Until the mid-1990s Point Cook was a rural area with an RAAF air base 20 km south-west of central Melbourne. The first change from rural to residential living occurred on land immediately south of the Princes Highway at Hoppers Crossing. Known as the Western Gardens estate, that residential area now has the Point Cook town centre. It was included with Point Cook by 2000.
The actual Point Cook land form is a minor coastal outcrop south of Altona Bay, named after John Cooke, a member of the crew on Captain William Hobson’s ‘HMAS Rattlesnake’ which surveyed Port Phillip Bay in 1837. (The point was renamed Point Cook c2000).
The Point Cook area was occupied for grazing in about 1849, and three years later became one of the properties of the Chirnside family. It was part of a larger holding based at Werribee. The Chirnsides constructed a homestead and stables (c1857) near the Point, and they along with other outbuildings are included in the Point Cook Coastal Park. The homestead is heritage listed.
In 1913 the Commonwealth Government acquired 245 hectares of land a few kilometres south-west of the Point for Australia’s first military aviation school. It adjoined the water and was also suitable for sea planes. With nearby air fields at Laverton and Avalon, the Point Cook RAAF base also became the Royal Australian Air Force College (1947).
In 1920 the Point Cook property passed out of the hands of the Chirnsides and four years later the northern part of the property was sold to Cheetham Salt Pty Ltd. The salt harvesting lagoons around the mouth of Skeleton Creek were a wet land for water birds. Subsequently much of the salt works were re-landscaped for the Sanctuary Lakes housing area.
The suburb’s development began in the late 1990s. Land drainage was achieved by the excavation of a lake, and the suburb’s centrepiece is a golf course designed by Greg Norman. Of the suburb’s 410 hectares, over 120 comprise parkland, the golf course and the lake. About 2500 house lots were envisaged, along with a hotel and a child care centre. A Catholic primary school was opened in 2000, in Point Cook Road opposite Sanctuary Lakes.
The costliest housing area has roads with electronically controlled gates, and the suburb employs its own security staff.
Point Cook’s residential growth in the 2000s and 2010s was very rapid, and the suburb spread west and south of the Sanctuary Lakes estate. Expected public transport services simply did not happen, especially in the south where schools were also absent. There was a notorious Point Cook Road peak hour traffic bottleneck. One solution proffered for funding needed public infrastructure was for the Growth Areas Authority to sell more farmland for housing, adding more cars to a car dependent suburb. A new railway station at Williams Landing near Point Cook opened in 2013 with car parking and bus connections to service the growth corridor.
State and Catholic schools in Point Cook are: Carranballac P-9 college (2 campuses) (2002), Point Cook P-9 college, (c2009), Point Cook senior college (2008), Lumen Catholic primary school (2000), Stella Maris Catholic primary school (2006), Emmanuel Catholic senior college (2008), and South East P-9 school (2013).
The Point Cook town centre has two discount department stores, a supermarket, a community centre, a library and about 150 other outlets. The smaller Sanctuary Lakes shopping centre has one discount department store, a supermarket and about 30 other outlets.
The RAAF base includes a chapel, a kindergarten and a large airforce museum. Point Cook’s census populations have been: