A twist of fate would lead John Batman and his team up a river later to be named the ‘Yarra Yarra’ and there he discovered and declared:
“Monday 8th June 1835
The wind south this morning for Indenture Head we tried but could not get out of the river. The boat went up the large River I have spoken of which comes from the East, and I am glad to state about six miles up found the River all good water and very deep. This will be the place for a Village . . . “
Source: Excerpt – John Batman’s Journal Entry – 8th June 1835
The following are excerpts from John Batman’s Journal dated the 7th June 1835:
“1835 Sunday 7th June
“. . . on the Banks of the creek which I have named Batmans Creek – after my good self. Just before leaving the two principal Chiefs came and brought their two cloaks or Royal Matts [?] and laid at my feet, which to accept the same. On my consent to take them, they placed them around my neck and over my shoulders, and seemed quite pleased to see me walk about with them on – I asked them to accompany me to the vessel.
I had no trouble to find out their sacred Marke. One of my Natives, Bungett, went to a tree out of sight of the women and made the Sydney Native Mark, after this was done I took with me two or three of my Natives, the Principal Chief, and showed the Mark on the tree. This he knew immediately and pointed to the knocking out of the teeth, this Mark is always made when the ceremony of the Knocking out of the tooth in the front. I however after this, dismiss through my Natives, for Him to make his Mark, which after looking about for some time and his taking some few minutes, he took the Tomahawk and cut out in the Bark of the Tree his Mark – which is attached to the Deed, and is the signature of their country, and tribe – short 10 o’clock I took my departure from these interesting people. I think the Principal Chief stands 6-4 inches high and his Brother 6 ft 2 in and as fine looking men as ever saw. I crossed Batmans Creek and walked through a thinly timbered forest of Box Gum, She Oak and Wattle . . .”
. . . I crossed on the Banks of the River a large marsh about 1½ mile by 3 mile long of the richest description of soil not a tree. When we got on the marsh, the Quails began to fly and I think at one time I can safely say I saw 1,000 Quails flying at one time, quite a cloud. I never say any thing like it before. I shot two very large ones as I was walking along a the upper end of this marsh is a large lagoon. I should think from the distance I saw that it was upwards of a mile across and full of swans, ducks, geese . . . “
Source: Excerpt – John Batman’s Journal Entry – 7th June 1835
John Batman’s journal describes the Yarra and Batman’s Swamp in the following terms, upon Sunday, 7th June, 1835, some eighteen weeks before Fawkner camped there. Describing a course evidently from Merri Creek to the sandy soil of the University Hill neighbourhood, he writes:—
“We then made the river I had gone up a few days before (the Saltwater,] intending to come on the opposite side of the river, and hail the ship. I crossed on the banks of the river a large marsh (Batman’s Swamp), about one mile and a-half wide, by three or four miles long, of the richest description of soil—not a tree. At the upper end of this marsh is a large lagoon. I should think, from the distance I saw, that it was upwards of a mile across, and full of swans, ducks, geese, &c. After crossing this marsh, we passed through a tea-tree scrub, very high and thick. We expected, on getting through this, to make the vessel in an hour or two; but, to our great surprise, when we got through the scrub, we found ourselves on a much larger river than the one we went up and had just come down. It was now near sunset, and it would take two days to head the river again. So, after some time, I made up my mind that two of the Sydney natives should swim across the smallest river, and go to the vessel and bring up the boat. Bullet and Bungett swam, and had to go about seven miles, which they did, and were back again with the boat in three hours. I was glad to see them, as we had got on the point at the junction of the rivers, where the tide had now risen up to our ankles.”
Source: Excerpt – ‘John Batman, The Founder of Victoria’ – by James Bonwick – published 1867
Much controversy surrounds the origins of Melbourne however the following primary sources are concrete evidence of John Batman’s allocation of lands to the future capital city of Victoria as depicted in his diary entry of the 8th June 1835 and as pictorially represented in the map of Port Phillip clearly outlining the ‘Dutigalla’ area as noted on the Treaty as well as the location of the future village. The lands were also clearly described in the Indenture of the Port Phillip Association dated 30th June 1835.
