State Library Victoria > La Trobe Journal

No 80 Spring 2007


Shane Carmody
John Batman's Place in the Village

This will be the place for a Village — The natives on shore
John Batman, Journal, Monday, 8 June 1835


John Batman, disfigured by syphilis and crippled, died a lonely death on 6 May 1839. Alienated from his wife who had left for England at his expense in February, and separated from his children who were in the care of a governess, his only attendants were his Sydney Aboriginal servants. His remains were buried two days later in an unmarked grave in the Melbourne cemetery, established just two years before on the site of what is now the Queen Victoria Market. The man who reputedly proclaimed himself to be ‘the greatest landowner in the world’ in the public houses of Launceston, and with ambitions for a pastoral empire secured in part by a form of agreement with the indigenous inhabitants, seemed destined to be remembered only in the legal disputes which ensued over his heavily indebted and mortgaged estate.
In October a more secure form of government for the new settlement was established and Charles Joseph La Trobe, together with his wife, young daughter and prefabricated house, arrived to take up the office of Superintendent of the Port Phillip District of New South Wales. In November he was joined by another educated and cultured man, who was to become an unlikely ally in the cultural improvement of the primitive settler-community. Redmond Barry had set sail from Ireland with the ambition of securing a grant of land to become a squatter in New South Wales. Famously, his affair with a married woman on the voyage doomed him to be shunned by the Governor and Sydney society, so he made his way south to the village on the muddy banks of the Yarra.
Forty years later Melbourne had grown from a village to a thriving city and a marvel. It was the capital of a colony established in its own right on 1 July 1851 and transformed soon after by the discovery of gold and the wealth that followed. Before he left the colony in 1854 La Trobe made provision for the land, and funds from gold revenue, to establish a University and a Public Library. Redmond Barry, appointed as Judge of the newly constituted Supreme Court of Victoria in 1852, was made Chancellor of the University and President of Trustees for the Library.
Barry's ambition for the Library was that it should be second only to the British Museum, and he set out to bring to the new community the latest editions of the most
authoritative texts. While this reflects an imperial awareness, he was just as concerned to build a record of colonial progress and development. In this he was both a creator and a collector of Australiana. Works were commissioned, and others made for exhibitions found their way into the collection. Barry successfully lobbied for a system of legal deposit, and in 1869 legislation was passed requiring a copy of every Victorian pamphlet, newspaper, map and book to be placed in the Library. He also sought the records of the exploration and settlement of Port Phillip, and by building a contemporary collection as well as one from the earliest settlers, he enshrined in the Library his canon of Victoria's history. In this he found John Batman a place, but it is a place that has changed through time.1


