Drouin 3818Drouin is 92 kilometres south-east of Melbourne, on the rail and road routes from Melbourne to Gippsland. The town is supposedly named after a Frenchman who invented a chlorination process for the extraction of gold.
Settlement in this part of Gippsland was retarded by the dense forest. Pastoral runs were taken up but little developed. In 1867, a coaching station was established on the track into Gippsland at Brandy Creek, about seven kilometres north-east of present Drouin. By the early 1870s, a small settlement had developed and land was being selected in the area.
Meanwhile, contracts had been let for the construction of a railway from Melbourne into Gippsland. Workers' camps were set up along the route which passed to the south of Brandy Creek. There were three camps in the vicinity of Drouin. After the railway opened in 1878, a township was surveyed at Drouin Junction, soon known as Drouin. As Drouin developed, Brandy Creek, now called Buln Buln, had declined. When the Buln Buln Shire was formed in 1878, the administrative centre was located in Drouin.
Throughout the 1880s, a number of small sawmills operated in the Drouin district, many transporting their timber by tramway to the railway station. In the 1890s, a quarry was opened south-east of Drouin, the stone being carried by tramway to a railway siding east of Drouin. In 1913, this quarry was purchased and operated by the Shire.
As land was cleared, dairy farming became the main industry. Initially, butter and cheese were made on the farm. A creamery operated from 1891 to 1895 and in 1904 a co-operative butter factory was established at Drouin. When this factory was extended in 1907, an electric light plant was installed which also provided light for the streets and homes of Drouin. The factory supplied fresh milk to the Melbourne market from 1915.
Over the years, the company acquired other dairy companies and enlarged its own operation, producing casein, skim milk and butter-oil as well as butter and cheese. It is now part of the Bonlac company. Flax was grown around Drouin during the two World Wars. A private factory operated for a while and in 1941, the government constructed a factory to manufacture canvas goods for military use.
The town has progressed steadily. In 1904, the population was 700. By 1933, there were just over 1,000 inhabitants and by 1970, 2,750. From the 1970s, the subdivision of an industrial estate on the south-east edge of the town had encouraged the growth of light industry. A number of housing subdivisions have also been initiated, as well as rural residential subdivision on the fringes of the town. The construction of a freeway bypassing Drouin allowed the remodelling of the shopping centre. By 1981, the population was 3,492 and in 1991 was 4,100.
A Ficifolia Festival is held in February when the town's many flowering gums are at their best. Drouin Picnic Races are held each Boxing Day.
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