Derrinallum is a rural township on the Hamilton Highway, western Victoria, 11 km west of Lismore. It was named after a pastoral run (1839) and the name is thought to have been derived from an Aboriginal word describing a prominent nearby hill, Mount Elephant, or a species of tern which inhabited salt marshes in the area. (Mount Elephant is a spectacular volcanic cone, 2 km south-west of Derrinallum and 393 metres above sea level).
A township was surveyed in 1867. Its name, Tooliorook, was unpopular and was changed to Derrinallum in 1873. Until the end of World War I the village was surrounded by large pastoral estates, and it had a hotel (1866), a Wesleyan church (1870) shared with the Presbyterians, a few stores and a mechanics’ institute (1907). After World War I soldier settlement farms were created, capitalising on the opening of a railway line in 1913 (Geelong to Ararat) and a cooperative butter factory (1914-64). Catholic and Anglican churches were opened in 1923 and 1925.
In 1944 most of the town was destroyed by a grass fire, but further soldier settlement after World War II saw the town rebuilt and enlarged. A town traders’ association was formed in 1961, a high school was opened in 1962 and a motel was built in 1965.
Derrinallum’s high point was the 1960s, after which farm consolidations and the proximity of Lismore tapered off its prosperity. Derrinallum has a small shopping centre with a supermarket, bowling and football clubs, a sports complex, a hall, a P-12 college (87 pupils, 2014), a hotel/motel, and a pre-school centre. There is an airstrip north of the town and quarries at Mount Elephant. The mount is on the Register of the National Estate.
Fine examples of pastoral buildings are found at ‘Larra’, off Larra Road, 7 km south of Derrinallum. The bluestone stable buildings (1873) joined by enclosed yards, are especially notable and are on the Australian and Victorian historic buildings registers.
Derrinallum’s census populations have been:
Bill Anderson, On western lands: a history of the Shire of Hampden, Camperdown, 1996
R.A. McAlpine, The Shire of Hampden 1863-1963, Terang, 1963
Pamela McGregor and Lynton Oaten, Mount Elephant: a history of the Derrinallum and Darlington district, the authors, 1985
Josiah Rawson, Mount Elephant once had trees: a life shaped on the western plains of Victoria, Greensborough, 1996