In May 1879 the now Sir Redmond Barry, KB, KCMG devoted one of his monthly displays of the Library collection to items of Australian interest. Many greats were on show. John Gould's Birds of Australia (the most expensive item from the Library's first book order) and his Mammals of Australia; South Australia Illustrated and New Zealand Illustrated by G. F. Angus; and Eugene von Guerard's Australian Landscapes, comprising 24 hand-tinted lithographs made by the artist, were just some of the illustrated books. These were joined by the more pedestrian 112 volumes of Victorian Pamphlets, remarkable in the eyes of the Argus in that they covered ‘…only a quarter of a century’, and the large collection of similar volumes for the other Australian colonies and New Zealand.2
Manuscript items were also on display, including letters written to La Trobe from early colonists in response to his request for accounts of their experiences in settling the land. He had intended to use these letters as sources for a history that he hoped to write, but age, infirmity and failing eyesight defeated him. They were presented to the Library in 1872 by his Melbourne agent, James Graham (who had also arrived in 1839), and form the origins of what is now known as the La Trobe Australian Manuscript Collection. In a touching letter to La Trobe thanking him for the gift, Barry reported on a dinner with Graham and twenty other guests at the Melbourne Club: ‘…of the number two only fell short of thirty years residence in the country — on such an occasion, as you may well conclude, olden times and doings were freely discussed and your name was often mentioned.’ The letter must have been of some comfort to La Trobe who died three years later. Explorers also had their place. Items from the archive of the Victorian Exploring Expedition (better known by the names of its leaders, Burke and Wills) presented to the Library in 1874 by the Royal Society of Victoria, were on view, as was an extract from the logbook of the Lady Nelson, the first British vessel to enter Port Phillip, which had been presented to the Library by F. B. Labilliere. Matthew Flinders' account of his expedition to the Furneaux Islands in Bass Strait rounded out this section. On the recommendation of J. J. Shillinglaw, who spent many years researching a biography of the great navigator, Barry acquired the item from Flinders' daughter during his 1877 visit to England. There was even
an album of ‘Fawknerana’ including speeches, clippings, issues of the Melbourne Advertiser, and letters from this redoubtable founder of the settlement, gathered together and bound by the Library.3
One key figure missing in the growing pantheon was John Batman. James Bonwick, schoolmaster and historian, published his Discovery and Settlement of Port Phillip in 1856. This told the story of all attempts at settlement and displayed an intimate knowledge of the Journal that John Batman had kept during his exploration of Port Phillip in May and June of 1835. Batman had undertaken this voyage as a member of the Port Phillip Association, a group of Tasmanian businessmen and pastoralists seeking to expand to new lands across Bass Strait. Bonwick used the Journal as evidence of a worthy motive for the treaties Batman signed with the Aboriginal people, and for his visionary identification of the place for a village. This was followed in 1857 by a shorter work, Early Days of Melbourne. Redmond Barry, aware of the existence of the Journal, attempted to acquire it for the Library. A clipping from an as yet unidentified newspaper is pasted to the inside of the first leaf of the Journal and identifies the owner as ‘Mr. Wm. Weire, Town Clerk of Geelong who married a Miss Batman.’ The article continues: ‘Sir Redmond Barry is anxious that the custodianship of the work should be transferred to authorities of the Melbourne Library, and that the M.S. should be richly bound and shown at the approaching exhibition.’ But to which exhibition does the clipping refer? Barry was most closely involved with the 1866 Intercolonial Exhibition until his resignation almost on the eve of its opening. The 1872 and 1875 Exhibitions in Melbourne were really displays of the Victorian contribution to the Vienna Universal Exhibition in 1873 and the Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia in 1876 respectively. Barry was present as the Victorian Commissioner in Philadelphia, but after most of the exhibits were lost through shipwreck, drawing scorn and ridicule from the local press, he had no further involvement in such endeavours. It is likely, then, that Barry had wanted the Journal for the 1866 Exhibition, and he failed in his attempt. Bonwick, meanwhile, sealed Batman's place in legend with his 1867 publication, John Batman the Founder of Victoria, dedicating the profits of the work to the grandsons of Batman, the children of William Weire.4
In June 1879, perhaps prompted by reports of the display of Australiana the month before, the merchant J. B. Were wrote to Barry on behalf of Richard Ocock, sometime lawyer to the Were brothers, and the estate of John Batman. On offer were Batman's copies of the Geelong Deed and the Melbourne Deed. Drawn up in triplicate, they were intended to provide a legitimising basis in the eyes of colonial authorities for pastoral expansion into ‘Australia Felix’ by the Port Phillip Association; and, by annual tribute to the indigenous inhabitants of the Bellarine Peninsula and the Yarra Valley, provide some basis for a more peaceful settlement than had been achieved in Tasmania. Historian Richard Broome sees Batman's act as heralding ‘the invasion of Port Phillip’ and as a ‘swindle and hoax’, but acknowledges that ‘…it was the only treaty ever offered Aboriginal people in Australia and

The Batman Deed 1835. MS 13484. La Trobe Australian Manuscripts Collection.

for some fleeting moments it created an air of reciprocity: albeit an extremely one-sided arrangement.’ The documents were promptly rejected by the Governor in Sydney and the Colonial Office as inimical to the doctrine of terra nullius and therefore a threat to the Crown monopoly over land. Despite this, the Melbourne Deed was reproduced in the very first book printed in Port Phillip in 1840. Latest Information with Regard to Australia Felix by George Arden was a guide to prospective settlers, and by including the Deed Arden made an early claim for Batman as the founder of the settlement.5
In his letter to Barry Were explained that
The owner is poor and has a lien on them for £60, but would take anything reasonable if you would like to make an offer for them for deposit in the Archives of the Public Library or any other public institution.
Barry's reply the following month properly pointed out that he needed to take the matter to the Trustees as a whole and asked for some verification of the authenticity of the items. He then stated: ‘They have no value whatsoever except as a peculiar kind of evidence of a remarkable transaction.’ The bartering over the next few months saw the price finally settled in November 1879 at £5. The low price and Barry's dismissive comment needs careful interpretation. Barry was a ‘black-letter lawyer’ and for him these relics of a failed attempt at a treaty would have no legal worth; besides, he often drove a hard bargain, as William Stallard found when he sold the Library his set of Audubon's Birds of America.6
Barry died in the following year, but his interest in Batman was taken up by other community leaders. Speaking at a dinner held in Kyneton in April 1880, Sir William

