The Aboriginal History of Yarra

Melbourne from Collingwood, 1843

Melbourne from Collingwood, 1843, J.S. Prout, picture collection, State Library of Victoria, Accession Number 30328102131652/2

12. Establishment of municipal govt. & the impact on the Wurundjeri

In 1836, Governor Sir Richard Bourke received authorisation from the Colonial Secretary in London to allow private settlement in the Melbourne area. Melbourne was made a city in 1849, and a fifth ward was added in 1850, named Fitz Roy ward. In 1851, the Port Phillip District was established as a distinct colony named Victoria. Until this time, laws and actions relating to Aboriginal people came from the Colonial Government of New South Wales. After that time, laws relating to Aboriginal people came from the Colonial Government of Victoria. Due to the growth of towns and suburbs around Melbourne, the Victorian government passed the Municipal Institutions Bill in 1854, enabling the creation of local government in the colony. The bulk of items for consideration by Councils during this time are concerned with public works – the development of streets, drainage, buildings, locations for sites for bathing houses, manure deposits and so forth. This is telling in the post-contact story of Aboriginal people, as it is the story of the land being taken over and reshaped, and Aboriginal people being pushed out.

In 1836, Governor Sir Richard Bourke received authorisation from the Colonial Secretary in London to allow private settlement in the Melbourne area, stating it was for the protection of the Aboriginal people and the establishment of law. William Lonsdale was appointed police magistrate of the Port Phillip District in September that year. The first move towards establishment of a local government, however, occurred at a public meeting three months earlier. One of the decisions reached at this meeting was: ‘that all subscribing parties pledge themselves to afford protection for the Aborigines to the utmost of their power and further that they will not teach them the use of firearms or allow their servants to do, nor on any occasion allow the Aborigines to be in possession of any firearms’.[i]

While there are few references to the Aboriginal people in official notices of motion, by-laws were created that directly affected Aboriginal people. The Dog Act of 1844, for example, which ‘ensured that the “hoards” of diseased dogs, if unregistered, were routinely killed in the streets’. Assistant Protector William Thomas stated that the women in camps “cried for their dogs”.[ii] A week later, this Aboriginal group that included these women left the settlement “on account of their dogs being killed”.’[iii]

As the European population grew in Melbourne, so too did the Council. Melbourne was made a city in 1849, and a fifth ward was added in 1850, named Fitz Roy ward. The area known as East Collingwood remained outside of the municipal boundaries.[iv] In 1851, the Port Phillip District was established as a distinct colony named Victoria. Due to the growth of towns and suburbs around Melbourne, the Victorian government passed the Municipal Institutions Bill in 1854, enabling the creation of local government in the colony. Municipalities were areas of up to nine square miles (23.3 square kilometres) with at least three hundred householders, the majority of whom needed to have petitioned to have a Council established.[v]

The municipality of East Collingwood was one of the first to be created in 1855. The municipality of Richmond was established in 1857, but could not operate properly as non-ratepayers were initially elected to delay the introduction of rates. The area known as Collingwood, which had formed the Fitz Roy ward, was formed into a new municipality in 1858, taking the name Fitzroy, and as a consequence it was resolved that East Collingwood be known simply as Collingwood.

The bulk of items for consideration by Councils during this time are concerned with public works – the development of streets, drainage, buildings, locations for sites for bathing houses, manure deposits and so forth. This in itself is telling regarding the post-contact story of the Aboriginal people, as it is the story of the land being taken over and reshaped, pushing out Aboriginal people. While the European population was reshaping the landscape and overlaying their ideas of order onto it, the Aboriginal people continued to occupy the land, inscribing their own ideas onto it. It was a simultaneous occupation of the land underpinned by disparate understandings of what it meant to occupy the land.

