Victoria is a state in south-eastern Australia. Victoria is Australia’s smallest mainland state and its second-most populous state (after New South Wales) overall, thus making it the most densely populated state overall. Most of its population lives concentrated in the area surrounding Port Phillip Bay, which includes the metropolitan area of its state capital and largest city, Melbourne, Australia’s second-largest city. Victoria is bordered by Bass Strait and Tasmania to the south, New South Wales to the north, the Tasman Sea to the east, and South Australia to the west.
The area that is now known as Victoria is the home of many Aboriginal people groups, including the Boon wurrung, the Bratauolung, the Djadjawurrung, the Gunai/Kurnai, the Gunditjmara, the Taungurong, the Wathaurong, the Wurundjeri, and the Yorta Yorta. There were more than 30 Aboriginal languages spoken in the area prior to the European settlement of Australia. The Kulin nation is an alliance of five Aboriginal nations which makes up much of the central part of the state.
With Great Britain having claimed the half of the Australian continent that is east of the 135th meridian east in 1788, Victoria formed part of the wider colony of New South Wales. The first European settlement in the area occurred in 1803 at Sullivan Bay, and much of what is now Victoria was included in 1836 in the Port Phillip District, an administrative division of New South Wales. Named in honor of Queen Victoria, who signed the division’s separation from New South Wales, the colony was officially established in 1851 and achieved self government in 1855. The Victorian gold rush in the 1850s and 1860s significantly increased both the population and wealth of the colony, and by the time of the Federation of Australia in 1901, Melbourne had become the largest city and leading financial center in Australasia. Melbourne served as federal capital of Australia until the construction of Canberra in 1927, with the Federal Parliament meeting in Melbourne’s Parliament House and all principal offices of the federal government being based in Melbourne.
The economy of Victoria is highly diversified, with service sectors including financial and property services, health, education, wholesale, retail, hospitality and manufacturing constitute the majority of employment. Victoria’s total gross state product (GSP) ranks second in Australia, although Victoria ranks fourth in terms of GSP per capita because of its limited mining activity. Culturally, Melbourne hosts a number of museums, art galleries, and theaters, and is also described as the world’s sporting capital. The Melbourne Cricket Ground, the largest stadium in Australia and the Southern Hemisphere, hosted the 1956 Summer Olympics and the 2006 Commonwealth Games. The ground is also considered the “spiritual home” of Australian cricket and Australian rules football, and hosts the grand final of the Australian Football League (AFL) each year, drawing crowds of approximately 100,000. Nearby Melbourne Park has hosted the Australian Open, one of tennis’ four Grand Slam events, annually since 1988. Victoria has eight public universities, with the oldest, the University of Melbourne, dating from 1853.
The state of Victoria was originally home to many indigenous nations that had occupied the land for tens of thousands of years. According to Gary Presland Aborigines have lived in Victoria for about 40,000 years, living a semi-nomadic existence of fishing, hunting and gathering, and farming eels.
At the Keilor Archaeological Site a human hearth excavated in 1971 was radiocarbon-dated to about 31,000 years BP, making Keilor one of the earliest sites of human habitation in Australia. A cranium found at the site has been dated at between 12,000 and 14,700 years BP.
Archaeological sites in Tasmania and on the Bass Strait Islands have been dated to between 20,000 – 35,000 years ago, when sea levels were 130 metres below present level allowing Aborigines to move across the region of southern Victoria and on to the land bridge of the Bassian plain to Tasmania by at least 35,000 years ago.
During the Ice Age about 20,000 years BCE, the area now the bay of Port Phillip would have been dry land, and the Yarra and Werribee river would have joined to flow through the heads then south and south west through the Bassian plain before meeting the ocean to the west. Tasmania and the Bass Strait islands became separated from mainland Australia around 12,000 BP, when the sea level was approximately 50m below present levels. Port Phillip was flooded by post-glacial rising sea levels between 8000 and 6000 years ago.
Oral history and creation stories from the Wada wurrung, Woiwurrung and Bun wurrung languages describe the flooding of the bay. Hobsons Bay was once a kangaroo hunting ground. Creation stories describe how Bunjil was responsible for the formation of the bay, or the bay was flooded when the Yarra river was created.
Early European Exploration:
Coming from New Zealand in 1770, Lieutenant James Cook in HM Bark Endeavour sighted land at Point Hicks, about 70 km west of Gabo Island, before turning east and north to follow the coast of Australia.
Ships sailing from the Great Britain to Sydney crossed the Indian Ocean and Southern Ocean, sailing around Van Diemen’s Land before turning north to their destination. Several captains viewed the expanse of water between Van Diemen’s Land and the east coast of New South Wales and wondered whether it was a large bay or a strait. Survivors of Sydney Cove, wrecked in the Furneaux Group of islands, also thought it might be a strait.
