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Marvelous Melbourne

Aboriginals were believed to come from Southeast Asia to the Australian mainland about 45,000 years ago. Because of the remote areas of Australia, there are many different tribes with many different languages. One tribe on one side of the country cannot talk to a tribe that lives on the other side. Their culture was based on a close spiritual bond with the land. Their religious beliefs center on the continuing existence of spirits that lived on the planet during the creation time or Dreamtime (see next blog entry for Dreamtime Story). The word 'dreamtime' was coined by two anthropologists, Baldwin Spencer and Frank Gillen in their attempt to translate the Arrernte word Altyerrenge. A similar word, alcheringa, used by the Arunta, Kaitish and Unmatjera tribes meaning the past in which their ancestors lived. A direct translation of alcheri means dream. These spirits were the ancestors of all living things and created all of the features of the natural world. Individuals who are spiritually bound to a certain site are required to perform rituals in order to keep the natural order of things. Victoria's aboriginal people (that state that Melbourne is in) before European's colonized Australia were called Koories. They had 38 different dialect groups and 10 different languages. They were seminomadic people based on seasonal variation and the need to be in certain places for rituals. Melbourne is in the Yarra Valley and contains the Woiworung clan of the Kulin Nation and are called the Wurundjeri.

In 1788 the First Fleet sailed into Botany Bay, New South Wales and Australia's first colony was created. This fleet contained 1030 people, which included 540 male and 188 female convicts. In 1803 a small group of convicts, soldiers and settlers headed south towards Sorrento on Mornington Peninsula, south of Melbourne. This became Victoria's first European settlement. However, the settlement was abandoned because a lack of fresh water. Instead a group sailed to Van Dieman's Land, as it was called back then and today is called Tasmania. They then founded Hobart and established a settlement there. In 1834 Portland became Victoria's first permanent settlement and was settled by Edward Henty who came from Tasmania.


The founding of Melbourne was done by two Tasmanian men, John Batman and John Pascoe Fawkner. Batman illigitimately purchased 202,000 hectares of land from the aboriginals in the area. He then established a settlement on the northern side of the Yarra River. Fawkner, on the other hand, left for the Port Phillip Bay area 6 months after Batman with a group of Tasmania settlers and settled near the southern side of the Yarra River. Fawkner was known as the 'Grand Old Man of Victoria.' He was the driving force of the new settlement and because he was a son of a convict, he compaigned labourously for the rights of settlers and convicts while he sat on theh Legislative Council of Victoria for 15 years. He was a dedicated publisher, publican and self-taught bush lawyer. At his death, 15,000 people attended his funeral. Batman on the other hand was not thought highly of because of his dealings with the aboriginals, died of syphillis and no one attended his funeral.

The aboriginal population was hard hit by the settlement of Europeans. Before colonization by Europeans the aboriginal population was between 60,000 to 100,000 people. However, by the late 1940's, the population was cut down to about 15,000 and then by the 1880's dwindled at 800. The European settlers regarded the aboriginals as a hindrance to their settling of the land. They often accused them of stealing their crop and animals and many were killed either by gunfire, poison or herded up and driven off of cliffs into the ocean and drowned. In Tasmania a bounty was set over their heads and anyone who killed them was offered 1500 pounds. Back then that was a lot of money. If the aboriginals were not killed off directly by the Europeans they suffered from diseases such as smallpox, dysentry and measles.

Melbourne developed at an astonishing rate. By 1836 there were so many settlers moving into the area that the administrators of New South Wales had to declare the area open to settlement. In 1837 Robert Hoddle drew up plans for the city in which he layed out a geometric grid of straight lines along a conveniently straight stretch of the river.

In 1851 Victoria separated from New South Wales and Melbourne became it's capital city. Gold was then discovered in Bathurst in New South Wales. In hopes to keep Melbourne residents in the area, businessmen offered a reward to anyone that could find gold in Victoria. Little did they know that they were in an area that had the country's richest source of gold. The Colonial Gold Mining Company was created and between 1857 and 1894 approximately 15.96 tonnes of gold worth about $280 million dollars was found. The famous Welcome Stranger nugget was found in this area and was a record 72 kg and costing about $4 million by todays markets.

Gold was sweated from rocks buried deep beneath the surface of the earth approximately 400 million and 370 million years ago. Dissolved gold and silica was carried towards the surface of the earth. This boiling solution travelled along the fractures in the earth's soil and eventually cooled before reaching the surface. This resulted in gold and silica crystalizing into quartz reefs.

The gold rush brough about 1800 prospectors to Melbourne each and every week. This resulted in chaos! Businesses came to a standstill because most of the labour force headed off out in search for gold. However, few struck it lucky overnight. At this time the famous outlaw Ned Kelly emerged. He was defiant against institutionalized injustice but what eventually hung in the Melbourne Gaol. He was the subject of the first Australian feature film in 1906 called 'The Story of the Kelly Gang.'

The area was overwhelmed with wealth and decided to build a city of extravagance. This resulted in Renaissance style buildings and many public parks and gardens being erected within the city. By the 1880's, Melbourne was referred to as the 'Paris of the Antipodes.' However, all great must come to an end. The significant prosperity lasted only 40 years. The gold rush resulted in recklessness and money was invested in real estate and building works which resulted in extremely high land prices that would inevitably never last. The International Exhibition which promoted new industrial products was hosted at the Royal Exhibition Building in the Carlton Gardens in 1880, a famous building still standing today. In 1889 the property market collapsed and in 1890 investment in Australia from London started to deteriorate due to a financial crash in Argentina. The 1890's were known as a period fo severe economic depression.


