Australasia 1851: Colony of Victoria
Following a decade of settler pressure, the Port Phillip District was separated from New South Wales as the new Colony of Victoria in 1851. At the same time, discoveries of gold north of Melbourne sparked what would soon become one of the largest gold rushes of the nineteenth century. Within just three years Victoria would overtake New South Wales to become the most populous colony in Australasia—a position it would hold until 1892—and for a brief period Melbourne would be the second largest city in the British Empire after London.
4 Dec 1849–4 Aug 1852 Hardwicke settlement▲
In 1846 the British Southern Whale Fishery Company was established by the granting of a Royal Charter to Charles Enderby to operate a whaling base and agricultural settlement in the Auckland Islands. Three years later Enderby—who had been appointed Lieutenant Governor of his intended colony—led over 200 settlers to the islands where, to their surprise, they discovered that the Māori tribe of Ngāti Mutunga had already settled both Enderby Island and Auckland Island. Enlisting the Ngāti Mutunga chiefs as constables, Enderby built the settlement of Hardwicke at Port Ross, but found both agriculture and whaling on the islands disappointing. In 1852 Hardwicke was abandoned and the British settlers shipped out to Sydney.
24 Dec 1849 End of convict era in New South Wales▲
In December 1849—after depositing 40 men at Hobart and being refused entry to Port Phillip (Melbourne)—the Adelaide arrived in Sydney, capital of the British colony New South Wales, with a shipment of convicts from England. By now the practice had become increasingly condemned in the colony, with up to 8,000 Sydneysiders having joined an anti-transportation rally at Circular Quay earlier that year. In the face of this increasing political pressure, Britain made no further shipments, officially abolishing the transportation of convicts to New South Wales in October 1850.
10 Jan 1851–1869 Victorian Gold Rush▲
In the first half of 1851 the first discoveries of gold north of Melbourne were announced—at Clunes, Andersons Creek, and Buninyong—luring increasing numbers of prospectors to the new colony of Victoria by early July. Even bigger finds were soon made at Ballarat and Bendigo, triggering what would be by far the biggest gold rush in Australasia and the second largest in the nineteenth century (after California). The rush would last into the late 1860s, transforming both Victoria and Australia—whose populations would respectively rise from 97,489 and 437,665 in 1851 to 539,764 and 1,168,149 a decade later.
12 Feb 1851–1862 New South Wales Gold Rush▲
Initial discoveries of gold in the British colonies of Australia had been suppressed to prevent disruption among the convict and new settler populations. However, when the California Gold Rush started in 1848 and began drawing people in from Australia, the colonial government of New South Wales offered rewards for finds of payable gold. In February 1851 gold was discovered near Bathurst, leading to a gold rush in inland New South Wales which would help increase the colony’s population from 197,265 in 1851 to 357,362 a decade later.
23 Apr 1851 Ngāti Pāoa Invasion of Auckland▲
Following a scuffle between some Ngāti Pāoa tribesmen and the police in Auckland, New Zealand, around 400 of their fellow Māori crossed the Hauraki Gulf in some 20 waka (canoes) and landed at Mechanics Bay. However, Governor George Grey had received warning and met them with local troops and the British frigate, HMS Fly. After some tension, the Māori bowed to the governor’s authority, dragging their waka back to the water—it was now low tide—and returning to their homes.
1 Jul 1851 Colony of Victoria▲
The first petition for the separation of Port Phillip District from the British colony of New South Wales occurred in 1840 but was rejected by Governor Gipps. Pressure from the Port Phillip colonists continued and in 1849 the Australian Constitutions Act 1850 received royal assent, allowing for the separation of Port Phillip District from NSW as the Colony of Victoria. The new colony came into existence on 1 July 1851, with the first lieutenant-governor, Charles La Trobe, taking up his post two weeks later.