The traditional owners who called Melbourne home were Woiwurrug ( Wurundejeri) and the Boon Wurrung People. They were part of the Kulin nation that comprised related groups that shared similar languages. Their collective territory extended around Port Phillip and Western Port up into the great Dividing Range and the Loddon and Goulburn River Valleys. Traditionally, the Kulin people lived as hunters and gatherers for many generations.
Lady Nelson was the first ship to enter Port Phillip bay in February 1802. In the same year, Lieutenant Governor David Collins was sent to appraise Port Phillip, with a view to establish a convict settlement. Two ships ‘ Calcutta’ and Ocean carrying 300 convicts, 15 Royal Marines and 15 settlers arrived at Arthur’s seat in Sorrento. Eleven year old John Pascoe Fawkner, his mother, sister and convict father were also part of the group.
The settlers could not find sufficient fresh water source and the Boon Wurrung people were hostile towards them. Collins found the place totally unfit for settling. The report sent by Collins about the new settlement, put Port Phillip Bay completely out of favour with Sydney Governors of the time. Collins and team left Port Phillip bay, leaving behind an escaped convict, William Buckley. Though there were no official missions to settle in Melbourne for the next 30 years, a few settlers, explorers and farmers made their way through and stayed in the land. Moreover the Tasmanian ( Van diemers Land) farmers regularly visited the Port Phillip bay-
In 1802 Charles Grimes who served as Surveyor General of New South Wales commenced a survey of King Island and Port Phillip . In February 1903 Grimes and team discovered the mouth of Yarra River. They explored Yarra several miles but the boat stopped at Dights Fall. James Fleming a member of the team wrote in his diary, “The most eligible place for a settlement I have seen is on the Freshwater (Yarra River) River”. But when Charles Grimes gave the report to the authorities in Sydney, he reported against a settlement at Port Phillip.
John Batman, the Australian born son of a NSW convict, who gained fame in Tasmania by capturing Bush ranger Matthew Brady, set his eyes on a Port Phillip exploration .In 1827, Batman wrote to the Governor of Sydney for a grant of land in Port Phillip. But the Governor replied that he had no power to grand such a request. In 9th May 1835 Batman’s Port Phillip exploration trip commenced when ‘Rebecca’ was cleared to sail from Launceston with two crew, five white servants and seven NSW aborigines.
Batman wrote an account of his meeting with a group of Aborigines and the signing of a treaty with them on the banks of a Tributary stream of the Yarra River Probably Darebin Creek. Batman’s journal goes on like this.
“We saw 8 men all armed with spears etc. When we stopped they threw aside their weapons and came very friendly up to us. After shaking hands and my giving them tomahawks, knives etc. They took us with them about a mile back where we found huts, women and children. After some time and full explanation I found eight chiefs among them who possessed the whole of the country near Port Phillip – three brothers all of the same name are the principle chiefs and two of the men of six feet high and very good looking, the other not so tall but stouter. The other five chiefs were fine men and after a full explanation of what my subject was I purchased two large tracts of land from them about 600000 acres more or less- and delivered over to them blankets, knives, looking glasses, tomahawks, beads, scissors, flour etc., as payment for the land and also agreed to give them a tribute or rent yearly. The parchment of the eight chiefs signed this afternoon delivering to me some of the soil. Each of them, as giving me full possession of the tracts of land.
Sunday June 7, 1835 – Detained this morning some time drawing up triplicates of the Deed of the land I purchased and delivering over to them more property on the banks of the stream.”
Batman bought 600,000 acres around Melbourne from aborigines in exchange for scissors, blankets, knives and other goods. He also agreed to a pay an annual tribute of similar content and value. Few months later the NSW Colonial Government declared the treaty invalid. The Colonial Government declared that it is the British and not the Kulin, who would have sovereignty over land and would profit from its lease or sale.
Shortly after Batman returned to Launceston after his Port Phillip exploraton, John Pascoe Fawkner in his ship ‘Enterprise’ sailed for Port Phillip . Fawkner set up camp near today’s William Street. On 30 August 1835 the settlers disembarked to build their store and clear land to grow vegetables. The Fawkners arrived in the Port Phillip District, on Friday, 16 October 1835, on the second trip of the Enterprize. Fawkner’s diary reads: ‘Warped up to the Basin, landed 2 cows, 2 calves and the 2 horses.’ By 1835 the first permanent settlement was established by a group of settlers organized by John Pascoe Fawkner. Batman’s representative J.H.Wedge, warned the new arrivals that they are trespassing the land bought by Batman for the Port Phillip Association. But the settlers disregarded the warning.
Melbourne – The Crown Land
NSW Governor, Sir Richard Bourke declared Batman’s land deal illegal declaring the land as ‘terra nulliu’ or un occupied. In 1836 Bourke took possession of the land in the name of the Crown. He recommended to the authorities in London to survey the settlement and appoint a police magistrate and customs officer. Batman’s Treaty with the Aborigines was annulled by the New South Wales government , which compensated the association. The Port Phillip Association’s request to confirm its title for the 600000 acres were rejected but the association was paid 7000 pounds for out of pocket expenses in establishing and stocking the Port Phillip District. In 1837, Government Surveyors Robert Hoddle and Robert Russel started working on for designing a town. The settlement was named Batmania after Batman. However, later that year the settlement was re- named “Melbourne” after the British Prime Minister, William Lamb, 2nd Viscount Melbourne.
In 6th May 1839 John Batman died of Syphilis. But Fawkner flourished in Melbourne. By the time he died at age seventy seven in 1869, he controlled the first hotel in Melbourne, he wrote the first newspaper, he was elected in the first municipal elections, and was a member of the legislative council. He was also instrumental in the establishment of schools, a university and the first library here.