Prior to European settlement, the land of the City of Stonnington was occupied by the Wurundjeri, an Indigenous Australian Woiwurrung speaking people of the Kulin nation.
The establishment of European settlers in what was then the Port Phillip District of New South Wales in 1835, was soon followed by pastoralist John Gardiner, together with Joseph Hawdon and John Hepburn, driving cattle south from Yass to Kooyong Koot (later named Gardiner’s) Creek, in the area now known as Malvern and establishing a homestead and grazing property.
The year 1840 was the beginning of Crown land auctions of land to the east of Melbourne and south of the Yarra River and Gardiners Creek. The high ground between Gardiner’s Creek Road (now Toorak Road) and the river returned the best prices and it was here that most of the grand mansions of the period were built. Much of the land south of Toorak Road was swampy. This area was subdivided into much smaller blocks, for workman’s cottages and later to house gold-rush immigrants. The distinction between the two areas remains today in the suburbs of Toorak and South Yarra. Further auctions of land in the Prahran area took place in 1849 and 1850.
The early 1850s saw the return of many miners from the gold diggings to Prahran, resulting in increased development and the gazetting as a municipality in 1855. The population of Prahran at the time of the first council elections was about 8,000. Meanwhile, Government land sales within the area bounded by Kooyong Road, Gardiners Creek and Wattletree Road were held in 1854 and a small settlement grew around Malvern and Glenferrie Roads. The area known as Gardiner (later Malvern) was proclaimed a Roads Board District in 1856 and became a municipality in 1871, taking the name Malvern in 1878.
The 1880s and 1890s saw substantial residential and commercial development in the City of Prahran, such that by 1891 Prahran had a population of almost 40,000. The development of Malvern followed from 1900 onwards and by 1921 Malvern’s population was almost 33,000.