklands, and thus not actually deserving of its name at that point). Although the attack was entirely based on coerced confessions that turned out to be untrue, the newspapers of the day painted Sutherland as the villain, and although he escaped arrest, he was forced to hide out in Eastwarn (not East Wharf, because that would be silly – Eastwarn is located over eighty kilometres inland) until the truth emerged and he could return home safely. (He was promptly arrested for resisting arrest and obstructing justice, and was the last man to be hanged on West Wharf, a location traditionally reserved for the executions of pirates.)

Captain Benjamin West stayed in Victoria, jumping ship to seek gold like many of his crew. (The Stupidly Optimistic was eventually stolen by joyriders, who collided with another ship and sank in Port Phillip Bay.) Because he managed to keep his crew together, they were able to stake out a large claim, and were modestly successful, right up until West betrayed them and stole all the money, gold and gunpowder they had amassed on the eve of the Eureka Rebellion. The crew were caught up in those events and unable to pursue their theiving former commander until it was too late to catch him.

West lived out the rest of his days in the Sydney suburb of Eastwood, where he carried out an affair for many years with Maria Ann (later “Granny”) Smith, until her husband found out and shot him. Sir Reginald Wharf was still alive when South Wharf was given its modern named in 1948 (in Melbourne’s post-war construction boom), and sent a note thanking the Lord Mayor of Mumbai for the honour (to be fair, Wharf was more than a little senile by that point, and spent his days sending orders to the various British naval commanders who had fought at Jutland more than 30 years before).

Today, South Wharf is.

Honestly, that’s about all there is to say about it.

Suburbs near South Wharf:


You will never escape it once it has you in its clutches. It’s nice. It’s normal. It’s suburban, unpretentious and welcoming. It’s sweet and sticky like treacle, and about as hard to get out of.

It’s Balwyn. It’s Balwyn, and it wants you to be happy. It wants to make you happy, even if making you happy makes you crazy. That’s Balwyn.

You will not escape it cleanly – you’ll leave something behind, some lead to be pursued, some thread to be pulled. Some way of tracking you down. It’s inevitable, and the sooner you accept that, the happier you’ll be about it. Not that you’ll ever be entirely happy, in your brick veneer prison on Mortgage Hill, but you’ll smile and pretend for the neighbours, and isn’t that what really matters?

You can leave any time you like, but you can never check out. It is always following you. Pleading. Calling your name.

Balwyn, calling.

Suburbs near Balwyn:

Mount Eliza

In the late 1940s, property developers betwixt Mornington and Mordialloc noticed a problem: Frankston, the name given to most of the area in between them, was not a popular name. Indeed, it was associated with lower class ruffians, vagrants, miscreants, criminals and worst of all, workers. These were not at all the kind of associations that the developers wanted for what would otherwise be luxury beachfront properties. The obvious solution was to rename the area, but this led only to further arguments, as no one could agree on what the new area should be named.

In 1952, fate intervened.

On the other side of the world, Albert Frederick Arthur George Windsor – better known to most people as King George VI of England – died in his sleep. His daughter and heir, Elizabeth, cut short a visit to Kenya (en route to Australia) to return home for the funeral and coronation rites. Back in Australia, this sparked an idea.

How better to appeal to the patriotism of the buyers they sought to attract? Everyone knew that money and support for the monarchy went hand in velvet gloved hand. And so it was decided that the tallest local hill would be renamed Mt Elizabeth (it had previously been named Mount Batman), and give its name to the larger part of Frankston South. Unfortunately, the Queen did not care to have places named after her – although this news reached Australia only after signage had been ordered. One hasty consultation and some quick paint work later, Mount Eliza was christened.

