On 1 July 1851, the Colony of Victoria was established and proclaimed as separate and absolutely independent from the Colony of New South Wales (NSW).
Melbourne was founded in 1835 by John Batman after an earlier attempt to colonise Port Phillip Bay in 1803 near (present-day) Sorrento quickly became too problematic and was abandoned for the then fledgling settlement of Hobart.*
From 1840, petitioning began to separate what was then known as the “Port Phillip District” from NSW. Success came in 1851 via Acts passed in both the British and NSW Parliaments. The Acts also provided a Constitution for the new colony, which was called “Victoria” after the then Queen of Britain, with La Trobe as Victoria's first Lieutenant-Governor.
The colony achieved self-government in 1855 and limited suffrage a year later. This was in no small part due to the quashed miners’ rebellion – against red tape, fees and taxes imposed by distant government without representation – on the Ballarat gold fields in late 1854, known as (the Battle of the) Eureka Stockade. Arguably “Australia’s Boston Tea Party”, it was described by 19th century American writer and sage, Mark Twain, as “… another instance of a victory won by a lost battle.”
At proclamation the Port Phillip District's population had less than 100,000 people and its key centre, Melbourne – despite becoming Australia’s wool export hub – had little more than 20,000 people.
Just days after becoming independent, Victorian gold was discovered near Ballarat, and subsequently at Bendigo and many other sites, triggering one of the world’s largest ever gold rushes. The gold rush drew in migrants from across the world, particularly from Ireland and China, swelling the new colony’s population to over 500,000 by 1860. That decade saw Victoria produce around a third of the world’s gold output, and made Melbourne one of the world's largest and wealthiest cities.
With further gold discoveries, agricultural development and population growth, by Federation in 1901, Melbourne had become Australasia’s largest city and leading financial centre. As such, the new Australian nation had an obvious choice for its temporary capital and seat of government, until a more permanent solution was found and developed (which was Canberra, from 1927).
Celebrate the establishment and proclamation of (the Colony of) Victoria by:
- getting into the spirit and donning the State’s colours of navy blue and silver (or wearing the “Big V”)
- (if you are in Victoria) visiting sites and buildings commemorating the State’s rich colonial history or embark on a local activity to remember the state's heritage
- (if you live outside of Victoria) planning a visit to the 'Garden State' in the near future to indulge in its hospitality, beauty, greenery and history - or enjoy the Victorian alpine ski slopes this year (or plan to go in future)
- watching a game of Australian Rules football (founded in Melbourne in 1897) at the legendary Melbourne Cricket Ground or at a ground near you this weekend
- listening to a song on Victoria, life there or one of its towns or locations, and/or
- sharing this Action Plan post on social media with family, friends, fellow Victorians and patriotic Aussies fascinated by our rich and proud history.
* The first successful and permanent European settlement on the north coast of Bass Strait was actually Portland, from late 1834.
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