The Melbourne Deed

Know all Persons that We Three Brothers Jagajaga, Jagajaga, Jagajaga, being the Principal Chiefs, and also Cooloolock / Bungarie, Yanyan, Moowhip and Mommarmalar / being the Chiefs of a certain Native Tribe called Dutigallar situate at and near Port Phillip, Called / by us. The above mentioned Chiefs Iramoo being possessed of the tract of Land hereinafter mentioned for and in consideration of Twenty Pair of Blankets, Thirty / Tomahawks, One Hundred Knives [two illegible words] Scissors, Thirty Looking Glasses, Two Hundred Handkerchiefs, and one Hundred Pounds of Flour, and Six Shirts / delivered to Us by John Batman residing in Van Diemens Land Esquire but at present sojourning with us and our Tribe Do for ourselves our / Heirs and Successors Give Grant Enfeoff and confirm unto the said John Batman his heirs and assigns All that tract of Country situate and being at Port Phillip, Runing / from the branch of the River at the top of the Port about 7 Miles from the mouth of the River, Forty Miles North East and from thence — West. Forty Miles across Iramoo / Downs or Plains and from thence South South West across Mount Vilanmarnartar to Geelong Harbour at the head of the same / and containing about Five Hundred Thousand more or less Acres as the same hath been before the execution of these presents delineated and marked out by Us according to the custom of our Tribe / by certain marks made upon the Trees growing along the boundaries of the said Tract of Land To hold the said Tract of Land, with all advantages belonging thereto unto and / To the Use of the said John Batman his heirs and assigns for ever To the Intent that the said John Batman his heirs and assigns may occupy and possess the / said tract of Land and place thereon Sheep and Cattle Yielding and delivering to us and our heirs or successors the yearly Rent or Tribute of One Hundred Pair of / Blankets, One Hundred Knives, One Hundred Tomahawks, Fifty Suits of Clothing Fifty Looking glasses, Fifty Pair Scissors and Five Tons Flour In Witness / whereof We Jagajaga, Jagajaga, Jagajaga, the above mentioned Principal Chiefs, and Cooloolock, Bungarie, Yanyan, Moowhip & Mommarmalar the Chiefs of / the said Tribe have hereunto affixed our seals to these presents and have signed the same Dated according to the Christian Aera this Sixth day of June / One thousand eight hundred and thirty five /
John Batman. Transcript of the Batman Deed (Melbourne) with original line breaks. 6 June 1835. MS 13484. La Trobe Australian Manuscripts Collection. The original images and transcript can be viewed online at

J.W. Lindt, photographer. Gathering at unveiling of Batman memorial. Gelatin silver photograph. Shillinglaw Papers (Box 57). Australian Manuscripts Collection

Mitchell, President of the Legislative Council, gave an account of the settlement of the colony and remarked:
Batman who was the great discoverer and benefactor of this country, now rests in an unknown grave, and no proposal has ever been made to erect a monument to his memory. The country owes a debt of gratitude to Batman for his services in opening up the country.
Mitchell touched a chord, and within a space of two weeks, aided by the energy of J. J. Shillinglaw, a fund was established to raise money for a monument to Batman. The Committee included many of the colony's leaders: Baron Von Mueller, Sir John O'Shanassy, William Clarke, George Coppin, and James Bonwick. Shillinglaw was the secretary and enlisted the help of his friends. Samuel Calvert donated a sketch of a man paying homage to an unmarked grave which, slightly modified to make the man older and holding the hand of a small boy, became the masthead of the subscriber sheets distributed throughout the colony and Tasmania. Batman's surviving daughter, now resident in England, was an early subscriber with a gift of £10, and his son-in-law William Weire, still Town Clerk in Geelong, became an enthusiastic supporter.
The monument was unveiled over the grave on Saturday, 3 June 1882, in the presence of surviving pioneers, William Weire and his sons. The Lord Mayor, Alderman C. J. Ham, spoke at the unveiling, and announced that he had, on the advice of James Bonwick,
acquired for the Public Library Batman's Journal, which Weire had proposed to sell on the London market. Ham paid Weire £40 for the Journal, and had a binding made, ‘…but so as not to interfere with the manuscript’ and in November he presented the Journal together with items related to James Cook to the Library.7

Front cover of John Batman's journal 1835. MS 13181. La Trobe Australian Manuscripts Collection.


