Bruthen is a small town located alongside the Tambo River between Bairnsdale and Ensay on the Great Alpine Road in East Gippsland, Victoria, Australia. Bruthen is 26km east of Bairnsdale and 311km east of the state capital Melbourne. The East Gippsland rail trail, which runs from Bairnsdale to Orbost, also passes through it.
Bruthen is an Aboriginal word from the Brabiralong people of the Gunai/Kurnai tribe meaning ‘long wooden point’. Alfred Howitt claimed the proper name for the area around Bruthen was Murloo, meaning ‘pipeclay’.
Noted explorer of Gippsland, Angus McMillan, first passed through the area of what is now Bruthen on 14th April, 1840 on his early explorations from the Omeo region. The first school in Bruthen opened in 1872.
On 27 November, 1958 an RAAF Avon-Sabre Fighter Jet crashed on the outskirts of Bruthen, narrowly missing the populated area of town. Flight Lieutenant Ralph Oborn was flying from New South Wales to the RAAF base in Sale when his engine ‘flamed out’. Oborn ejected at 500ft, suffering only minor injuries, and becoming the first person to safely eject from an aeroplane in Australia.
The Bruthen area has extensive timber resources. In the 1940s two factories making handles for axes and tools were set up and there have been a number of sawmills over the years. In the 1960s and 1970s the mills were troubled by financial difficulties and distant timber allotments. This affected the town unfavourably, with the population falling to 568 in 1976 and 449 by 1981.
Bruthen has a small shopping centre, including a general store, bakery, Post Office, hotel, service stations, as well as speciality stores and cafes. It also has a Police station, State Emergency Service and Country Fire Authority (CFA) branches, churches, a cemetery and a primary school.