Members Talk to Members and Friends

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This series of talks enabled La Trobe Society members to make presentations on topics that they had researched or in which they had a particular interest, in the field of Victorian colonial development and aspects of life in early Melbourne and beyond.


Sunday June 11

Surveying the Landscape: Robert Russell, Robert Hoddle and the First Plan of Melbourne.
Presenter:  Dr Fay Woodhouse
Robert Russell and Robert Hoddle’s names are inextricably linked as historians have asked: who drew the first plan and layout of Melbourne’s grid of streets? In her talk, Dr Woodhouse considered the issues at stake in the fledgling settlement of Port Phillip and explored the reasons doubt was ever cast on the identity of the author of the early plans of Melbourne.
As part of their legacy, Russell Street and Hoddle Street remind us of the roles the two men played in the establishment of the Melbourne landscape. Yet there is a side of Russell that is generally unknown: Robert Russell was primarily a talented artist. His water-colours and pen and ink drawings record the development of the new settlement of Melbourne from 1836-1900. Russell’s paintings, sketches and portraits evocatively convey an image of early Melbourne many will be surprised by.
The talk was followed by the launch of Patricia Hawkins' Robert Russell: artist of early Melbourne, editor Fay Woodhouse, flier

Sunday July 9

Pioneer Public Health Practitioners in the Port Phillip District
Presenter:  Dr Walter Heale MBBS FRACP
Dr Alexander Thomson was employed by the Port Phillip Association to provide health care to new settlers. Arriving in March 1836, he was briefly employed by Government, resigning to pursue pastoral interests. His temporary replacement was Dr Barry Cotter responsible for the care of military personnel and prisoners, and re-employed in 1840 during the quarantine of the fever ship, the Glen Huntly. In September 1837 Dr Patrick Cussen was appointed Assistant Colonial Surgeon who improved the primitive government hospital, employed a pharmacy assistant, and introduced vaccination. He supported the coroner Dr William Wilmot (appointed in 1841) in establishing the local registration of medical practitioners, becoming the President of the Medical Board. Along with Dr John Patterson he assessed the health of shiploads of immigrants, and was instrumental in establishing the Yarra Bend Asylum. The outcome was an 1854 Act establishing a public health system headed by a Chief Medical Officer.
YouTube video

Dr William Wilmot

Sunday August 13

Captain ‘Old King’ Cole: from Port Phillip Pioneer to Victorian Patriarch
Presenter:  John Botham
The talk provided a view of early Melbourne life through Captain George Ward Cole, who arrived in 1840 following a career in the Royal Navy during the Napoleonic Wars, and in the merchant marine.
He was prominent in early Melbourne society, controversially marrying into the McCrae family and building one of the first houses in Brighton, St Ninian's, where Edward La Trobe Bateman was employed on the garden. Cole built the first private wharf on the Yarra, known as Cole’s Wharf, and developed shipping facilities in Port Phillip, providing sea transport both locally and to other colonies. He was a leader in the development of Melbourne and was a respected politician, serving on the Legislative Council for 20 years.
Although he had seven children, none married and his memory died out with them. The talk enabled the rediscovery of this virtually forgotten patriarch of early Melbourne.
YouTube video

Sunday September 10

La Trobe and the Cape Otway Lighthouse
Presenter:  Tim Gatehouse
This talk related the critical role played by La Trobe in the establishment of the Cape Otway Lighthouse. It covered the growing awareness of the colonial and imperial governments and the colonists themselves of the need for increased maritime safety in Bass Strait, and the catastrophe which made the construction of lighthouses imperative. La Trobe’s interaction with the other colonial governments, the discontented Port Phillip residents, and officials responsible for carrying out his directions were dealt with, as well as his personal involvement in leading expeditions to locate an overland route to Cape Otway and in the selection of the staff for surveying, constructing and maintaining the lighthouse. His arduous journeys across Victoria were traced, as well as the tragic consequences the European penetration of the Otway Ranges had for the Aboriginal inhabitants.
YouTube video



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