Moonee Valley – it’s home to a world-class racecourse, an airport, the Maribyrnong River and some of Melbourne’s finest cafes and restaurants. But did you know Moonee Valley is also where it all began for some of Australia’s most high profile and influential celebs? We've ranked our top 10. Can you guess who's number one?
We’ve trawled through the history books (OK, we Googled) and have ranked what we think are the top 10 most famous people to have come from Moonee Valley.
Think we’ve missed someone? We’d love to know who.
1. Steve Irwin
Crikey! Who would’ve thought the world-famous croc hunter was born right here in Essendon!? The beloved conservationist grew up playing around Moonee Ponds Creek. In fact, at the tender age of six, he caught his first croc in the Maribyrnong River*! Steve’s life changed when his father, Bob, a local plumber and his mother, Lyn, a nurse, decided to move to Beerwah and start a wildlife park in 1970. It was here Steve met his wife Terri. They were married eight months later. Footage from their honeymoon, spent trapping crocodiles for relocation, became the very first episode of Crocodile Hunter. Audiences were captivated by Steve’s enthusiasm and apparent lack of self-preservation – he didn’t hesitate to wrestle crocodiles, tangle with deadly snakes and cuddle spiders. At the height of its popularity, his show aired in more than 200 countries. Tragedy struck on 4 September 2006, when Steve was stabbed by the barb of a large stingray while filming near Port Douglas in Queensland. He died of cardiac arrest shortly afterwards.
*Just kidding, there’s only dolphins in our river. It was a Common Brown Snake.
2. Dame Edna Everage
The “average Australian housewife”, who is a close confidant and friend of the Queen, is perhaps Moonee Ponds’ most famed resident. The effervescent character of Barry Humphries, best known for her lilac rinse and cat-eyed glasses, has been gracing Aussie TV screens since 1955. Dame Edna even has a street named after her - Everage Street, between Hall and Homer streets, in the heart of Moonee Ponds.
3. Tina Arena
Tina Arena was born and bred in Keilor East to Sicilian immigrants - although back then she was known as Filippina Arena. The pint-sized diva went on to become one of Australia’s highest selling female artists, having sold more than 10 million records world-wide. Fondly known as “Tiny Tina”, her decorated career has spanned over 40 years, including most recently as a successful musical theatre performer and record producer.
4. Shane Jacobson
Before he was fixing toilets on the silver screen, Kenny star Shane Jacobson honed his acting craft in Avondale Heights. Born in Essendon, the laughable performer spent his childhood days canoeing in the Maribyrnong and being a Scout in Keilor and Essendon. Jacobson has gone on to forge a stellar TV and film career, including hosting Top Gear Australia and voicing the first ever Australian Thomas & Friends character, Shane.
5. Judith Durham (AO) from The Seekers
Well, well, well, we will never find another singer quite like Judith! Born in Essendon, the legendary performer originally thought she was destined for a future of classical piano. She shot to worldwide fame when she began singing harmonies for a trio called …. The Seekers! They had four magical years together before Judith embarked on a successful solo career. The Seekers reunited more than 20 years later for The Silver Jubilee tour and album. In 1995, Judith was honoured with the Medal of the Order Of Australia (OAM) for services to music. This little light of hers is still shining and she is still releasing new music at 75 years of age.
6. Lionel Rose
The first Indigenous person to win a boxing World Title, Rose crafted his talents in an Essendon boxing gym in the 1960s. Originally from Gippsland, Rose moved to Essendon to live with his trainer, before going on to become one of the country’s finest sportspeople. When he won the IBF Bantamweight World Title in 1968, 200,000 people were waiting for his return at Essendon Airport.
7. Burke and Wills
Okay, okay, so they weren’t born here, but it’s pretty cool that Burke and Wills stopped in our very own Queens Park on the first night of their ill-fated journey in 1860 (it was actually so Burke could visit an opera singer he was keen on!). Can I get a heck yeah from the history buffs?! If you don’t know, Burke and Wills were the first European explorers to successfully cross Australia from south to north. Terribly, the return journey proved difficult and they died on the way home. They are now two of Australia’s most famous (and tragic) explorers.
8. Megan Gale
“Megan Gale is from Western Australia,” I hear you say. Correct, but let’s not let the truth get in the way of a good listicle. The model/actress/fashion designer and her ex-AFL player partner Shaun Hampson lived in Aberfeldie for four years, overlooking the Maribyrnong River. In 2018, the couple bought popular Moonee Ponds café, Ascot Food Store.
9. The Castle House
Actually, it’s not a house, it’s a home. The home from beloved Aussie flick, The Castle, was located on Dagonet Street, Strathmore until 2017 when it was sold at auction with a bid eight times above its reserve price! The house, sadly short a pool room, did not end up going to Bonnie Doon, but Beechworth, where its new owner had hoped to make it the centrepiece of a new caravan park. Unfortunately it was not the vibe, and the caravan park was rejected. Tell him he’s dreamin’.
So, you’ve made it this far and you might have noticed there’s only 9 people listed … have we missed someone? Drop us a comment on our Facebook post and they might just make number 10!