On January 1, 1901, Victoria became an official state of Australia. The federal parliament was held at Melbourne's Parliament House and the state parliament was held at the Royal Exhibition Building. The country's capital was moved to Canberra in 1927. The Great Depression hi in 1931, which caused approximately one third of the working force to become unemployed. Poverty became widespread and the government decided to implement numerous major public works programs such as Yarra Boulevard, the Shrine of Remembrance, St. Kilda Rd and the Great Ocean Rd. Phar Lap, a champion racehorse, became a national icon in order to divert attention from hardship.

During World War II, non-British migrants fled to Australia. The Australia government hoped that the increase in population would strengthen the country's economy and contribute to it's ability to defend itself. Between 1947 and 1968, 800,000 non-British migrants immigrated to Australia.

Today Melbourne is a bustling city of close to 4 million people. That is the whole population of Alberta alone! However, it does not seem to be quite so busy as Sydney. The streets, architecture as well as Melbournian culture have changed dramatically since the 1860's, even though many of the early aspects still survive today.

From the 1860's, getting around was not very easy. There were dirt roads that became mud roads when it rained and therefore made it very hard to manoever. The main streets were rivers! When the town site was built, the main street, Elizabeth St., was in the center of a valley. On either side of this street were hills. Therefore, the rain naturally rain down each side of the two hills into the main street! People and animals drowned regularly. If that wasn't bad enough, in the dry summers hot winds created regular dust storms. Water carts were implemented to dampen the streets, but thus created the mud again. Deep potholes also claimed many lives. Imagine a pothole that could kill you. Edson potholes don't seem to be so bad anymore. Pedestrians were at a constant risk of being trampelled by galloping horses through the streets. In 1855 footpaths were created to help separate pedestrians from horse-drawn traffic. After 1855, crushed bluestone on a base of well packed stones were introduced as the new streets.

By 1880, the city started experimenting with differnet street surfaces including asphalting parts of Elizabeth St. Horse-drawn vehicles were the predominant mode of transport. A thing called 'horse jams', similar to traffic jams of today, became a huge problem. Policemen were stationed at major intersections to maintain order. As many as 20,000 horses were stabled in the inner city. Sewage flowed in large open gutters on the street. To get from the footpath to the road pedestrians crossed over wooden footbridges. Because of the sewage being out in the open, many diseases such as diphtheria and typhoid fever flourished. It wasn't until the 1890's when underground sewage was introduced and eventually the footbridges disappeared.

One of the most common social activities was promenading along Collins St. Wealthy ladies and gentlemen alike paraded around in the latest fashions. On Saturday mornings, these wealthy people would called what was 'The Block.' This simply meant they would walk a section of Collins St. to show off their new clothing and gossip to their friends. The Block still exists today even though it is highly more modernized with designer shops and people generally just go to shop.

1910 sparked the introduction of cable trams and hand pushed carts of vendors along with the horse-drawn vehicles. Bicycles and the earliest forms of motorized vehicles were also introduced. This was the first time that the street surface was truly sealed. Footbridges were replaced by curbs adn drains. The city became wired by this time and networks of pipes and cables were created underground and drooping across the streets. The usage of trains and trams doubled between 1898 and 1917 and therefore resulted in Flinders St. Station to become the city's new gateway.


In 1930, traffic became more organized. Trams had their own tracks and pedestrians kept to the footpaths. Because of an increase in motorized vehicles there became an increasing amount of traffic and therefore new regulations. Traffic lights were implemented along Swanston St. Tram safety zones were marked by painted lines and beacons were erected at the main intersections. However, the Great Depression slowed these changes and the number of horse-drawn vehicles increased again. The tram network became electrified between 1926 and 1940.

The 1960's brought on the modern day streets of Melbourne. In the beginning there was so much traffic looking for vacant parking spaces within the city that council workers erected roadside signs that stated: 'no parking', 'no standing', 'metered zone', and 'loading zone' to organize people. Pedestrian road signs were erected and flashing 'walk' and 'don't walk' signs were implemented. In 1958 Melbourne's famous hook turn was introduced to keep the traffic flowing. This is a really wierd concept in which to turn right a vehicle must hang out in the far left and let all of the traffic pass before they can cross over to the other street. I have almost been hit by cars many times because of this rule. By 1962 half a million cars were on the streets daily. Glass and steel skyscrapers emerged and immigrants brough their distinctive cultures to the area. There is a distinct Italian precinct in Melbourne and many European cafe's.

Even though Melbourne seems like a bustling unorganized city at first, as you get to know it it is very well organized and seems to run more smoothly than most cities, especially in comparison with Sydney. They have erected many laneways or back alleys between major streets to increase the pedestrian traffic. These have resulted in many hidden areas of the city that prove to be quite interesting if one happens upon them. Many are allowed graffiti and there are some very interesting parts of the city. There is lots of traffic in central Melbourne, which includes cars, trams, pedestrians, and even horse-drawn carriages! I think that is pretty cool.

Posted by Jaders 22:43

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Hi, as I live in Melbourne, I think you have done a great job of this blog. Well done. Caz

by cazryan

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