The Batman documents became items of curiosity and features in exhibitions and displays. In 1896 the Library played host to the first inter-colonial conference of librarians. The conference opened on 21 April with a gathering of over 600 in the presence of the Governor, Lord Brassey, and the President of the Conference, Sir John Madden. Over the following two days, between papers on topics as diverse as libraries from the reader's point of view, and the decimal classification of Dewey, delegates and members of the public could visit an exhibition of ‘Old, Rare and Curious Books, Manuscripts, Autographs, Examples of Binding etc.’ in the McArthur Gallery. Of the 507 items on show, 281 were from the Melbourne Public Library, with loans from private individuals, the libraries of Melbourne University and Ormond College and the Public Library of New South Wales (which sent its copy of the first folio of Shakespeare). In a note in the catalogue the Chief Librarian, Edmund LaTouche Armstrong, explained that the exhibits were grouped by lender and not in any thematic way as he had only three days ‘for the compiling and printing of the catalogue and placing of the exhibits’. The Melbourne Library's collection of Australian manuscripts was on view with an arch little note in the catalogue for items 186 and 187:
This document and the preceding one are originals of the two agreements made by Batman with the blacks and drawn up by him in triplicate in 1835. It was comparatively recently stated in the Press that the British Museum had acquired the original “Title Deeds of Melbourne”. The fact was that they had purchased one of the three originals.
The press responded to the exhibition by commenting more on the books on display, with the Argus journalist noting that they were ‘…purchased in years gone by when money was plentiful and when utilitarian considerations did not exclusively control the selection of books for the Public Library.’ Although the same journalist did note that Batman's deeds
were the instruments by which half a million acres were conveyed ‘…in consideration of sundry blankets, tomahawks, pairs of scissors, looking glasses and so forth.’8
Ten years later a similar exhibition was mounted to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Library and to accompany a celebration to mark the opening of the extension to the Natural History Museum in Russell Street. This exhibition had 465 exhibits, with 167 items of Australiana including the Library's key manuscript items, among which were the Batman documents. An indigenous voice appeared in the form of the sketchbooks of Tommy McCrae. In a note in the catalogue Armstrong remarked that
The early views of the city of Melbourne and the manuscript documents connected with its history are beginning to acquire an interest which must increase in the future. The Trustees hope to obtain more historical records from time to time, and no effort will be spared on their part to strengthen the collection in this respect.
Speaking at the opening the President of the Trustees, Henry Gyles Turner, reminded the Premier and guests that twenty years before when the Library opened Barry Hall his predecessor had predicted the need for another wing within two years. The need was now pressing, and the Trustees had proposed to the Government funding for a great domed library with room for 500 readers and a million books, modelled on the recently completed Library of Congress. In the following year the Government provided an initial grant of £10,000 and Armstrong's great building project began.9
The new Library with its closed stacks required a different organisation of the collection, and Armstrong implemented the Dewey system. The project went on beyond the opening of the Dome in 1913; in April 1914 Armstrong recommended the establishment of a Victorian Historical Museum and the Trustees allocated the old newspaper room in the basement of the Buvelot Gallery for the purpose. In his memoir Armstrong described the collection as a ‘…miscellaneous collection of portraits of Governors, politicians and other public men prominent in the affairs of Victoria in its early days’, together with ‘…models of ships and nuggets, the first printing press used in Melbourne, and other objects illustrating the early settlement of Port Phillip.’ There is a sense that these were the oddments left over from the Dewey classification or discards from the finer Art collection growing steadily with the aid of the Felton Bequest. The outbreak of war halted this expansion and the space, far from being a display area, became storage for these orphans.10
Shillinglaw died in 1905 and Bonwick in 1906; but new impetus to honour Batman came with the formation of the Historical Society of Victoria in 1909. His monument in the Old Melbourne Cemetery (so-called since the opening of the Melbourne General Cemetery in 1853) became the focus of commemorations of the pioneers. In 1913 the Historical Society successfully lobbied the City Council to rename Yarra Bank Road as Batman Avenue, but his grave became the subject of an argument. The old cemetery occupied valuable land at the fringe of the city close to the intersection of the main northern and western roads. As early as 1877 part of the section allocated to Jewish and Aboriginal graves was removed for
a new market, and by 1917 pressure for a complete resumption of the site for this purpose resulted in legislation and the initial removal of graves to a New Melbourne General Cemetery, established in 1906 in farmland on the railway line north of the city. Opposition to this ‘desecration’ came from the Anglican Archbishop Henry Lowther Clarke and Rabbi Dr Joseph Abrahams, but soon had a less conventional leader.
In 1918 Isaac Selby formed the Old Cemetery and Soldiers Memorial Union. Selby had migrated from New Zealand in 1882, establishing a precarious existence as a lecturer on religious and historical themes. In the 1890s he moved with his family to San Francisco pursuing an interest in spiritualism. He returned to Melbourne on his own to stand as a candidate for the first Federal parliament and on losing returned to America. Suspicious of his wife's relationship with the leader of the Universal Spiritual Association, he sought a divorce, and when the judge presiding over the case found in her favour he drew his pistol and fired a shot at him. He missed, and spent the next seven years in a lunatic asylum. Released in 1910 on the condition that he returned to Australia, he resumed his interest in history and public speaking. In the preface to his Old Pioneers Memorial History of Melbourne Selby explained that he had learnt the value of cemeteries as historical records from his visit to the Lone Hill Cemetery in San Francisco, and he had a firm belief in the undeniable veracity of inscriptions on headstones. Selby brought a sense of ‘manifest destiny’ to his reading of Victorian history and transposed the confidence of one golden city to another. He combined enthusiasm for saving the cemetery with ambition for an Australian Westminster Abbey on Flagstaff Hill to commemorate the pioneers and the war dead. The Returned Servicemen preferred the more stable leadership of Sir John Monash so he focused his attention on the pioneers. His advocacy failed; and the remaining graves, including that of Batman, were transferred in 1922. Selby then argued that Batman's Memorial should be placed on Flagstaff Hill but the City Council preferred the recommendation of the Historical Society and it was moved to Batman Avenue. His Old Pioneers Memorial Fund moved their annual commemorations to Batman's new grave in the cemetery that had long since adopted the name of its railway station: Fawkner. On January 27 1924 a new obelisk paid for by the City Council was erected over the grave and dedicated by Batman's great-grandson, and in the following year the pavement of Flinders Street in front of the Customs House was graced with the Batman Stone. Proposed by Colonel Richard Crouch, a member of the Historical Society, and paid for by him, it was set near to the spot where Batman supposedly proclaimed the place for a village.11
In 1929 the Library moved the Historical Museum from storage in the Buvelot basement to display in the mezzanine in Barry Hall. Opened by the Lieutenant-Governor, Sir William Irvine, the exhibition was augmented with loans organised by the Historical Society of Victoria and was refreshed at regular intervals with changing displays. In 1931 it was moved to the ground floor of the newly completed McAllan wing. In a talk on 3AW on Sunday, 11 December 1932, Chief Librarian Ernest Pitt explained its purpose. While

