What else do we know about Mt Burnett? According to the book From Bullock Tracks to Bitumen: a brief history of the Shire of Berwick (Published by the Berwick Shire Historical Society in 1962) The original Gembrook (which by the way is the only settlement of that name in the world) was thus named on account of the precious gems to be found in the local streams and was mostly settled from Berwick.....This original settlement is the area to the south and is what was later called West Gembrook and is now known as Mt Burnett.
The present town of Gembrook evolved around the Railway Station when the Puffing Billy or Fern Tree Gully to Gembrook Railway, as it was officially known, opened December 19, 1900. So we know that Mt Burnett was the original town of Gembrook, even though it seems that Upper Gembrook or Gembrook North developed contemporaneously with West Gembrook. Having said that the term Gembrook West has been used in newspapers from around 1884, so if it was the original town then it wasn't known as Gembrook for long, as clearly by 1884 it was already 'west' of what they considered to be Gembrook - which may have been around the intersection of Mountain Road and Ure Road as this was where the Gembrook Union Church was opened in 1879. The original Gembrook Post Office opened October 5, 1877.
The following information about the local schools comes from Vision and Realisation: a centenary history of State Education in Victoria The first application for a school at Gembrook West was in 1879, and as you can see by the letter below from The Age, the parents applied many times for a school, but State School No. 3211 did not open until August 9, 1894, with Joseph Morgan as the Head Teacher. The School worked half time with Gembrook South No. 2155, until it closed just over a year after it opened on October 31, 1895. This probably indicates that there wasn't much of a population in the area. Gembrook North State School No. 2506 had started in January 1879 and also worked part time with Gembrook South, No 2155, with the school teacher, Alex Gough riding the 12 miles between the schools on alternate days. Gembrook No. 2506 was made full time in 1883 and is still going so obviously had a larger population base that Gembrook West to sustain a full time school.
The Age January 3, 1890
Gembrook West had another try at obtaining a school, this time in 1920 when the residents sent a petition to the Minister of Education. Vision and Realisation says that four acres were purchased from J.A and W.F Crichton, and the community built the school which opened on October 6, 1921. Once again there were very low numbers and the school officially closed on October 5, 1923 however kept working until the end of the year. The students could attend Gembrook No. 2506 or Cockatoo No. 3535. The land was retained.
The parents of Gembrook West made another attempt to get a school for their children and on July 2 1932 the Mount Burnett School, No 4506, opened, it worked part time with Army Road No. 3847 but only had six children enrolled and closed January 1933. The school was housed in 'a large room in Mrs Creighton's house' Three years later in January 1936, another school opened, also at Mrs Creighton's house. The average attendance reached 22 and a new school was built on a block of land owned by the Education Department, presumably the site of the old Gembrook West School and this new building opened February 15, 1937. There is a very grainy photo of the school and the pupils in the report below, from the Weekly Times. As was the fate of the previous three schools in the area, enrolments dropped and by 1946 only 11 children attended the school and the school finally closed on October 24, 1949,according to Vision and Realisation, although an article in the Dandenong Journal says it closed in April 1949, and the children went to Pakenham Consolidated School.
Opening of the Mt Burnett School in February 1937 - Weekly Times March 13 1937
Dandenong Journal April 6, 1949
Some of the teachers were Thomas Francis Lee who was there in 1938, when he was listed in an article as the President of the newly formed Affiliated Labour Teachers' Union, Norman Teychenne McMahon who was there from at least November 1943 until he passed away at the age of 51 in November 1946.
So what else was there at Mt Burnett? There was a Post Office, then called Gembrook West, which opened in January 1885. A source in Wikipedia says that the name changed to Mt Burnett in 1921 and it closed in 1978. I don't have any other sources that confirm this, however the school that opened in October 1921 wasn't called Mt Burnett and the first reference I can find to the name in the local newspapers on Trove was in 1924
Gembrook West Post Office
Victorian Government Gazette January 23 1885 http://gazette.slv.vic.gov.au/
There was a Mt Burnett Progress Association. I can find reports in various newspapers about this organization from 1937 and from 1954. This reflects reportage on other local Progress Associations when there seemed to be very little activity during the War Years as communities were focused less on local matters and more on 'the War effort'.
There were some reports in the Dandenong Journal from 1940 to 1944 about the activities of the Mt Burnett sub-branch of the Dandenong Red Cross - amongst the reports it was said that Mt Burnett and other sub-branches still continue to do their part well with donations of cash and knitted goods and only have a small group of workers.
The Weekly Times April 4, 1945
There was a Young Farmers Club which was established in late 1944 - they were indeed young farmers as you can see from the article above Geoffrey and Graham McMahon who rotary hoed a paddock at the school were only 10 and 8 years old.
What else was at Mt Burnett? I don't know - I presume there may have been a shop, but I can't find any reference to it and given the size of the school enrolments it was only ever a small town, so perhaps that was it. I'd love to hear from you if you know of any other establishments in the town.