In 1837 Robert Hoddle surveyed the present day Preston area and its surrounds forming the Jika Jika parish. The parish of Keelbundoora to the north was subsequently surveyed by John Helder Wedge and in 1838 6 sizable allotments of around 1000 acres were offered for sale which would later form the vast suburb of Bundoora. These lots were bought by land speculators who either sold on the land or subdivided it for great profits. The name Bundoora is thought to derive from an Aboriginal word meaning the plain where kangaroos live.
Most early settlers were farmers who brought with them large numbers of workers who resided on their property owner's land in makeshift dwellings. Many of the original landowners leased small holdings to farmers who mostly settled adjacent to Plenty Road. George and Frances Coulstock operated a flour mill on the Plenty River in 1842 and established a property called ‘Mill Park’. Henry Miller bought the property and adjoining acres and began to subdivide it. The construction of the Yan Yean pipeline in 1855 greatly increased the traffic on Plenty Rd and offered people residing in Bundoora employment opportunities. The Plough Inn was the first pub in Bundoora dating back to the 1850s.
Bundoora had been variably known as Springfield, Prospect Hill and most notably Janefield, so named after the resting place of the wife of James Miller Brock who died in 1851. Janefield became known as Bundoora in 1863 when the first post office was built on the corner of Grimshaw St and Plenty Rd. Another prominent early landowner was Horatio Cooper whose Norris Bank farm was run by a manager whilst he resided in North Melbourne. The property ‘Bundoora Park’ was purchased in 1899 and subsequently used for breeding horses. The new owner, prominent horse breeder J.V. Smith, set about developing the magnificent homestead and surrounding gardens. The railway line from Melbourne to Whittlesea diverted traffic away from Plenty Rd in 1889 and Bundoora reverted back to being a rural district.
It was this rural aspect that made the area attractive as a site for mental hospitals in the early 1900s. Mont Park opened in 1912 as a facility for the treatment of the mentally ill. Bundoora Park was purchased by the government in 1920. In December 1920, JVM Smith sold Bundoora Park to the Commonwealth Government. In purchasing the property, the Government aimed to provide suitable accommodation for the rehabilitation of WW1 veterans suffering mental disorders as a result of their military service. The Janefield Sanitorium housed patients suffering from tuberculosis between 1920 to 1933. In 1937 it reopened as the Janefield Colony for Mental Defectives (children) and in 1962 was renamed the Janefield Training Centre. Larundel Hospital was conceived in 1938 to replace the outdated Kew mental hospital. Larundel psychiatric institute opened in 1958. During the late 1990s there was a strong move away from institutional care of psychiatric patients and towards community based care. As a result of this a number of Victoria’s mental hospitals were closed, including Kew and Larundel. Many patients were transferred to Austin Hospital. The area has now been developed into a housing estate.
In recent years Bundoora has become renowned as a home for educational institues. It remains one of the only areas of Melbourne where it is possible to study from preschool to PhD without changing postcodes. La Trobe University was first opened in 1967. Soon to follow was the Preston Technical College in 1972. It later became the Phillip Institute of Technology, and is now the Bundoora campus of the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology. Between RMIT and La Trobe University there are three primary schools and one secondary college.
Jones, Michael (1992). Nature's Plenty: A history of the City of Whittlesea. North Sydney: Allen & Unwin.
Kenna, Len (1988). In the beginning there was only the land. Bundoora: Lions Club of Bundoora.