Many have tried to discredit his achievements however his hand-written diary entries clearly outline his negotiations with the Aboriginal people, his treks across the countryside and so forth. It was also suggested that Aboriginal tribes or clans did not have Chiefs and therefore the treaty was not valid. Many have confirmed that Chiefs were, in fact, an integral part of the Aboriginal community. The following excerpt is from an entire chapter dedicated to the role of a Chief in Aboriginal society:
” . . . Every tribe has its chief, who is looked upon in the light of a father, and whose authority is supreme. He consults with the best men of the tribe, but when he announces his decision, they dare not contradict or disobey him . . . “
Source: Excerpt – ‘Australian Aborigines – The Languages and Customs of Several Tribes of Aborigines in the Western District of Victoria, Australia’ – by James Dawson – published 1881
It is remarkable to think of the kilometres that were travelled by foot, by rowboat and by sail – through uncharted waters to unknown landscapes. One can only imagine that these individuals preyed on the fact that John Batman had died at such a young age and therefore was unable to defend his dream, his expedition, his success, and the Aboriginal people.
The following excerpt from “A Short History of Australia” by Ernest Scott – Professor of History in the University of Melbourne – published in 1916, aptly describes the achievements of John Batman and the Port Phillip Association:
” . . . The second notable thing done by Batman on this expedition was to take the REBECCA’S boat up the river Yarra to a place where a ridge of rocks blocked the inrush of the tide, and where therefore he could obtain fresh water. He scrutinized the slope on the north bank of the stream, and pencilled in his notebook these words: ‘The boat went up the large river I have spoken of, which comes from the east, and I am glad to state about six miles up found the river all good water and very deep. This will be the place for a village.’ Batman did not discover the Yarra, nor was he the first European to look upon this site. That had been done in 1803. But he was the man to indicate where Melbourne would be built; and he actually marked upon his sketch-map the words ‘reserved for a township and other purposes.’
It is very remarkable that, of the six state capitals of Australia, the only one which stands to-day precisely in the place where it was in the first Instance intended to build it, is Melbourne. Three of the states were originally colonized from England, and in not one of those instances was any survey made, before shiploads of people were sent 16,000 miles, to ascertain where it would be most desirable to put them. A sensible man would not start to build a house without making a preliminary examination of the ground available, in order that he might lay his foundations in the best situation. But no such forethought was shown in determining the proper localities for three colonies which were to be the homes of hundreds of thousands of people. New South Wales was originally intended to be centred at Botany Bay, and had Arthur Phillip followed the letter of his instructions he would have commenced his work with misfortune and failure. His own promptitude and initiative saved the situation there. In the Western Australian instance the first colonists were left shivering in misery on the white sand-dunes of Garden Island until the site of Perth was found. South Australia was intended to be established on Kangaroo Island, which was lauded in glowing descriptions written by those who had never been there; but Colonel Light recognized at a glance that a blunder had been perpetrated, and insisted on the site of Adelaide. The cases of Hobart and Brisbane are not so serious, though there also the situations originally chosen were afterwards found to be undesirable. But John Batman’s ‘place for a village’ was an excellent choice, which had not to be altered afterwards, and the village — rather large for its name, however — stands in justification of his judgement.
Batman hurried back to Launceston to report what he had done, and to advance the claims of his syndicate, the Port Phillip Association, to the territory which he professed to have acquired by treaty. He left behind him three of his servants, with three months’ rations, to guard the estate against intruders.
The latter move was not so absurd as it may seem. Batman knew that there were other Launceston adventurers who had designs upon Port Phillip. In fact, his rivals were on the move while he was engaged in writing voluminous letters in support of his claims. The leader of the opposition party was John Pascoe Fawkner, who, as a lad of eleven, had, in company with his father, been one of Colonel Collins’s party in the CALCUTTA when that officer’s abortive colony at Port Phillip was founded and abandoned in 1803. Fawkner had purchased the ENTERPRISE, and was making preparations for an expedition of his own when Batman returned with his astonishing tale. On July 29 the schooner sailed. Fawkner himself went on board, but became so ill that he had to be put ashore. Hardly had the Enterprise entered Port Phillip than Batman’s representatives, in a whaleboat, stopped her and warned her company that ‘trespassers would be prosecuted.’ But there was no quarrel, and the ENTERPRISE worked her way up the bay and the river, landing Fawkner’s people on the very site which Batman had selected for his village.