Isaac Selby speaking at Batman's memorial. Photo undated but taken between 1917–1922. MS 7853. La Trobe Australian Manuscripts Collection.

teaching art or music of only local origin would be parochial, the purpose of teaching history was different. Knowledge of universal history was desirable, ‘…but knowledge of the history of one's own country is essential if one is to have an intelligent understanding of the problems which (we) have to face.’ For Pitt the purpose of the historical collection and its exhibition was to make the learning of history ‘…much more interesting and efficient by the ability to trace by means of documents, pictures, plans and photographs, the various landmarks of our history’. He then traces through this history the early maps of Australia showing Tasmania joined to the mainland, the extract of the journal of the Lady Nelson, a photostatic reproduction of the first day's orders at the settlement at Sullivan's Cove (carefully explaining that the originals were housed at the Public Record Office in London) to the first permanent settlements by Henty and Batman. Batman's Journal and the treaties were key exhibits, as was the depiction of the signing of the treaty in the painting by J. W. Burtt, on loan from Mr B. Worsley. For Pitt:
A quiet pride in the achievements of our Melbourne pioneers should not, I suggest, be allowed to develop in our children into an exaggerated form of hero-worship. There is plenty of time and there will be plenty of opportunities in the future, for our William Tells and our Kosciuskos [sic] to appear, and it is, I think, positively harmful for our youth to imagine, as they are apt to do, that Freedom shrieked when Edward Kelly fell.12
Pitt and his colleagues worked hard to develop an even grander display for the centenary celebrations, where pride in pioneers, and especially Batman, reached a new

Percy Trompf, artist. This will be the place for a village: Victoria and Melbourne Centenary Celebrations. 1934. Colour lithograph. H90.105/29. La Trobe Picture Collection.

volume. Scheduled to begin in October 1934 to mark the Henty settlement, the celebrations were to continue until the Batman and Fawkner anniversaries in 1935. History was celebrated in many forms — ‘Cook's Cottage’ was brought to Melbourne by Russell Grimwade, Pioneer Women were given a commemorative garden in the Domain, and a new leadlight window was installed in the foyer of the Town Hall contrasting images of Batman's landing with the modern city. Batman was also depicted in a famous poster designed by Percy Trompf as a ghostly figure looking over the city that had replaced his predicted village. The Library exhibition was opened on 16 October 1934 by the President of Trustees, the Revd Dr. E. H. Sugden. Comprising items from the collection and loans, it occupied the ground and first floors of the McAllan wing. Organised chronologically, it included a Cobb and Co. Coach and the first Melbourne Cable Tram and traced developments up to the 1880s. Batman was there in the documents, the Burtt painting and Frederick Woodhouse's The First Settlers discover Buckley. For visitors wanting a souvenir, reproductions of the Melbourne and Geelong Deeds could be had for ‘eighteen pence the set of two’.13
The Centenary exhibition remained in place until July 1935 when it was reduced to a smaller display on the ground floor. In 1941 the threat of war saw the loan exhibits returned to their owners and the remaining items packed away for storage in the basement of the Dome. In 1944 the conglomerate Library, Museums and National Gallery of Victoria was dissolved and separate trusts were established for each institution. The Library was to remain on the original site, rebuilt to modern standards, and the formal transfer of the historical collection to its care cemented its role as the keeper of the State's memory.
Another centenary, this time of Separation from New South Wales, prompted renewed public interest in history. A committee was established by the Premier to devise appropriate celebrations and early in its deliberations settled on a proposal from Professor R. M. (Max) Crawford of the University of Melbourne for a special Library named for La Trobe and devoted to the Australian collections. The proposal was to emulate the Mitchell Library in Sydney and to serve in Crawford's view ‘not only historical students, but creative students in all fields who wish to draw inspiration from their own country.’ The committee worked hard to keep the project alive through changing governments and achieved the setting of a foundation stone for a La Trobe Library on Monday, 2 July 1951, on the Latrobe Street side of the Library site. The stone was inscribed as ‘commemorating the courage and the enterprise of the Pioneers,’ and the invitation to the ceremony listed the key manuscripts forming the ‘basis of this great collection’, the first of which was Batman's Journal.14


