Stonnington History Centre


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The Stonnington History Centre is an archive dedicated to preserving and interpreting the history of the City of Stonnington and the former cities of Malvern and Prahran. The centre is a branch of the Stonnington Library and Information Service and is housed at Northbrook, located behind the Malvern Library.

The centre’s collection includes books, journal articles, photographs, Malvern building plans, maps, subdivision plans, rate records, newspapers, research notes, and general local history information. The online catalogue is a descriptive index to the collection which also includes scans of most photographs and some full text documents. Malvern Historical Society refers enquiries to the centre as it does not maintain a separate local history collection. There is no separate Stonnington Historical Society.

Requests for information are welcome. Please note that fees apply for some services.

Donations of relevant material are invited from community organisations, businesses and individuals.

For further information, please contact us.


Business postcardUpcoming exhibition: The Entrepreneurial Spirit

The Stonnington History Centre's next exhibition showcases local entrepreneurs, their businesses, products and stories. It will include letters written by Anthony Edwin Bowes Kelly, a founder of BHP, who lived in Glenferrie Road, and electric appliances made by the Marriotts in their Hecla factory in Chapel Street. It will launch at 5pm on Wednesday 8 May and finish on Saturday 1 June. Visit our events page for more information.

If you or your family consider yourselves local entrepreneurs with a good story to tell and items to share, please contact us on 8290 1360 or email to discuss inclusion in our upcoming exhibition. Applications for consideration close on Thursday 18 April.  

 Australian Heritage Festival logo black

The Stonnington History Centre is proud to be a Friend of the 2019 National Trust Australian Heritage Festival. Bookings for our events are now open.

Tooronga Road Girls School class photo 1947

History Matters: John Andrews and Deborah Towns – ‘A secondary education for all’?: A history of state secondary schooling in Victoria

John Andrews and Deborah Towns discuss how they came to write ‘A secondary education for all’?, and its compendium, Unlocking the past, what they planned to include, and how the project evolved into the two books we have today. They celebrate the achievements of long-standing state-community partnerships which enabled post-primary schools to be established state-wide. While strongly affected by successive governments, the Education Department, and parent and teacher organisations, even from the outset, local communities worked, fundraised and campaigned to get improved facilities and programs for their students. To what extent have governments fulfilled their promises to provide ‘a secondary education for all’?

Dr John Andrews taught in government schools across Melbourne, including at Tooronga Road. Following 37 years with the Education Department, John has developed numerous curriculum materials for commercial publishers, the Public Record Office of Victoria, and historical sites. In 2008 he received the Australian Geography Teachers’ Associations award for innovative teaching materials and shared the Medium Museums Award for the Shrine’s Outreach Program. 

Dr Deborah Towns taught in government schools and the tertiary sector. Her PhD, ‘“Their Own Sphere”: Women Teachers in the Education Department of Victoria 1880s-1990s’ built upon her knowledge of equity and diversity in education and employment. She now works as a part-time researcher in the Centre for Workplace Leadership in the Faculty of Business and Economics, University of Melbourne.

Wednesday 1 May, 5.30pm-6.30pm

Book online or call 8290 1360. Presented as part of the 2019 National Trust Australian Heritage Festival.

Phonse Tobin

Laurie McCalman Lecture. Des Tobin, Phonse Tobin: An anything but ordinary life

Hear the story of Phonse Tobin who began Australia’s most successful family-owned funeral service company with his brothers – Tobin Brothers Funerals. From trapping rats for pocket money to being a long serving member of the North Melbourne Football Club committee, his life was rich with history. After leaving school he worked as a storeman, salesman, soldier and fireman. A natural entertainer with a fine singing voice, he produced many amateur theatrical productions in the 1930s. A good all-round sportsman and successful professional footrunner, his time on the North Melbourne Football Club committee included a run as President (1955-1957).

Phonse was one of those rare characters who could meet, communicate and be at ease with people from all walks of life. Like everyone else, he had his failings. But these failings were more than offset by his strength of character, generous spirit, creative flair, kindness to people in need, and his love for and undying support of his family.

Des Tobin, writer, speaker and storyteller, and the second son of Phonse and Vera Tobin, will share his father’s story, reading several short passages from his book Just a man called Phonse: The anything but ordinary life of A.V. (Phonse) Tobin. Des commenced work at Tobin Brothers Funerals in 1961. He was CEO 1983-1998 and Chair 1988-2002. His other works include: In the midst of life: the Australian response to death (with Graeme M. Griffin, 2009); Simply Toogood: Peter Toogood’s life in golf(2003); Frank Costa: Family, faith and footy (2006); Michael Tricarico: The journey not the destination (2009).

 Thursday 9 May, 7pm - 8pm. PMI Victorian History Library, 39 St Edmonds Road, Prahran. Gold coin donation.

Book online or telephone 9510 3393. Presented as part of the 2019 National Trust Australian Heritage Festival, co-hosted by the Stonnington History Centre and the PMI Victorian History Library.

Family group

Family History Club 

Curious about your ancestors? Whether you are a beginner or an experienced family history researcher, come and join our friendly monthly group where you can meet with fellow enthusiasts and explore the many genealogy resources available at the Stonnington History Centre. 

First Wednesday of the Month, 2pm-4pm: 1 May, 5 June, 3 July, 7 August, 4 September, 2 October, 6 November, 4 December. No bookings required.

By our deeds poster

By our Deeds: Reflections on terms in the Mayoral Office - full interviews now available

A series of interviews were conducted in 2016 by journalist Andrew Dodd with nine former mayors of the municipality of Stonnington, and the former municipalities of Prahran and Malvern. Those interviewed were Ann Morrow (the first female mayor of Malvern), Chris GahanJohn ChandlerBarry FentonAnne O’SheaRay LangLeonie Hemingway (nee Burke), Melina Sehr and the late Claude Ullin.

The interviews provide an insight into the nature of the tier of government that is most accountable to voters. The experiences of those who sit in the mayoral office is revealed through the stories they tell of the issues that brought them into council, of the torrid times during municipal amalgamation and the many battles lost and won.

Our By our Deeds page features podcasts of the full interviews with some participants.

Green Street houseWho's been sleeping in my Stonnington home?

Have you ever wondered who walked the hallway floorboards before you? Or maybe you'd like to know the year that your house was built. and whether it has ever been extended?

Stonnington's History Centre can answer all these questions and more about a house or commercial property in the area, with My Stonnington Home Research Portfolio. For a fee we will compile a summary report and copies of historic documents (which may include photographs or building plans if available), delivered in a presentation folder.

See our page on researching houses and properties for more information and an order form. You can also purchase a gift certificate for this service from any of Stonnington's libraries. 

Latest acquisitions

The History Centre recently received material relating to former Anzac soldiers Alfred Edward (Tom) Keys, Robert Riddell and Bruce Sloss, and WWI Matron Beryl Campbell.

The Stonnington History Centre is on Pinterest 

Discover more of the history of Stonnington through our Stonnington History Centre Pinterest.