Suburbs near Mount Eliza:

Port Phillip Bay Port Phillip Bay Frankston South Frankston South
Port Phillip Bay Mount Eliza Frankston South Frankston South
Port Phillip Bay Mount Eliza Mount Eliza Frankston South
Port Phillip Bay Mount Eliza Mount Eliza Baxter
Port Phillip Bay Mount Eliza Baxter Baxter
Mornington Mount Eliza Moorooduc Moorooduc
Mornington Mornington Moorooduc Moorooduc

Calder Park

Once upon a time, a property developer went looking for a place to build a sporting arena. He would call it a park, he had decided, in order to not restrict the range of sports that could be played there.

The first park was too hot, the rage of the lightning lords still burning in it: that was Kings Park.
And the second park was too cold, too long lost from hope of contest: that was Noble Park.
But the third park was just right: that was Parkville.

Twice upon a time, a second property developer went upon a similar search, although his goals were narrower: he sought a place to bring the icy sports of the frozen north to the antipodes. He tried Noble Park, but even that cold and distant field was too warm for his designs.

Eventually, he found exactly what he had sought, on a shelf above the lands of Keilor, and named it so that all would know what it was: the colder park, colder still than its Noble cousin.

Yet the first sport was too violent: that was ice hockey.
And the second sport was too pacific: that was figure skating.
But the third sport was just right: that was motor racing.

And they all dragged happily ever after.

Suburbs near Calder Park:


Unusually, the name of Flinders was known for many years before its location was ever discovered by those who named it. The name has been in use in English since at least the fifteenth century CE, around four centuries before Europeans ever came here. But they knew what it meant, nonetheless.

Flinders was a location of the mind, a place almost but not quite unimaginably far away, to which one might easily be dispatched by the impact of a cannonball. The items and people hit by those projectiles were almost always blown to Flinders, which may account for its many calcium rich hills.

Flinders was first found, coincidentally, by Matthew Flinders, who recognised it for what it was, but tried very hard to attach another name to it out of modesty. But in the end, his love of naval tradition was simply too strong, and he confessed to a superior officer that he, a Flinders himself, had found this location, so long believed mythical. The Royal Navy wasted little time is trying to build a base there (in the hopes that enemy troops blown to Flinders would thus be easily captured for interrogation, but soon relocated to the more congenial inlet now called HMAS Cerberus. Only a scattering of lighthouses mark the fact that they were ever there, although those too were in observance to naval tradition.

The expression is “blown to” Flinders, after all, not “run aground on” it.

Suburbs near Flinders:

Cape Schanck Boneo Main Ridge Shoreham Western Port Bay
Cape Schanck Flinders Flinders Flinders Western Port Bay
Cape Schanck Bass Strait Bass Strait Bass Strait Bass Strait


A number of common misconceptions exist regarding how Heatherton got its name, all of them starting from the base assumption that it was named after someone or other Heatherton. Without exception, this is incorrect. In chronological order, Heatherton was not named after:

Vice-Rear-Under-Admiral Sir William Heatherton IV, who commanded the utterly non-decisive British naval forces in the defence of the Isles from the Spanish Armada. His ships, like those of his foes, were defeated by a higher power that day, a power named Major Winds.

Toby “the murdering bastard” Heatherton, a bushranger in Toorak and Prahran during the 1880s, never convicted of any crime despite his many many confessions to them.

Christina Heatherton, legendary nightclub singer in 1920s Los Angeles and actress in 1930s Hollywood, the only person to have been so thoroughly blacklisted by HUAC that she is now more or less an unperson so far as history in concerned.

Vincent Smythe-Heatherton, the only man to have escaped from Stalag Luft XXXVII, near Kivvenschmidt in Silesia.

Sam Heatherton, a musician who left Queen before they signed a recording contract. Heatherton subsequently sought employment as a session musician, becoming a very slightly sought-after player in late-Seventies London.

Alix Heatherton-Theta, the first woman to set foot on Arcturus VI in 2317.

