Like most Australian colonies the original reason for the British occupation of Victoria was the fear of possible French settlement. By the end of the eighteenth century the coast had been explored extensively by both British and French adventurers.
Reacting to a perceived French threat Lieutenant David Collins, accompanied by a party comprising both convicts and free settlers, landed on the shores of Port Phillip (near Sorrento on the Mornington Peninsular) in October 1803 and a short-lived colony was established.
By May 1804 Collins had gained permission to move the colony to Van Diemen’s Land and his brief attempt at settlement had been abandoned.
Through the 1810’s and 1820’s Port Phillip was regularly visited by whalers and sealers who worked the coast from Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania) to South Australia.
The real impetus for permanent settlement came as a result of the land-based explorers who, having explored south from Sydney, had crossed the Murrumbidgee River and pushed on towards the southern coast. Hume and Hovell reached Port Phillip in 1824. They mistook it for Western Port and two years later, acting on their incorrect advice, a military and convict outpost was established on Western Port. It lasted thirteen months.
Around this time the entrepreneurial John Batman, who was living in Van Diemen’s Land, tried to gain approval from the Governor of New South Wales to settle the area around Western Port. He had been encouraged by reports that the land was fertile and the pastures rich. The Governor, fearing problems if a second colony was created, denied Batman permission.
This proved to be a hollow gesture. Eight years later, in November 1834, Edward Henty ignored the rulings of the New South Wales governor and settled at Portland Bay. In early 1835, spurred on by Henty’s example, Batman crossed Bass Strait and in June 1835 infamously ‘purchased‘ the land on the western shore of Port Phillip from the local Aborigines.
At this time Batman explored the shores of Port Phillip and chose a site for a village. Within a year the township of Melbourne began to grow on the banks of the Yarra River.
In 1837 the township of Melbourne was surveyed and named with magistrate, Captain William Lonsdale sent from Sydney to maintain law and order. The attempts to stop settlement had clearly failed and the administration of New South Wales was forced to deal with Victoria as a successful, and semi-autonomous, colony. This was converted into a reality in September 1839 when Charles La Trobe, the newly appointed Superintendent of the Port Phillip District, arrived from England. In his wake the colony established a separate police force, a customs office and, perhaps most importantly, a separate Lands Office.
By 1 July 1851, when the colony of Victoria was officially proclaimed, there were already more than 80 000 people living south of the Murray-Murrumbidgee and over six million sheep were being grazed on well-established properties. ‘’
According to Muriel Clampett’s book, ‘ Whilom Wilderness’
The ‘Lady Nelson’ sailed through the unnamed heads of Port Phillip Bay, February 15th, 1802. Commanded by Lieutenant John Murray, she anchored near what is now known as Portsea.
Murray ordered a 25 day exploration of beach and land around the bay. The Union Jack was hoisted and under scant artillery fire the land was taken in the name of His Majesty King George 3rd of England.
John Batman sailed from the Tamar River in the ‘Rebecca,’ and anchored on the Yarra Yarra River.
He purchased large tracts of land from the Aborigines. The deed of sale was signed by local native chiefs, June 1835, near the Merri River.
Fawkner arrived in October 1835, Melbourne’s first Publican.
Not to be recognized as official or legal.. by the Government of NSW.
‘’Three daughters of John & Elizabeth Ramsdale of Vermont in the Police State of Launceston V.D.L. came to Melbourne. Jane was the first to arrive, with her husband, Horatio Cooper. She bore him 12 children, Elizabeth, norn 1838 was one of the earliest native born and heads the baptismal register of Scot’s Church.. Jane, was a fervent Wesleyan….’’