To clear up the question, Governor John Hunter sent George Bass to explore thoroughly the coast in a whaleboat. After reaching Wilsons Promontory and Western Port in January 1798 bad weather and lack of provisions forced him to return to Sydney. Bass returned with Matthew Flinders in December 1798 in Norfolk and sailed through the strait, proving its existence.
Multiple additional surveying and exploration journeys would be undertaken by a variety of sailors, including one French vessel.
1803 British Settlement:
With Britain involved in the French revolutionary wars, Governor King was concerned that Bass Strait could harbor enemy raiders, and that in peace time it could provide an important trade route and trading base. The appearance of Baudin’s ships served to reinforce the concern that France was interested in the area. King was also looking for an alternative settlement for the increasing number of convicts in Sydney and to reduce the pressure on food resources. Port Phillip, with a favorable climate and rich fishing and sealing resources, seemed an ideal location for another settlement.
A full description of Murray’s and Flinders’ discoveries, together with King’s thoughts on settlement, but not Grimes’ report, reached England just as HMS Calcutta was being prepared to send a shipload of convicts to Sydney. In February 1803, Lord Hobart the Secretary of State changed the destination to Port Phillip.
The party entered Port Phillip on 9 October 1803 and chose a site at Sullivan Bay near present-day Sorrento.
Collins was soon disappointed with the area. Reports from exploring parties led by Lieutenant James Tuckey and surveyor George Harris described strong currents, sandy soil, poor timber, swampy land and scarce fresh water. They also clashed with the Wathaurung people near Corio Bay, killing their leader – the first Aborigines known to have been killed by settlers in Victoria.
Collins reported his criticisms to Governor King, who supported him and recommended moving the settlement.
The brief settlement at Sorrento achieved little and left only a few relics for modern tourists to observe. Collins has been criticized for not investigating the bay thoroughly, in particular, the northern head with its fresh-water river, and for being too hasty in his condemnation of the bay. The site of the settlement is now a reserve incorporating four graves from the period.
For the next thirty years a few sealers and whalers rested on the southern coast of New South Wales.
1834 Permanent Settlement:
Victoria’s first successful British settlement was at Portland, on the west coast of what is now Victoria. Portland was settled on 19 November 1834 by the Henty family, who were originally farmers from Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania). When Major Thomas Mitchell led an expedition to the region from Sydney in 1835, arriving at Portland in August 1836, he was surprised to find a small but prosperous community living off the fertile farmland.
Melbourne was founded in 1835 by John Batman, also from Van Diemen’s Land and quickly grew into a thriving community, although at great human cost to the original inhabitants. Its foundation was the result of an invasion of wealthy squatters, land speculators and their indentured servants (including ex-convicts) who arrived from 1835, in a race with one another to seize an ’empty’ country. The British Crown and colonial governments did not recognize prior Aboriginal ownership of their lands, waters and property, in spite of claiming that Aborigines fell within the protection of the law as British subjects.
Separation From New South Wales:
The first petition for the separation of the Port Phillip District (or ‘Australia Felix‘) from New South Wales was drafted in 1840 by Henry Fyshe Gisborne and presented by him to Governor Gipps. Gipps, who had previously been in favor of separation, rejected the petition.
Agitation of the Port Phillip settlers continued and led to the establishment of Port Phillip District as a separate colony on 1 July 1851. The British Act of Parliament separating Port Phillip District from New South Wales, and naming the new colony “Victoria” (after Queen Victoria) and providing it with a Constitution, was signed by Queen Victoria on 5 August 1850. Enabling legislation was passed by the New South Wales Legislative Council on 1 July 1851. This was formally the founding moment of the Colony of Victoria, with separation from New South Wales established by section 1 of the 1851 Act. La Trobe became the new colony’s first Lieutenant-Governor.
In 1851, the white population of the new colony was still only 77,000, and only 23,000 people lived in Melbourne. Melbourne had already become a center of Australia’s wool export trade.
1850s Gold Rush:
In 1851 gold was first discovered in Clunes and Buninyong near Ballarat, and subsequently at Bendigo. Later discoveries occurred at many sites across Victoria. This triggered one of the largest gold rushes the world has ever seen. The colony grew rapidly in both population and economic power. In ten years the population of Victoria increased seven-fold from 76,000 to 540,000. All sorts of gold records were produced including the “richest shallow alluvial goldfield in the world” and the largest gold nugget. Victoria produced in the decade 1851-1860, twenty million ounces of gold, one third of the world’s output.
