mallee hen

Toorak Gardens, South Australia

Toorak Gardens is an inner eastern suburb of Adelaide, South Australia. It is located 2km east of Adelaide's central business district (CBD). Toorak Gardens is a leafy, tree-lined and wealthy inner suburb containing a number of historical and contemporary attractions. First Creek, part of the Torrens catchment, runs through the north-east corner of the suburb. Toorak Gardens is in the local government area of the City of Burnside, and is bounded to the north by Kensington Road, to the east by Portrush Road, to the south by Greenhill Road and to the west by Prescott Terrace.

Originally farmland owned by the Fergusson and Prescott families in the 19th century, it was subdivided and gained popularity in 1920s. It contains the Burnside War Memorial Hospital, which was converted from a grand mansion in 1949, it remains Burnside's only local community hospital.


Aboriginal culture

The Kaurna people were stone age hunter-gatherers who inhabited the Adelaide Plains and surrounding regions. Among their unique customs were burn-offs (controlled bushfires) in the Adelaide Hills which the early Europeans spotted before the Kaurna people were pushed out by settlement. By 1852, the total population (by census count) of the Kaurna was 650 in the Adelaide region and steadily decreasing. The Kaurnas' main presence was on the River Torrens and the creeks that flowed into it, including Toorak Gardens' First Creek. These were also the most prized areas for the new European settlers. They were displaced abruptly and then afflicted by European diseases that they had no natural immunity for, and the Aboriginal population went into steady decline.

An early settler of the nearby suburb of Beaumont, James Milne Young, described the local Kaurnas: "At every creek and gully you would see their wurlies [simple Aboriginal homes made out of twigs and grass] and their fires at night... often as many as 500 to 600 would be camped in various places... some behind the Botanic Gardens on the banks of the river; some toward the Ranges; some on the Waterfall Gully."

European settlement

There are two possibilities for derivation of the name Toorak. Torrak is an aboriginal word meaning tea-tree springs, and toora is an Aboriginal word for coot or mallee hen. Today's suburb of Toorak Gardens is composed of parts of the Adelaide sections of 275 (Toorak) and 274 (Monreith Farm). Section 274 was bounded by (in clockwise order) Swaine Avenue, Portrush Road, Greenhill Road and Fullarton Road. Section 275 was bounded by Kensington Road, Portrush Road, Swaine Avenue and Prescott Terrace. The suburb of Toorak was first developed in 1912, largely on land that had previously been the eastern half of the Prescott Farm. Before its development into a village, it had been farmland up until that point with little settlement apart from the Prescott's home and worksheds as well as two large and extravagant houses. Julia Hallett owned a spectacular mansion on Portrush Road (now located at No. 15) while Benjamin Burford had a grand mansion that he named Attunga on Kensington Road. When the suburb was first planned, laid-out and named there were many objections, primarily because of the association with the elite Melbourne suburb of Toorak (which remains wealthy and upper-class to this day). The real-estate agents assigned to the suburb received many complaints due to this association, including one signed 'No Snobbery'. Extensive building restrictions were placed on development in the early suburb. After the first houses had been built, the Adelaide Mail reported on 18 May 1912:

Toorak received considerable attention from real-estate businesses, the press and the community at large. The Adelaide papers paid particular notice to the suburb's developments, announcing council work on the suburb's paths and gardens. In 1912 when trees were planted on Grant and Alexandra avenues, in 1914 when flower strips were developed on the kerbs, in 1916 when a reserve was created on Giles Street; they were all quickly reported. The Toorak Bowling club was also developed in this era, it stands to this day.

Section 274 was bought by a Scots family, the Fergussons. It was purchased along with property at Knoxville (today's suburbs of Glenunga and Glenside) and named by the family. They had come from the village of Monreith in Wigtown County, Scotland and lent that name to their new farm. The Monreith farm was steadily developed by the family, and with the passing of Alexander Fergusson in 1869 the property fell into the hands of his widow, Agnes. She sold off parts of the farm in 1883 for 15,000 and the remains in 1917 for 20,000. Before the farm was sold, the Fergussons had established a flour mill, horse stabling and were dipping their feet in business ventures in various parts of the state. It was in 1917 that Monreith was given its modern name of Toorak Gardens. Developers started subdividing the new suburb much on the same lines as Toorak had been, with similar building restrictions and much media attention. The original Fergusson family home was demolished in 1923 and the family settled in separate houses on Cudmore Avenue. Miss Ivy Laver, a successful local businesswoman, was responsible for building the main park of Toorak Gardens, Fergusson Square. It remains as a monument to those who first settled the area.

Benjamin Burford's Attunga property contained the largest and most extravagant mansion built in the suburb, and with his passing it was bought in 1905 by an investor from Broken Hill, Otto George Ludwig Van Rieben. While maintaining and paying particular attention to the property, Van Rieben eventually settled on a property in the Adelaide Hills. Attunga however, almost forty years after he gained it, was offered to the Burnside Council free of charge in 1944 for use as a hospital. The Council had first suggested building a community hospital in August 1943 as part of its Post-War Reconstruction and Development Committee; it was to cost 100 000 pounds and to remain as a memorial to honour Burnside's war dead. In April 1949 the first conversion of Van Rieben's home was complete and the hospital was caring for 21 patients. The hospital closed for a month in 1956 and when it reopened was given its present name: The Burnside War Memorial Hospital. By then it had cared for over 1,400 patients.


Toorak Gardens has an area of 1.11 km² with a population density of 2,332/km². Situated on the Adelaide Plains at an average elevation of 80 metres above sea level and a kilometre east of the parklands the suburb is rectangular shaped and wholly urbanised. There is only one notable park, Fergusson Square.

