John Batman: An Inside Story of the Birth of Melbourne
An Inside Story of the Birth of Melbourne
A Summary of the Story
This book tells the story of how Melbourne was birthed. It begins with Captain Cook's discovery of Australia and the colonisation that followed at Botany Bay. The quest began to find a suitable location for another settlement in the south of the continent. Although Port Phillip Bay was discovered, its potential was not immediately realised. The penal settlement established at Sorrento by David Collins in 1803 was abandoned within three months and the site of Hobart in Tasmania was chosen for the next development.
In 1824 the explorers Hume and Hovell travelled south from Sydney and reached Port Phillip Bay. They recognised the potential of the area but unfortunately Hovell made a mistake regarding its location, which impeded settlement for another eleven years. Hume and Batman had been childhood friends and when Batman, then living in Tasmania, heard about the vast pasturelands available in the area it triggered the dream of taking possession of the land of plenty north of Bass Strait.
It would take another nine years before he could assemble a group of influential men to assist him in his quest to claim the riches waiting at Port Phillip Bay. The plan was spearheaded by a group of four men supported by a larger group of investors. Charles Swanston who owned the biggest bank in Australasia controlled the finances, while Joseph Gellibrand, a lawyer who had been Attorney General in Tasmania, organised the legal requirements for the project. John Wedge's role as surveyor was to map the territory ready for subdivision. John Batman, who was Australian born, brought a large variety of skills to the drawing board. He was thought to be Australia's greatest tracker, he had captured bushrangers, successfully gathered the remnant of Tasmanian Aborigines as well as being a wealthy landowner.
The political climate within the British Parliament at that time was influenced by the recent passage of the Act to Abolish Slavery in 1833. The outpouring of humanitarian feeling generated by this event led to new attitudes towards native rights and title. Within the hearts of these men from Tasmania there developed a desire to establish a settlement that would not only bring them financial gain but also set a benchmark within the British Empire for equitable relationships between native peoples and Europeans. To achieve such an ideal the notion of a treaty gradually developed, modelled on William Penn's Treaty in Pennsylvania in 1683.
Batman's role was to lead the expedition to Port Phillip, explore the land and make a treaty with the local Aborigines. Unfortunately the timing of this opportunity coincided with the news that he was seriously ill at just 32 years old. The project became a race against his failing health and what was planned as a carefully thought out expedition became a hurried event.
John Batman in his barque the Rebecca finally passed through the heads into Port Phillip Bay in May 1835, the first white man to do so in three decades. He was amazed at the quality of the land he found and the beauty of the magnificent harbour. He needed to find the natives so he could execute the treaty that Gellibrand had prepared for him. However on seeing the European vessel entering the bay the Aborigines had sent up smoke signals telling everyone to hide until the clan leaders could meet and work out a strategy for dealing with the situation. Eventually they approached Batman and took him to a ceremonial site they had chosen. The treaty was duly executed but because of Batman's ill health it was not possible for him to enact all that Gellibrand had written into the pro forma deed.
When John Batman returned to Tasmania he was hailed as a hero and referred to as the Tasmanian Penn. He called the settlement to be established by the treaty Batmania. There was still much to be done, since
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List of Illustrations
Dictionary of Aboriginal Words
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arrived Association Land Association’s Australia Barak Barwon Bass Strait Batman’s Hill Batman’s house Batman’s treaty Batmania Bebejan became Billibellary Billot Birrarung Bonwick Bourke’s Braybrook Captain Chapter Charles Swanston clan leaders colony Corio Bay Cornwall Creek Derwent dream Dutigalla Eliza Enterprize Flinders friends Geelong Gellibrand and Hesse Governor Arthur Governor Bourke Hamilton Hume Harcourt Hobart Hovell Hume and Hovell’s Indented Head indigenous James John Batman John Fawkner John Wedge John’s Joseph Gellibrand journey King Kulin Lancey later Launceston Lonsdale Lord Glenelg Maribyrnong Melbourne Melbourne’s Naming Day native rights Ngamajet Ngurungaeta ofland ofthe party pasture plains of Iramoo Port Phillip Association Port Phillip Bay purchase race Rebeeea river Robert Hoddle sailed September 2012 settlement settlers sheep Spencer Street story Sydney natives Tasmania Thomas took town vessel Victoria Viewed 25 September walked Wedge’s Western Port Bay whale boat Wilberforce William Buckley Wonga word Yarra Yarra