- The Myall Creek massacre
- The trials
- Convict life
- The Development of Melbourne
- Melbourne’s lopsided growth
- Why did they migrate?
- Highland Potato Famine
- Burke and Wills expedition
- Interview with some kids about the eureka stockade rebellion
- The growth of Melbourne
- Free settlers v Convicts
The Myall Creek massacre
As the British settlement spread away from Sydney and into the inland areas, violent clashes between Aboriginal peoples and settlers became more common. Although it was official government policy to protect the Aboriginal peoples, most settlers disregarded this policy. They attacked and killed many Aboriginal people for even the smallest crimes, or simply to keep them away from their settlement. Settlers who randomly killed Aboriginal people were rarely brought to justice. What was notable about the massacre of a group of Aboriginal people at Myall Creek in 1838 was that the British murderers were brought to trial; and seven were found guilty and hanged.
On 10 June 1838, a party of 12 men, consisting of 11 convict settlers and 1 free man, named John Fleming, arrived at a hut on Henry Dangar’s Myall Creek station, in north-west New South Wales, near lnverell. They were there to capture any Aboriginal people they could find, in revenge for the theft of cattle. The men gathered 28 Aboriginal people who were at a camp nearby and tied them up. The men brutally beat the group to death; the group included women and children. Later, they collected the bodies and burned them.
When the of the station returned several days later, he discovered the bodies and decided to report the incident to the authorities. A group of police investigated the incident and found the burnt bodies. The 11convicts were captured and charged with murder, but John Fleming escaped. He was never captured and may have been responsible for further massacres throughout the Liverpool Plains and New England regions.
There were 2 trials of the convicts. Al each trial, a station-hand named George Anderson, who was living on the property, was the only British witness to the incident. In the first trial, the men were found not guilty of murdering 2 Aboriginal men, but in the second trial they were charged with the murder of one of the Aboriginal children. 7 of the men were found guilty and were sentenced to execution by hanging. The men were executed on the morning of 18 December 1838. This was the first time that the European legal system had been used to punish British people for crimes against Aboriginal people.
There was much anger among the British settlers that the 7 men were hanged for killing the Aboriginal people, who many regarded as ‘black animals’. Although the trial and hangings were intended to stop the massacres on the frontier, it may have encouraged the settlers to further retaliate and to cover up the evidence. Indeed, the frontier battles and massacres continued to occur for many more years, causing countless deaths in both the Aboriginal and European populations.
While reasonably well-equipped, little consideration had been given as to the skills required to make the colony self-supporting – virtually none of the convicts had farming or trade experience (nor did the soldiers, for that matter), and the lack of understanding of Australia’s seasonal patterns saw initial attempts at farming fail, leaving only what animals and birds the soldiers were able to shoot. Some relief arrived with the Second Fleet in 1790, but life was extremely hard for the first few years of the colony.
Convict life was harsh, equivalent to what would by 20th century standards be considered a concentration camp (and, in terms of relative remoteness to the inmate’s homes and families, a concentration camp on Mars). Convicts were assigned to work gangs to build roads, buildings, and the like. Female convicts were usually assigned as domestic help to soldiers.
The Development of Melbourne
In June 1835, while exploring the Yarra River, John Batman wrote of a site he saw: ‘this will be the place for a village.’ Here the Yarra widened to form a natural basin that would allow small sailing ships to anchor close to a settlement before coming about to return to Port Phillip Bay. Sheep farmers from Tasmania established a settlement on the slopes of two ridges near the river, close to where Queen’s Bridge is today.
Melbourne’s location was dictated by access to water, both fresh and salt. A rock barrier in the Yarra River created a small waterfall: below it the water was brackish, but allowed access to Port Phillip Bay; above it was an abundant source of fresh water to meet the needs of early settlers and their stock.
Melbourne today sprawls out over a huge area and has a population of more than 3.5 million. (2007)
Melbourne’s lopsided growth
A key feature of modern Melbourne is its lopsided shape: development has been much greater to the east and south than to the west. This growth pattern has been due partly to geology and climate. Between 1835 and the 1880s the city grew mainly towards the south and south-east. The swampy areas to the west and south-west of the original site (which separated the present suburbs of Footscray and Williamstown) were a barrier to development until they were drained in the 1890s. The soils to the east tended to be relatively fertile sandy loams, while those to the north and west were less productive grey clays with a thick layer of basalt not far beneath. Also, the average annual rainfall was less
than 500 mm in the west compared with more than 800 mm in the east, and the western plains were more exposed to wind and thus less attractive for urban development.