Immigrants arrived from all over the world to search for gold, principally from the British Isles (notably from Ireland). Many Chinese miners worked in Victoria, and their legacy is particularly strong in Bendigo and its environs. Conditions on the gold fields were cramped and unsanitary – an outbreak of typhoid at Buckland Valley in 1854 killed over 1,000 miners.
In 1854 there was an armed rebellion against the government of Victoria by miners protesting against mining taxes (the “Eureka Stockade“). This was crushed by British troops, but some of the leaders of the rebellion subsequently became members of the Victoria Parliament, and the rebellion is regarded as a pivotal moment in the development of Australian democracy.
The first foreign military action by the colony of Victoria was to send troops and a warship to New Zealand as part of the Maori Wars. Troops from New South Wales had previously participated in the Crimean War.
At the beginning of 1901, following a proclamation by Queen Victoria, Victoria ceased to be an independent colony and became a state in the Commonwealth of Australia. Victorian and Tasmanian politicians were particularly active in the Federation process.
As a result of the gold rush, Melbourne became the financial centre of Australia and New Zealand. Between 1901 and 1927, Australia’s Parliament sat in Melbourne while Canberra was under construction. It was also the largest city in Australia at the time, and the second largest city in the Empire (after London).
Victoria’s northern border follows a straight line from Cape Howe to the start of the Murray River and then follows the Murray River as the remainder of the northern border. On the Murray River, the border is the southern bank of the river. The border also rests at the southern end of the Great Dividing Range, which stretches along the east coast and terminates west of Ballarat. It is bordered by South Australia to the west and shares Australia’s shortest land border with Tasmania. The official border between Victoria and Tasmania is at 39°12′ S, which passes through Boundary Islet in the Bass Strait for 85 meters.
Victoria contains many topographically, geologically and climatically diverse areas, ranging from the wet, temperate climate of Gippsland in the southeast to the snow-covered Victorian alpine areas which rise to almost 6,600 feet, with Mount Bogong the highest peak at 6,516 feet. There are extensive semi-arid plains to the west and northwest. There is an extensive series of river systems in Victoria. Most notable is the Murray River system. Other rivers include: Ovens River, Goulburn River, Patterson River, King River, Campaspe River, Loddon River, Wimmera River, Elgin River, Barwon River, Thomson River, Snowy River, Latrobe River, Yarra River, Maribyrnong River, Mitta River, Hopkins River, Merri River and Kiewa River.
The state’s capital, Melbourne, contains about 70% of the state’s population and dominates its economy, media, and culture.
The state of Victoria is the second largest economy in Australia after New South Wales, accounting for a quarter of the nation’s gross domestic product.
Finance and insurance is Victoria’s largest income producing sector, while the health care and social assistance sector is the state’s biggest employer. The shift towards service industries in the preceding decades has seen manufacturing lose its mantle as Victoria’s largest employer and income producer.
More than 10,000 square miles of Victorian farmland are sown for grain, mostly in the state’s west. More than 50% of this area is sown for wheat, 33% for barley and 7% for oats. A further 2,300 square miles is sown for hay. In 2003–04, Victorian farmers produced more than 3 million tonnes of wheat and 2 million tonnes of barley. Victorian farms produce nearly 90% of Australian pears and third of apples. It is also a leader in stone fruit production. The main vegetable crops include asparagus, broccoli, carrots, potatoes and tomatoes. Last year, 121,200 tons of pears and 270,000 tons of tomatoes were produced.
More than 14 million sheep and 5 million lambs graze over 10% of Victorian farms, mostly in the state’s north and west. In 2004, nearly 10 million lambs and sheep were slaughtered for local consumption and export. Victoria also exports live sheep to the Middle East for meat and to the rest of the world for breeding. More than 108,000 tonnes of wool clip was also produced—one-fifth of the Australian total.
Victoria is the center of dairy farming in Australia. It is home to 60% of Australia’s 3 million dairy cattle and produces nearly two-thirds of the nation’s milk, almost 6.4 billion liters. The state also has 2.4 million beef cattle, with more than 2.2 million cattle and calves slaughtered each year. In 2003–04, Victorian commercial fishing crews and aquaculture industry produced 11,634 tonnes of seafood valued at nearly A$109 million. Blacklipped abalone is the mainstay of the catch, bringing in A$46 million, followed by southern rock lobster worth A$13.7 million. Most abalone and rock lobster is exported to Asia.
Victoria has a diverse range of manufacturing enterprises and Melbourne is considered Australia’s most important industrial city. The post-World War II manufacturing boom was fueled by international investment; attracted to the state by the availability of cheap land close to the city and inexpensive energy from the Latrobe Valley. Victoria produced 26.4% of total manufacturing output in Australia in 2015–16, behind New South Wales at 32.4%.