Suburbs near Heatherton:


Emmanuel Rodrigo Hurst-Vargas was a navigator in the service of ‘the Catholic Monarchs’, Isabella I and Ferdinand II of Castille and Aragon. A contemporary of Columbus, he dreamed of great voyages of exploration, but his half-English parentage (based on some highly successful diplomacy of a personal nature between the representatives of the British and Spanish crowns in Queen Elizabeth’s day almost a century earlier) held him back. But he would not let a little thing like discrimination hold him back.

In 1501, after Columbus’ third voyage had been completed, and the European settlement of the Americas was beginning in earnest, Hurst-Vargas and some of his men conspired to steal a ship, and fled down the West African coast as fast as the winds would carry them. Reaching Cape Agulhas a few weeks later, Hurst-Vargas laid in as large a store of supplies as he dared, and sailed east. He became one of the first Europeans to discover the Roaring Forties winds of the southern Indian Ocean, and made excellent time towards Australia. His first sighting of the southern continent was the cliffs of the Great Australian Bight – with little option, Hurst-Vargas continued to sail east, hoping for a beach at which he could land.

He eventually made landfall not far north of modern Whyalla, and continued along the coastline from there, looking for more hospitable territory. His ship passed through the heads of Port Phillip Bay on Christmas Eve, 1501, and made landfall near Seaford the following day. By this time, Hurst-Vargas’ men were restless. They had followed their leader this far, and although he had kept his promises to find a new and uncharted land, the smarter ones among them were considering the implications of an uncharted land.

They were greatly surprised to find other white settlers living there, but the vikings of Bangholme were not inclined to share, and after a surprise attack killed their leader, the men buried him in sandy soil east of Bangholme, and fled back to their ship. Unfortunately, without Hurst-Vargas to steer the vessel, it came to grief on the rocks of Point Nepean, and sank with all hands. Only the grave of Hurst-Vargas, in the sands near modern Skye, remained, giving a partial name to the area that endures to this day.

Suburbs near Sandhurst:


At the start of 1948, it was widely agreed – by supporters of 11 of the 12 VFL teams – that something had to be done about those arrogant Essendon supporters. Their recently acquired nickname of the “Bombers” (thanks to the aerodrome located in their suburb), the lofty heights of Windy Hill (boasting the highest elevation of any club ground in the competition) and on-field success had made them pretty bloody close to insufferable. Worse than Collingwood supporters in 1930, even, and that’s a benchmark few annoying bastards ever reach.

So, surreptitiously, a place to move them all to was sought. The League had been looking to expand eastward for years (Hawthorn was the easternmost team – and their home ground was less than five miles from the city as the hawk flies), so they were on board with the scheme. It simply remained to find a place to put the team, and wait for their supporters to follow. Several candidates were considered, but in the end, a large tract of land beyond Templestowe was chosen. In preparation for its new role, it was renamed Donvale (with multiple puns attendant in those seven letters), although publicly, the story was that the name simply referred to neighbouring Doncaster.

All was in preparation for the announcement to be made shortly after the 1948 Grand Final, which the Bombers were odds on favourites to win. It was even planned that the move would be presented as a reward. But in the end, it proved unnecessary. Events (and the Melbourne Demons) conspired to teach Essendon a lesson in humility. On October 2, 1948, Melbourne kicked 10.9.69 to Essendon’s 7.27.69, the first time the VFL Grand Final had ever been a tie. In the replay the following week, a resurgent Melbourne thumped Essendon by 39 points, clinching the premiership. Never before had any team been so embarrassed in defeat, tormented by the knowledge that any of 27 kicks could have won the game the first time around, had they just been straight and true. Essendon was so humiliated that the colours of black and red almost entirely disappeared from the suburbs, and under the circumstances, it was decided to be gracious in victory. The Dons would remain at Windy Hill, but Donvale’s name was now set in stone.

Suburbs near Donvale:

University of Melbourne

The official motto of the University of Melbourne is Postera crescam laude – loosely “We shall grow in the esteem of future generations”. It is a highly accurate description of the university’s mission, which has always been to “civilise”. Insofar as ‘civilising’ means maintaining the privileges of the privileged classes generationally, it has succeeded beyond all expectations in Melbourne.

