The Australian colony of Port Phillip covered the area which now comprises the State of Victoria.Two of the early European pioneers of the Port Phillip area were John Batman and Hugh Murray.
Each of these men travelled from Van Diemen’s Land across Bass Strait in the 1830s to seek new pastoral lands.
John Batman is one of Victoria’s pioneers, having been a founder of Melbourne.
Batman was born just outside Sydney in 1801, and in 1821 he moved to Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania) to farm cattle.
Batman became famous in 1826 when he and a band of volunteers captured the bushranger Matthew Brady. Later, he was awarded a commendation from the Governor for his wise and humane treatment of the local Aboriginal people.
In 1835 he and a party of ten (including seven Aborigines from New South Wales) set sail for Port Phillip searching for more favourable grazing land.
They arrived at Indented Head on May 29, 1835. The party briefly explored around today’s site of Geelong and the area in Melbourne now known as Maribyrnong.
They then travelled along the Yarra River. Batman looked at the green flat land around him and is credited with the famous words of “This will be the place for a village.”
After some (now widely disputed) negotiations with the local Aborigines, Batman claimed that he had bought the surrounding land and the township of Melbourne evolved.
Others soon flocked to the region and the new settlements of Geelong and Melbourne quickly developed.
Batman and his family arrived in Melbourne in April 1836, but soon moved to live in Geelong. Batman died in 1839.
The city of Colac is today a regional and municipal centre of Victoria’s Western District. The main thoroughfare of Murray Street is named in honour of pioneer Hugh Murray, who is credited with establishing European settlement in the region.
Hugh Murray left Scotland with his father and mother in June 1822.
After nearly six months travelling, they arrived in Hobart early the following year. The family settled as farmers on land near the Macquarie River in Van Diemen’s Land.
Hearing reports of newly-discovered sheep-farming lands on the mainland, Murray set off from Tasmania in 1837. Along with four companions and 600 sheep, he arrived in the area of present-day Colac.
Murray and his group were the only white inhabitants of the region for six months, when other new settlers began arriving from Van Diemen’s Land.
By 1839, squatters had spread throughout the rich lands of the Western District.
Hugh Murray took an active role in the development of Colac and the surrounding area. He was the foundation chairman of the Colac District Road Board and was later elected the first president of the Shire of Colac.
He remained a councillor until his death in 1869.
- Peel, Geoff Local People in Geelong Advertiser, 10 June 2003
- Wynd, Ian Geelong: The Pivot, Cygnet (1971)
- Hebb, Isaac History of Colac, Hawthorn Press (1970)