Prior to European settlement, the area was heavily forested. Blue Gum and River Gum trees grew on the floodplains around First and Second creeks. Grey box woodlands, known to early settlers as the 'black forest' grew around and south of Greenhill Road. Native Australia flora and fauna inhabited the plains. With the advent of colonisation, much of the forest was cleared and replaced by farmland, on which wheat and barley were grown. First Creek provided a reliable source of water, and crops flourished. At this point in the late 19th century the area that today composes Toorak Gardens was almost completely free of native vegetation. When the land was sold and subdivided, with streets beginning to run through it, lush gardens were grown. The wealthy first white inhabitants, both of their own preference, and under duty from the land deed, put much effort into the suburb's greenery.


According to the 2001 Census the population of the Toorak Gardens census area is 2,595 people with a stable population, seeing only a minor decrease between the 1996 and 2001 censuses. 55.0% of the population is female, 80.3% are Australian born and over 92% of residents are Australian citizens. Toorak Gardens contains a relatively large stable family population, mainly composed of older parents with their either teenage or young adult children. There is also a relatively large number of 'empty nesters' (older parents in their fifties whose children have left home) and retirees over 70. Toorak Gardens contains a relatively high a proportion of residents who live in flats or apartments (28.4%) but the majority still live in separate houses (64.7%). Toorak Gardens residents have a slightly higher than average religious affiliation (72%) with the vast majority of adherents being Christian (70.3%). The top ten religions (in descending order) were: Catholic, Anglican, Uniting, Orthodox, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Baptist, Pentecostal, Buddhist and Salvation Army.

Toorak Gardens has an exceptionally educated population with over 40% of the population holding a degree or diploma. This level of education attainment is reflected in the suburb's employment patterns: the most popular industries for employment were education, health and community services (27.9%) and finance, insurance and business services (25.2%). A quarter of households receive an income of over AU$2000 per week, with almost half receiving over AU$1000 per week.


According to Australian Bureau of Statistics data, Toorak Gardens residents primarily use the car as a means of transport with over 70% being a driver or passenger in a vehicle. 50% of the population owned two or more vehicles, while 25% owned one vehicle and 9% did not own any. Toorak Gardens has higher percentages of both people with no vehicle and people with three or more, reflecting both the suburb's family-based nature and its accessibility to the CBD. A journey to the CBD by car would take less than five minutes. In their commute to work, only 5.8% of Toorak Gardens residents used public transport, most likely because of the ease of car transport in the area and a wealtheir demographic. 3% of residents walked to work and 0.9% cycled.

One early problem with Adelaide's streets being on a grid layout was the tendency for motorists to use inner suburbs local roads instead of main ones. 'Rat trails' of cars sneaked through narrow sidestreets, presenting sizeable bottlenecks. This was a particular problem for Toorak Gardens because of its location - various traffic control methods were put in place (closing streets, speed bumps, lowered speed limits, roundabouts) to counter these problems. This forced the re-routing of traffic onto local thoroughfares such as Fullarton, Greenhill, Kensington and Portrush Roads.


While Toorak Gardens is a small mainly residential suburb, there are several attractions of note. The only shopping inside the suburb is at the Greenhill Rd/ Portrush Rd corner, where there is a small precinct of shops. This is popular because of its close proximity to Burnside Village. One of the more interesting places is the Trak Cinema. This is a small cinema which is well known for its arthouse screenings but it also shows popular releases. A restaurant, Grimaldi's, is situated in the same group of shops and is popular with locals and visitors.

The only park in the suburb is Fergusson Square (named after the Fergusson family), which was developed by Mrs Ivy Laver shortly after World War I.

The Anglican Church of St Theodore is located on the corner of Prescott Terrace and Swaine Avenue. It was originally established in what is now the Rose Park Primary School, and then moved to the current site. There is also the Toorak Burnside Bowling Club Inc, which is a popular club in the middle of the suburb. It has two greens and up to four weekly competitions. The not-for-profit Burnside War Memorial Hospital is located within the suburb and is the only community hospital in the City of Burnside. This hospital started operation in 1949 with 21 patients, in a local house offered for the purpose by Otto George Ludwig Van Rieben.


2006 State Election
  Liberal 52%
  Labor 29%
  Greens 10%
  Democrats 5%
  Family First 3%
2004 Federal Election
  Liberal 59%
  Labor 30%
  Greens 7.8%
  Democrats 1.1%
  Family First 1.6%
2002 State Election
  Liberal 59%
  Labor 23%
  Democrats 12%
  SA First 2.5%
  Family First 2.3%
2001 Federal Election
  Liberal 58%
  Labor 22%
  Democrats 12%
  Greens 4.7%
  One Nation 1.1%

Toorak Gardens could be categorised as a fairly socially conservative and economically liberal suburb. Many of its residents, being high-income earners, have benefited from the federal Coalition government's economic policies. The residents are primarily of British descent and show higher-than-average religious devotion. This fits in well with the demographic of a stereotypical Liberal Party voter. Consequently the Liberal Party polls very well in the area with around 60% of the vote in the last two elections. The Democrats vote previously used to be substantial (similar to other Adelaide inner-city areas) but was obliterated in the 2004 Federal Election. The Labor Party and the Greens have absorbed much of the Democrats vote, and the area is less Liberal-held than the rest of Burnside.

Toorak Gardens is part of the state electoral district of Bragg, which has been held since 2002 by Liberal MP Vickie Chapman. In federal politics, the suburb is part of the division of Adelaide, and has been represented by Kate Ellis since 2004. The results shown are from the closest polling station to Toorak Gardens — which is located outside of the suburb — at Rose Park Primary School in nearby Rose Park.


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