Machinery and equipment manufacturing is the state’s most valuable manufacturing activity, followed by food and beverage products, petrochemicals and chemicals. Prominent manufacturing plants in the state include the Portland and Point Henry aluminium smelters, owned by Alcoa; oil refineries at Geelong and Altona; a major petrochemical facility at Laverton; and Victorian-based CSL, a global biotechnology company that produces vaccines and plasma products, among others. Victoria also plays an important role in providing goods for the defense industry.
Historically, Victoria has been a hub for the manufacturing plants of the major car brands Ford, Toyota and Holden; however, closure announcements by all three companies in the 2010s has meant Australia will completely lose their car manufacturing industry by the end of 2017.
Mining in Victoria contributes around A$6 billion to the gross state product (~2%) but employs less than 1% of workers. The Victorian mining industry is concentrated on energy producing minerals, with brown coal, petroleum and gas accounting for nearly 90% of local production. The oil and gas industries are centered off the coast of Gippsland in the state’s east, while brown coal mining and power generation is based in the Latrobe Valley.
The service industries sector is the fastest growing component of the Victorian economy. It includes the wide range of activities generally classified as financial and professional services; health care and social assistance, education, transportation, IT and communication services, government services and wholesale and retail trade. Most service industries are located in Melbourne and the state’s larger regional centers.
As of 2015–16, service industries employed over three-quarters of Victorian workers and more than three-quarters of the state’s GSP. Finance and insurance as a group provide more value-add to the economy than any other economic activity in Victoria while health care and social assistance employ the most workers.
Victoria has the highest population density in any state in Australia, with population centers spread out over most of the state; only the far northwest and the Victorian Alps lack permanent settlement.
The Victorian road network services the population centers, with highways generally radiating from Melbourne and other major cities and rural centers with secondary roads interconnecting the highways to each other. Many of the highways are built to freeway standard (“M” freeways), while most are generally sealed and of reasonable quality.
Rail transport in Victoria is provided by several private and public railway operators who operate over government-owned lines. Major operators include: Metro Trains Melbourne which runs an extensive, electrified, passenger system throughout Melbourne and suburbs; V/Line which is now owned by the Victorian Government, operates a concentrated service to major regional centers, as well as long distance services on other lines; Great Southern Rail which operates The Overland Melbourne—Adelaide; and NSW TrainLink which operates XPTs Melbourne—Sydney.
Melbourne has the world’s largest tram network, currently operated by Yarra Trams. As well as being a popular form of public transport, over the last few decades trams have become one of Melbourne’s major tourist attractions. There are also tourist trams operating over portions of the former Ballarat and Bendigo systems. There are also tramway museums at Bylands and Haddon.
Melbourne Airport is the major domestic and international gateway for the state. Avalon Airport is the state’s second busiest airport, which complements Essendon and Moorabbin Airports to see the remainder of Melbourne’s air traffic. Hamilton Airport, Mildura Airport, Mount Hotham and Portland Airport are the remaining airports with scheduled domestic flights. There are no fewer than 27 other airports in the state with no scheduled flights.
The Port of Melbourne is the largest port for containerized and general cargo in Australia, and is located in Melbourne on the mouth of the Yarra River, which is at the head of Port Phillip. Additional seaports are at Westernport, Geelong, and Portland.
Flag of Victoria:
The flag of Victoria, symbolizing the state of Victoria in Australia, is a British Blue Ensign defaced by the state badge of Victoria in the fly. The badge is the Southern Cross topped by an imperial crown, which is currently the St Edward’s Crown. The stars of the Southern Cross are white and range from five to eight points with each star having one point pointing to the top of the flag. The flag dates from 1870, with minor variations, the last of which was in 1953. It is the only Australian state flag not to feature the state badge on a round disk.
The first flag of Victoria was adopted in 1870 and was first flown from HMVS Nelson on 9 February 1870.
It too was a defaced British Blue Ensign with the Southern Cross located in the fly. The stars of the Southern Cross were white and had 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9 points with only the leftmost and rightmost stars having one point pointing to the top of the flag. The adoption of the flag came about when Victoria became the first Australian colony to acquire a warship, and thus under the British Colonial Naval Defence Act of 1865 Victoria needed a flag to distinguish its ships from other British ships.
Victoria then adopted the current flag in 1877 with the stars of the southern cross from then on having 5, 6, 7, 7 and 8 points.
The depictions of the crown have varied in accordance with heraldic fashion and the wishes of the monarch of the time. During Queen Victoria’s reign, the crown had slightly dipped arches.
In 1953 the Tudor Crown was replaced with the St Edward’s Crown.