THE PORT PHILLIP DISTRICT OF NEW SOUTH WALES
AND THE ESTABLISHMENT OF THE STATE OF VICTORIA

* * * ( Part 1 ) * * *

THE DISCOVERY OF PORT PHILLIP

Edmund Finn, a pioneer Irish journalist who used the pseudonym, Garryowen, published, in 1888, "The Chronicles of Early Melbourne, 1835 to 1852." "Garryowen's Melbourne" was a reprint of selected information from the chronicles and was published in 1967.

Finn reminds us that the first European sighting of this part of the continent was made by Lieutenant Hicks, a member of Captain Cook's expedition in sighting the presently known Cape Everard in 1798. Further, Finn notes that Lieutenant Murray, a member of Bass's coastal expedition, discovered Port Phillip Bay in 1802.

We are familiar of course, with the effort soon afterwards to establish a convict settlement at Sorrento. After abandonment of the settlement it appears that the exploratory trip of Hume and Hovell in 1824 was the ultimate prelude to the efforts of residents of Van Diemen's land to establish themselves around Port Phillip.

BACKGROUND TO SETTLEMENT AT PORT PHILLIP

In "Historical Records of Victoria Vol. 1" is published a copy of a letter dated 25 June 1835 from John Batman to Sir George Arthur, Lieutenant Governor of Van Diemen's Land.

He claimed, amongst other things, tha he and a Mr. J. T. Gellibrand in 1827 wrote to the Colonial Government of New South Wales seeking permission to occupy land at Port Phillip or Westernport.

Such permission was not granted but Batman organised a group that proceeded from Launceston landing at Port Phillip on 26 May 1835.

The group, becoming known as the Port Phillip Association, quickly negotiated a treaty for the purchase of 600,000 acres of land from the aborigines but the government rejected this treaty.

WHERE SHOULD CONTROL OF PORT PHILLIP LIE?

Again from "Historical Records of Victoria Vol. 1" we find that permission was given by Lord Glenelg in writing to Governor Richard Bourke in May 1836 to allow private settlement under guidance.

William Lonsdale, in September 1836, was appointed commander of a detachment of troops to be sent to Port Phillip and was given instructions on the civil administration of the district. In these instructions it was clear that his authority was subject to the Governor of New South Wales.

This information was not apparently available to the public as J. V. Thompson addressed 2 letters to Lord Glenelg in October and November 1836 respectively as to the control of Port Phillip.

He noted because of the huge distance of 600 to 700 miles from Sydney and the mountainous country along the route, the Port Phillip District could be more conveniently placed under the jurisdiction of the Government of Van Diemen's Land.

The second letter was seemingly somewhat strident and noted the discovery of extensive and fine country near Portland Bay and the likelihood of Port Phillip settlement moving in that direction.

Finally he indicated such expansion as an argument for independence or annexation to Van Diemen's Land.

SEPARATION AT LAST

The first indication of the news of the separation of the Port Phillip District from New South Wales was apparently found by accident.

Finn claims that he was perusing a summary of English news from London and found details of the passing of the Separation Bill by both Houses of Parliament in England.

He published that famous headline on Monday November 11, 1850 :- "Glorious News! Separation at Last!"

Superintendent La Trobe having received appropriate notification made a formal public announcement the next day on the hill in the now existing Flagstaff Gardens.

WRITER'S QUERY

In composing this article, as a member of a profession other than the law, I have tended to muse over a far different scenario.

Let us consider that the Privy Council had considered the principle of Terra Nullus in perhaps 1820 and debunked it at that time.

I raise the question as to whether Batman's Treaty might have been considered legally binding.

POSTSCRIPT

The actual boundaries of Victoria have all been subject to controversy and / or challenge. The writer intends to cover these matters in future submissions.

Sources:

[James Backhouse]
[Historical Records of Victoria Vol 1]
"GARRYOWEN'S MELBOURNE - A Selection from
The Chronicles of Early Melbourne, 1835 TO 1852
by Garryowen
" - Edited by Margaret Weidenhofer (1967)
"Historical Records of Victoria - Volume 1 -
Beginnings of Permanent Government
"
Compiled by Public Records Office of Victoria (1981)

( Contributed by Kevin Bourne - PPPG Member No. 1351 )

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4


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