Batman and his village have had an uneasy relationship, as witnessed by changing representations in public art. His portrait is included in a curious Napier Waller mosaic (now hidden behind a false wall) of eight Aboriginal elders supporting nine representations of Victoria's pioneers. Commissioned by Commercial Union Insurance in 1963, it was placed in the foyer of their offices in Temple Court on Collins Street. Fifteen years later the City Council had Stanley Hammond create sculptures of Batman and Fawkner for the forecourt of the National Mutual building just over the road. These show youthful and purposeful pioneers, but the plaque that accompanies the sculptures disguises as much as it reveals. Revised in 1994, it makes no mention of Batman's or Fawkner's convict connections or their vexatious relationship and even describes the abandoned convict settlement at Sorrento more heroically as an ‘expedition’. A smaller plaque next to it makes the patriotic claim for Batman that he was ‘The only Australian born citizen to found an Australian Capital City.’ In 1992 the City Council moved Batman's memorial from Batman Avenue back to the Queen Victoria Market, where it now stands (minus its rear section) at the north-east corner of the car park. Another plaque was added to the monument. The original inscription states that the site of settlement chosen by Batman was ‘then unoccupied’ and the new plaque explains that ‘It is now clear that prior to the colonisation of Victoria, the land was inhabited and used by Aboriginal people’. Both the original and the new
conveniently ignore Batman's observation of ‘natives on the shore’ in his journal note of a site for a village, and the fact that his treaties are a unique colonial acknowledgement of prior ownership.

Programme for the Great Memorial Service, 25 May 1919. MS 7853. La Trobe Australian Manuscripts Collection.

By 1994 any sense of reverence was replaced with post-modern humour. The sculpture, The businessmen who brought their own lunch: Batman, Swanston and Hoddle by Alison Weaver and Paul Quinn, and donated by the people of Nauru in commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the City of Melbourne, consists of three very thin and startled looking men in suits on the south west corner of Bourke and Swanston Streets. Revision and postmodern combine in another City Council commission completed the following year. The Another View Walking Trail — Pathway of the Rainbow Serpent was created by Ray Thomas, a member of the Gunnai (Gippsland) people and Megan Evans. Conceived as an ‘exploration of the complex relationship between Aborigines and European settlers’, the trail is accompanied by a booklet which describes the significance of 17 sites around Melbourne, 13 of which have new artworks installed as counterpoints to the traditional interpretation. The Batman Memorial at Queen Victoria Market is number three and the Batman Stone on Flinders Street is number eight. Here another plaque has been placed in the pavement representing Simon, a Wurrundjeri man, who threatened to kill the first settlers in 1835.15
Settler communities demand a founder, for foundation stories help define the moment at which history begins. For much of Australia these stories start with decisions made in a distant country and are muddied by the convict stain. Melbourne was different. Founded in defiance of restriction, proposed on the faint hope of a treaty, it was a new beginning. Mythologised Batman is the inspirational founder. Deconstructed Batman is the personification of a rampant capitalism. Isaac Selby, drawing on Bonwick and proclaiming beneath the monument championed by Shillinglaw, maintained that ‘Batman had the ideal. He dreamt before he acted…He had a vision and therefore is the true founder of Victoria.’ In stark contrast, Jeff and Jill Sparrow in their book Radical Melbourne see his ‘pioneering

David Marks, photographer. The businessmen who brought their own lunch: Batman, Swanston and Hoddle; sculpture by Alison Weaver and Paul Quinn. Photographed in location at the south-west corner of Bourke and Swanston Streets, Melbourne.

