Colony of Victoria, Early History

Illustrated Australian News

10 June 1878

The first Europeans it is believed who sighted any portion of the land now embraced within the limits of Victoria were Captain James Cook and the crew of her Majesty's ship Endeavour in 1770.

Captain Cook did not attempt to land or even approach near the shore, but passed on to other discoveries. In 1788 Captain Arthur Phillip, R.N., founded the first settlement in Australia at Botany Bay, Some ten years afterwards two officers, George Bass and Matthew Flinders, made an effort to explore the coast, and their labors resulted in the discovery of Western Port Bay and Bass's Straits.

Some two years later Lieutenant James Grant, bound from England to Sydney in a small armed brig, the Lady Nelson, sailed along the coast of Victoria, sighting Capes Bridgewater and Nelson, Portland Bay, Cape Otway, Point Nepean, at the entrance of Port Phillip Bay, where an inlet was noticed, and Cape Liptrap.

The shores of Port Phillip Bay, however, were first explored by Lieutenant John Murray, who entered its heads and named the hill known as Arthur's Seat ten weeks before Flinders, who had been promoted to the rank of commander in 1802.

Later in the same year Charles Grimes, surveyor of the parent colony (New South Wales), visited the shores of Port Phillip, and, finding river running into the Bay, called by the natives Yarra Yarra, sailed up it a little beyond the place in which Melbourne now stands. It was not until January, 1877, that his original map was found in the survey office, Sydney, and that the credit of being the "father of the colony" was accorded him.

An unsuccessful attempt to colonise the territory of Port Phillip was made by an expedition under the command of Lieut.-Colonel David Collins at 1803. In 1824, the explorers Hume and Hamilton, and Hovell travelled overland from Sydney to Port Phillip, discovering the Goulburn River and Corio Bay. In 1833, the Messrs. Henty, merchants, of Launcestou, Tasmania, effected a permanent settlement at Portland Bay.

In the year following John Batman led an expedition, from Tasmania to Port Phillip, and entering into an agreement with, several of the principal native chiefs, secured to himself, his heirs and assigns 600,000 acres of land within certain defined limits.

Another expedition which led to important results was fitted out by half a dozen residents of Van Diemen's Land, under the direction of John Pascoe Fawkner.

The expedition first landed at Western Port, but, not liking the place, they entered Port Phillip Bay, and pursuing their course to the head, entered the Yarra Yarra River, sailed up it, and on 28th August, 1835, made their vessel fast to a tree opposite the spot where Melbourne now stands.

Further discoveries were made in 1836 by Sir Thomas Mitchell, the surveyor-general of New South Wales, who gave the country he had explored the name of Australia Felix. The accounts he gave of the richness and capabilities of the soil caused great excitement, not only in Sydney and Van Dieinon's Land, but also in the mother country.

Hoards of cattle and sheep, driven overland from Now South Wales, speedily occupied the best parts of the territory.

Every available craft capable of floating was put into requisition to bring passengers and stock from Van Diemen's Land, and after a time shiploads of emigrants began to arrive from, the United Kingdom, and the first link in the chain of propitious circumstances that has established Victoria as the foremost colony of the Australian group was forged.