The period from 1880 to 1919 saw the growth of railways and major highways. Urban development followed these transport routes, with suburbs springing up close to railway lines and stations. Many of today’s middle suburbs were once on the edge of town. Sandringham, Mordialloc and Box Hill were established between 1920 and 1960 when the railways were electrified. The rail network allowed people to live further from the city yet travel into the centre to work. At times (such as during the Great Depression and World War II), Melbourne’s growth slowed down, but when times were more prosperous, as during the 1950s and 1960s, it increased again. New outer suburbs such as Doncaster, Sunshine, Waverley and Knox offered generous blocks to home buyers.
Since 1960 Melbourne has spread south as far as the Mornington Peninsula, east to the Dandenong Ranges, north to Epping, and west to suburbs such as Melton, Deer Park and Sunbury.
Why did they migrate?
While the increase of migrants to Australia was largely attributed to the assisted passage scheme, it was also partly due to events in Britain. The Industrial Revolution (late 18th century to the early 19th century) was the period when industries based on steam power and powered machinery replaced an economy dependent on manual labour. These changes were severely detrimental to the working class, leaving thousands of people either out of work or working in overcrowded and disease-ridden slums. Many English workers decided to migrate to Australia, among other places, for the opportunity of a better life.
Around the same time, mass migration was also forced upon many Scottish people. The Highland Clearances (late 18th century to early 19th century) saw many crofters(farmers) and their families evicted from their farms, sometimes by brute force, to make way for large-scale sheep farming. Those crofters who did stay to farm the few remaining small plots, experienced further financial and emotional hardship when a fungus caused potato crops to fail. Since potatoes were one of the only crops which would grow on the small plots the crofters had been allowed to access, the fungus led to widespread starvation and disease. The period between 1846 and 1857 in Scotland became known as the…
Highland Potato Famine
A year before the outbreak of the potato fungus in Scotland, Ireland had already been devastated by the disease and was consequently suffering from its own potato famine (1845-1849). As a result of the Scottish and Irish potato famines, large-scale migration occurred. Australia, which had a scheme of assisted migration, was the first preference for many farming families who were left with nothing after their crops had been destroyed.
Burke and Wills expedition
The first expedition to cross the continent of Australia from the south coast to the north coast took place in the years 1860 and 1861. Known officially as the Great Northern Exploration Expedition, it was led by Robert O’Hara Burke, an Irish immigrant. Second in command was William John Wills, an Englishman whose family had settled in Melbourne.
In 1860 the Government of South Australia offered a prize to the first expedition to cross the Australian continent from south to north. Policeman, Robert O’Hara Burke led an expedition which left from Royal Park, Melbourne on 20 August 1860.
Burke travelled with 18 people, 25 camels, 22 horses and some wagons. This was the first expedition to use camels as a means of transport. Burke took a two-year supply of food, as well as 80 pairs of shoes, beds, hats and buckets, as well as some firewood. It was the intent of the party to establish a series of bases across the desert at which supplies would be dropped off and left for the return trip.
Burke was impatient about the delays caused by setting up the bases and traveling with the entire expedition, so at Menindee in New South Wales the bulk of the party was left behind.
The four men reached northern Australia in February 1861 but could not penetrate the swamps and jungle that cut off their destination, the Gulf of Carpentaria. Gray, overcome by exhaustion, died on the way back. The others reached Cooper’s Creek on April 21 but found it deserted; the rest of the party, after waiting for more than four months, had left for Melbourne that same morning. Instead of taking the food left for them and following the rest of the party, Burke and King decided to head for Adelaide on the southern coast. They left Wills at camp, where he died at the end of June.
Burke died of starvation on the trail, and King returned to Cooper’s Creek. Four expeditions were sent to find the men. In September a party headed by Alfred William Howitt located King living among some Aborigines and brought him back to a tumultuous welcome in Melbourne. They also brought back Wills’s journal of the expedition, a rough map, and a few letters.
Interview with some kids about the Eureka Stockade Rebellion
KID: Good morning my name is Amelia Flynn and I am from Ireland.