expedition’ as ‘motivated by nothing more noble than the desire for personal enrichment…’ and note that ‘the “treaty” Batman claimed to sign with the local Aborigines was regarded by many at the time as transparent cover for a gigantic land-grab.’ But what if we allow Batman an ambiguous place as a liminal figure caught between the certainty of his boat and the native shore? In 1997 the City Council commissioned the sculptor Fiona Foley and the sound artist Chris Knowles to create a piece to commemorate the Reconciliation Conference. Installed in front of the Town Hall, the sculpture consists of seven oblong pillars of smooth-faced sandstone inscribed in turn with the names of the items detailed as tribute in the treaties. Accompanied by the sounds of the bush, with occasional calls of coo-ee or low voices in Wurrundjeri, Foley saw the sculpture as posing questions: ‘How do we reconcile an exchange of functional and non functional goods in return for 600,000 acres of land and a yearly rent that was not honoured? As the history was written by the victors it is only now that the silent history of the indigenous populations is given a voice’. For Knowles, ‘In the midst of the chaos that has overtaken the land of the Wurrundjeri, this installation stands as a zone of reflection, contemplation and consideration.’ Despite the solidity of the stone, this monument, like the chance for reconciliation, was momentary. The sculpture was removed and is now installed in a below-ground courtyard between the car park and the steel and glass of the Melbourne Museum — more exhibit than experience.16
The Library continues to exhibit the Batman documents in the Changing Face of Victoria and has digitised them, together with pamphlets by Bonwick and Selby, enabling visitors on site and online to make their own interpretation. The City Council, it would seem, has no place now for Batman as the founder of Melbourne. The Batman Stone has been removed from the pavement on Flinders Street, and the official founding moment is the arrival of the Enterprise on 30 August 1835, commemorated with a park named for the vessel and annual events around Melbourne Day. Captain John Lancey, George Evans, William Jackson, Robert Hay Marr, Charles Wise, his wife Mary, and Evan Evans, who were on board, are now the founders — but hardly household names.17


I would like to record my thanks to Gerard Hayes, Shona Dewar, Des Cowley and Sandra Burt for their assistance in guiding my research for this article.


See relevant entries in the Australian Dictionary of Biography: P. L. Brown, ‘Batman, John (1801–1839)’, vol. 1, 1966, pp 67–71; Jill Eastwood, ‘La Trobe, Charles Joseph (1801–1875)’, vol. 2, 1967, pp 89–93; Peter Ryan, ‘Barry, Sir Redmond (1813–1880)’, vol. 3, 1969, pp 108–111.
For a critical account of the Library's collecting policy and Barry's collecting practice, see David McVilly, ‘The Acquisitions Policy of the State Library of Victoria 1853–1880’, La Trobe Library Journal, no. 7, April 1971, and same author, ‘”Something to Blow About”? — The State Library of Victoria, 1856–1880’, La Trobe Library Journal, no. 8, October 1971, pp. 81–90.


The Argus, 3 May 1879.
Redmond Barry, ‘On Binding’, in E. B. Nicholson and H. T. Tedder, eds, Transactions and Proceedings of the Conference of Librarians held in London October 1877, London, Trübner and Co., 1878.


Letter quoted in C. E. Sayers, ‘Preface’ to Letters from Victorian Pioneers, Melbourne, Currey O'Neil, 1983, p. vii.
Burke and Wills donation recorded in Armstrong, Book of the Public Library 1856–1906, p. 35.
Tony Marshall, ‘The Australian Manuscript Collection’, La Trobe Library Journal, nos. 47 and 48, 1991, pp 76–80. For Flinders donation, see Geoffrey C. Ingleton, Matthew Flinders — Navigator and Chartmaker, London, Genesis Publications Limited in association with Hedley Australia, 1986, p. xx.


James Bonwick, Discovery and Settlement of Port Phillip being a history of the country now called Victoria up to the arrival of Mr Superintendent LaTrobe in October 1839, Melbourne, George Robertson, 1856; Early Days of Melbourne, Melbourne, James Blundell, 1857; John Batman the Founder of Victoria, Melbourne, Fergusson and Moore, 1868.
See also Henry Field Gurner, Chronicle of Port Phillip now the Colony of Victoria, Melbourne, George Robertson, 1876, for a more critical reading of the Batman accounts and their many inconsistencies.
MS 13181. John Batman, Journal, 10 May – 11 June 1835.
On Barry and Exhibitions, see Des Cowley, ‘Redeeming an Obligation: Aboriginal Culture at the 1866 Exhibition’, The La Trobe Journal, No. 73, Autumn 2004, pp. 113–120; and Ann Gabally, Redmond Barry — An Anglo-Irish Australian, Melbourne University Press, 1995, p. 181.
Barry must have sought the Journal for a local event; the items on display in international exhibitions were usually donated to local collections — the Vienna exhibits stayed in that city and the Philadelphia exhibits were destined for the Smithsonian.
Weire was Town Clerk in Geelong from 1850 to his death in 1884. In 1853 he married Elizabeth Mary Batman, who died on 27 January 1864.