Three days later appeared J. H. Wedge, Assistant Surveyor-General of Van Diemen’s Land [Tasmania] and one of Batman’s syndicate, who informed the invaders that they were encamped upon the tract of land obtained by Batman ‘by a treaty with the natives.’ . . . “
By the 10th of October 1835, all the journal notes, documentation, indentures, correspondence, communications and efforts of John Batman and his associates to liaise with the New South Wales governance proved futile, as the governance was quick to quash any effort to negotiate with the natives of the land, and proficiently revoked the treaty between the Port Phillip Association and the Aboriginal peoples . . .
Inconceivably, the British governance possessed no concept of the possibility that land could be owned by the natives (often referred to as “savages”) who had lived on the continent for tens of thousands of years !!!
John Batman, on the other hand, could not comprehend that the Aboriginal people were not the “rightful owners of the soil” . . .
The governance and those who stood to profit from John Batman’s discoveries declared and maintained that Australia’s Aborigines did not understand the treaty nor were they in the habit of, or capable of, placing signatures thereon, however:
” . . . The lithograph opposite to this page is a fac-simile of a parchment conveyance of certain land near Geelong to John Batman from eight chiefs, who affixed their marks, or signatures, to the deed, and at the same time symbolized the transfer of the land by taking up some of te soil and handing it to Batman. The original document is in the custody of Messrs. Taylor, Buckland and Gates, who have kindly given their permission to its publication. The heading is not in the original document.
Another conveyance of 500,000 acres between Geelong and the Yarra was made to Batman. A copy of this conveyance is to be found in the Record Office, in the Van Diemen’s Land Correspondence, and has been published by Dr. Lang, by Mr. Bonwick, by Mr. Arden, and by Mr. Labelliere, in their several accounts of the early settlement of Victoria.
Both of the transactions represented by these documents were disallowed by the Colonial Secretary, in London.
The marks made by the chiefs on the parchment were their genuine and usual signatures, which they were in the habit of carving on the bark of trees and on their message sticks. The reader will be interested in these traces of civilization among a people who have hitherto been considered the least civilized of all nations . . . “
Source: Excerpt – ‘Australian Aborigines’ – by James Dawson – published 1881
Though an insurmountable effort was made to substantiate the expedition, settlement and investment made by the members of the Port Phillip Association during the years 1830 to 1839, the governance simply ignored all – quashing and overruling without substantiation. As luck would have it, the governance was dealt a trump card – as by mid 1839, two of the key and founding members (Joseph Gellibrand and John Batman) had met with their deaths. With this, the rights of the Aborigines were quickly eroded as settlers took over their land and the race that had resided in the area for some 40,000 years, disappeared . . .
Hence the matter was officially and finally quashed on the 16th December 1839 in a despatch to Sir George Gipps from the Colonial Office, then presided over by Lord John Russell, condoning the actions taken on the 7th June 1839 (one day after John Batman had died) and thus speaks,—
“I approve of your adoption of the advice of the Executive Council on Mr. Batman’s claims and of your having allowed the materials of the house and other moveables to be taken away for the benefit of the family of Mr. Batman. . . . before the land is given up to the Colonial Government.”
Ninety nine years after John Batman stated that ” . . . This will be the Place for a Village . . . “, the following extract of an article declares:
” . . . “The place for a village!” Looking across some still evening of spring, from a vantage point on the south bank of the Yarra, a little east, say, of Prince’s Bridge, one sees the towering castles of the city black against the sky; marble and granite, concrete and steel, cover the old-time abiding-place of the humble wooden hut and the humbler wattle-and-daub; wheels rush and wharves hum where the wild-flowers gemmed, a century ago, that “carpet of grass green as a leek” when Batman tied his boat and felled his tree. Watching the almost unbelievable change, pride and pity stir, for a moment, at the memory of the handsome, luckless bushman who prophesied so much better than he knew . . . “
Source: Excerpt – Argus'(Melbourne, Vic) – Article ‘The Story of a Century – Part Two’ – published 16th October 1934
View other important information on Discovering Terra Australis . . .
View other important events in this Region’s History . . .