The children of the great and good study here, and send their own children in turn, and thus maintain the conservative not-at-all-Freemasonic hegemony over Melbourne that they see as their birthright. This they have done for 160 years and more, and will do for another 160. Perhaps the most important skill taught at Melbourne University is how to quickly and painlessly absorb the nouveau riche into the ranks of the more traditionally monied, a lesson learned the hard way when the influx of gold rush money threatened to upend the distribution of wealth in the 1870s and 1880s.

Since then, the University of Melbourne has never looked back. They have sought every advantage and surrendered them with much resistance and polite ill grace. Melbourne was the custodian of Australia’s first (and for many years, sole) connection to the internet in the 1990s, and eventually lost it only because the free market orthodoxy it teaches turned out to have no loyalty to the old school tie.

Suburbs near University of Melbourne:

Parkville Parkville Parkville Parkville Carlton North
Parkville Parkville University of Melbourne Parkville Carlton
Parkville University of Melbourne University of Melbourne University of Melbourne Carlton
Royal Melbourne Hospital University of Melbourne University of Melbourne University of Melbourne Carlton
Royal Melbourne Hospital Carlton Carlton Carlton Carlton


In the late 19th century, cinema had not yet been invented, and theatre fell into two categories: affordable but painfully amateurish, and professional by painfully expensive. There was a gap in the market that was filled by travelling shows of various sorts: the circus, the fair, the boxing tent, and more besides. One particular form, the cyclorama, was most often seen as part of a travelling show, but any fool could see the money-making opportunity involved in having a permanent one.

In one small town in the Dandenong Ranges, still smarting from its bypassing by the railroad today known as Puffing Billy, searched for a way to put itself on the map. And long before they ever settled on a name for their town, they decided that a cyclorama was the way to go. It would be the first permanent one in Australia, and quite the tourist attraction, they figured.

Thus, a painter was duly contracted to create the work, which would be a panorama of the Eureka Stockade uprising (that being the most interesting event anyone could think of). The painter, one Horace L. De Myr, demanded payment upfront, and after some grumbling payment was duly made. A delivery date was promised, and the people of the town set about creating the new signs needed to point tourists in the right direction.

There were only two problems: De Myr was a confidence trickster who absconded with all the money, and the signwriter was illiterate. Unwilling to throw good money after bad, the people placed a bounty on De Myr’s head (correctly assuming that he would never be heard from again) and used the mis-spelled signs anyway. And thus, in shame and error, was Kalorama born.

Suburbs near Kalorama:

Mount Evelyn Mount Evelyn Silvan
Montrose Kalorama Silvan
Mount Dandenong Kalorama Silvan
Mount Dandenong Olinda Silvan

St Andrews Beach

It seems obvious enough. A beach, named after the patron saint of fisherman. What could be simpler?

Except that it wasn’t the original name of the area, and that’s not the only thing he’s patron of. Originally, the area was named Capri by the Sea, and marketed, as so much of the peninsula was, as luxury beach homes. But when the interest in the area failed to eventuate, the various land developers began to sabotage each other’s constructions. Before long, this led to deaths – which led to more deaths.

Indeed, within a decade of its founding, Capri by the Sea was notorious more for its vigilante lynchings than anything else. The government of the day dealt with this sensibly, by buying back the land cheaply and dispersing the workmen and the mobs they had formed (although not a few of them later wound up participating in the Eureka Stockade rebellion). The half finished buildings were allowed to quietly fall into ruin, reclaiming by the scrubby bush of the area within five years. Finally, the whole area was renamed based on its only successful industry.

St Andrew, you see, is also the patron of rope makers.

Suburbs near St Andrews Beach:

Rye Rye Fingal
Bass Strait St Andrews Beach Fingal
Bass Strait Bass Strait Fingal