 


[i] Public meeting agrees on temporary method of government’, Minutes of Resident’s Meeting, 1 June, 1836, in  Jones, Historical Records of Victoria, 36-8

[ii] Penelope Edmonds, ‘The Intimate, Urbanising Frontier: Native Camps and Settler Colonialism’s Violent Array of Spaces around Early Melbourne’ in Tracey Banivanua Mar and Penelope Edmonds (eds), Making Settler Colonial Space: Perspectives on Race, Place and Identity, Palgrave Macmillan, 2010, 136

[iii] Ibid

[iv] Barrett, The Inner Suburbs, 14

[v] Garden, Victoria, 92

 

 

In 1836, Governor Sir Richard Bourke received authorisation from the Colonial Secretary in London to allow private settlement in the Melbourne area, stating it was for the protection of the Aboriginal people and the establishment of law. William Lonsdale was appointed police magistrate of the Port Phillip District in September that year. The first move towards establishment of a local government, however, occurred at a public meeting three months earlier. One of the decisions reached at this meeting was: ‘that all subscribing parties pledge themselves to afford protection for the Aborigines to the utmost of their power and further that they will not teach them the use of firearms or allow their servants to do, nor on any occasion allow the Aborigines to be in possession of any firearms’.[i]

While there are few references to the Aboriginal people in official notices of motion, by-laws were created that directly affected Aboriginal people. The Dog Act of 1844, for example, which ‘ensured that the “hoards” of diseased dogs, if unregistered, were routinely killed in the streets’. Assistant Protector William Thomas stated that the women in camps “cried for their dogs”.[ii] A week later, this Aboriginal group that included these women left the settlement “on account of their dogs being killed”.’[iii]

As the European population grew in Melbourne, so too did the Council. Melbourne was made a city in 1849, and a fifth ward was added in 1850, named Fitz Roy ward. The area known as East Collingwood remained outside of the municipal boundaries.[iv] In 1851, the Port Phillip District was established as a distinct colony named Victoria. Due to the growth of towns and suburbs around Melbourne, the Victorian government passed the Municipal Institutions Bill in 1854, enabling the creation of local government in the colony. Municipalities were areas of up to nine square miles (23.3 square kilometres) with at least three hundred householders, the majority of whom needed to have petitioned to have a Council established.[v]

The municipality of East Collingwood was one of the first to be created in 1855. The municipality of Richmond was established in 1857, but could not operate properly as non-ratepayers were initially elected to delay the introduction of rates. The area known as Collingwood, which had formed the Fitz Roy ward, was formed into a new municipality in 1858, taking the name Fitzroy, and as a consequence it was resolved that East Collingwood be known simply as Collingwood.

The bulk of items for consideration by Councils during this time are concerned with public works – the development of streets, drainage, buildings, locations for sites for bathing houses, manure deposits and so forth. This in itself is telling regarding the post-contact story of the Aboriginal people, as it is the story of the land being taken over and reshaped, pushing out Aboriginal people. While the European population was reshaping the landscape and overlaying their ideas of order onto it, the Aboriginal people continued to occupy the land, inscribing their own ideas onto it. It was a simultaneous occupation of the land underpinned by disparate understandings of what it meant to occupy the land.

 


[i] Public meeting agrees on temporary method of government’, Minutes of Resident’s Meeting, 1 June, 1836, in  Jones, Historical Records of Victoria, 36-8

[ii] Penelope Edmonds, ‘The Intimate, Urbanising Frontier: Native Camps and Settler Colonialism’s Violent Array of Spaces around Early Melbourne’ in Tracey Banivanua Mar and Penelope Edmonds (eds), Making Settler Colonial Space: Perspectives on Race, Place and Identity, Palgrave Macmillan, 2010, 136

[iii] Ibid

[iv] Barrett, The Inner Suburbs, 14

[v] Garden, Victoria, 92

 

 

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Melbourne from Collingwood, 1843

Melbourne from Collingwood, 1843

Melbourne from Collingwood, 1843, J.S. Prout, picture collection, State Library of Victoria, Accession Number 30328102131652/2