KID: My favourite hobbies here are noughts and crosses, cooking, reading and feeding my horse Maple.
KID: I came to the Ballarat goldfields because my father wasn’t getting paid enough money and also because of the potato famine.
KID: I want to have a useful husband and a big family.
It isn’t very often that a school excursion takes you back in time. But here at Sovereign Hill some 21st century school girls have stepped into the shoes of kids from Australia’s past. Dressing, working and playing like kids would have in the 1850s in the gold-mining town of Ballarat.
KIDS: It’s really serious because everything is exactly the same and we had to have straight backs and hands like this and but it was a lot of fun and it was a great experience.
Sovereign Hill is set up to reflect a very important time in Australia’s history – the gold rush. In the 1850s people came from all over the world to the colony of Victoria with the hope of striking it rich in a new land. But life on the goldfields was difficult and dangerous.
KIDS: It was really hard because you didn’t have enough money or food to live and lots of children didn’t get very old and died at early ages.
The miners or ‘diggers’, as they called themselves, lived under colonial rule and had no say in their government. Before they could mine they had to buy a licence and if they didn’t have one they could be punished.
KIDS: They had licence hunts and if you were caught and you didn’t have a licence then you were tied to a log until you paid the 5 pounds to go out which was a bit silly because if you couldn’t afford to get a gold licence then you couldn’t afford to be let out so you had to go to jail.
It was the growing tension between the diggers and the authorities which led to one of the most dramatic events in Australia’s history, the Eureka Rebellion. Tens of thousands of miners came together to burn their licences and raise their own flag.
BLOOD ON THE SOUTHERN CROSS: “We swear by the Southern Cross to stand truly by each other and fight to defend our rights and liberties.”
On Sunday the third of December, 1854, there was a brief but bloody battle at the Eureka mining camp where diggers had built a rough wooden stockade. 22 miners and 8 soldiers died. But Eureka came to be seen by many as a turning point in Australia’s history, celebrated in art, songs and films like this.
Many Victorians felt sorry for the diggers and put pressure on the government to make changes. Three years later all Victorian men were given the right to vote. Now at the site of the Eureka Stockade there’s a museum devoted to democracy, where the kids saw the real Eureka flag and learned about its importance.
KIDS: It was the start of our flag it was when we started to see our flag rather than being ruled by Britain.
KIDS: It was the start of people saying we want a better Australia we want to fight for our rights and make sure the country was the best it could be.
By getting a close-up look at the past they got a better idea of how this country came to be.
The growth of Melbourne
In the 1850s, the cities of each colony began a period of dramatic change. This transformation was due to an increased population, wealth from the gold rushes in New South Wales and Victoria and new ideas generated by a culturally diverse population. By the end of the decade, public structures and housing in Sydney and Melbourne had multiplied. Many elegant and ornate civic buildings with attractive tree-lined and paved streetscapes were built. Commercial business centres and Italianate, Gothic revival and neo-Classical style townhouses were erected in newly established suburbs. Art galleries, museums, zoos and universities were constructed. By the end of the decade the streets of Melbourne and Hobart Town were lit by gas lamps.
During this decade, the wealth from gold transformed Melbourne into one of the world’s largest and wealthiest cities and funded many grand new civic buildings such as the Parliament House, the Treasury Building, the Free Public Library, the National Museum and The University of Melbourne. In 1858 the National Bank of Australasia opened its doors in response to the wealth of the gold rushes.
Between 1851 and 1854, the population of Victoria grew from about 77,000 to more than 200,000. The estimated population of Australia in 1850 was approximately 400,000, but had increased to 1 million by 1860.
Free settlers v Convicts
The arrival of more free settlers brought increased claims to farmland on which more convicts could serve as labourers. These two groups of colonists, however, reflected a growing tension within New South Wales. As convicts completed their sentences or were eligible for release due to good behaviour, they sought land and opportunities. They were known as the emancipists, and their leaders urged that they be given more rights. The free settlers, like the corps before them, maintained that convicts, even after their release, should not be treated as equals. These opponents to the emancipists were known as the exclusives. Macquarie, as had Bligh, tended to support the emancipists, granting them land and appointing them to minor offices. The exclusives became critical of both Macquarie and the emancipists.