Richard Broome ‘Tracing the Humanitarian Strain in Black-White Encounters’, La Trobe Journal, no. 43, Autumn 1989, p. 37.
George Arden, Latest Information with regard to Australia Felix: the finest province of the great territory of New South Wales; including the history, geography, natural resources, government, commerce, and finances of Port Phillip; sketches of the aboriginal population and advice to immigrants, Melbourne, Arden and Strode, 1840.
Arden made his claim for Batman more explicit in A Sketch of Port Phillip being a review of the Map of Australia Felix, reprinted from the Port Phillip Herald, 1847, by Garavembi Press, 1991; see pp. 20, 28.


MS 13484. The Batman Deed, Melbourne; and MS 13485 The Batman Deed, Geelong. See Accession file for detailed notes, including copies of correspondence and extracts from Trustees minutes as prepared by Shona Dewar.
On the Audubon, see Brian Hubber, ‘Annotation: Audubon's Birds of America in the State Library’, The La Trobe Journal, no. 62, Spring 1998, pp. 21–23.


A complete record of the committee struck to raise subscriptions for the monument is in H 1417. Shillinglaw, John Joseph, Memorial to John Batman.
The Daily Telegraph 5 June 1882 describes the unveiling and the announcement by Ham that he had acquired the Journal and The Age, 25 October 1882, records the donation to the Library.


Edmund La Touche Armstrong, ‘Fifty Years of the Public Library — Some Recollections and Some Notes’, MS 5584, p. 13. The conference proceedings and associated papers are bound into a volume, Library Association Papers, held in Rare Books.
The Argus, 22 April 1896.


‘Catalogue of the Exhibition of Exhibition of Rare and curious Books etc.’ and ‘Address by the President, Henry Gyles Turner Esq. on the occasion of the opening of the exhibition of rare and curious books etc and the new building for the extension of the Museum of Natural History in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Pubic Library’, Melbourne, J. Kemp, 1906; bound in a volume of The Book of the Public Library 1856–1906 held in the Australian Manuscripts Collection.


E. La T. Armstrong and R. D. Boys, The Book of the Public Library, Museums and National Gallery of Victoria 1906–1931, Melbourne, Fraser and Jenkinson, 1932, pp. 25–26.
Armstrong ‘Fifty Years…’, p. 58.


For a full account of the Old Melbourne Cemetery, see Ralph Biddington, ‘Death of the Old Melbourne Cemetery’, Victorian Historical Journal, vol. 65, No. 1, June 1994, pp. 3–30. On page 22 and page 30 flyers for commemorative meetings organised by Selby at the memorial are reproduced, one on January 26 1919, and one on May 30 1920 with the Prince of Wales.
On Selby, see Frank Strahan, ‘selby, Isaac (1859–1956)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, vol. 16, Melbourne University Press, 2002, p. 208; and Tom Griffiths, ‘In Search of Classical Soil: A Bicentennial Reflection’, Victorian Historical Journal, vol. 59, issue 231, nos. 3–4, November 1988, pp. 21–38.
The Library holds MS 7835: Isaac Selby, ‘Old Cemetery and Soldiers Memorial Scrapbook’. Pages 83 to 90 are devoted to the Batman memorial.
See also Isaac Selby, The Old Pioneers Memorial Fund, Melbourne, 1922, and The Old Pioneer's Memorial History of Melbourne: from the Discovery of Port Phillip down to the World War, Melbourne, Old Pioneers Memorial Fund, 1924.
A leaflet advertising Historical Service at Batman's Grave 1933 survives in P/A 04/65, Daniel Bunce Papers. Bunce married Batman's daughter Philomena and their daughter was in contact with Selby.
Earliest street directories give the name Fawkner Cemetery, although it was formally gazetted. The Fawkner Crematorium and Memorial Park in 1971.
‘The Batman Stone’, Victorian Historical Journal, vol. 10, issue 39, 1925, pp 125–126.


‘Armstong and Boys The Book of the Public Library, p. 31.
Colin McCallum, The Public Library of Victoria 1856–1956, Melbourne, Brown, Prior and Anderson, 1956, pp. 20–21.
The Historical Collection in the Public Library’ Address delivered by E. R. Pitt, Chief Librarian. through 3AW Station, Sunday, December 11th 1932. Stored in A. B. Foxcroft's Notes, England II, with Sticht Collection in Rare Books.


Guide to the Victorian Historical Exhibition, Mebourne, Fraser and Jenkinson, 1934, p. 6.
MS 8358 Box 378/3 (a) (b). Colin McCallum ‘The Book of the Public Library 1932–1954 (Extended to 1955) pp. 22–28.
Vikki Plant, ‘“The Garden City of a Garden State”: Melbourne in the 1934 Centennial Celebrations’, Victorian Historical Journal, vol. 63, issue 240, 1992; pp. 86–100.
For a discussion of the significance of the Woodhouse and Burtt paintings in mythologising Batman, see Bain Atwood's analysis in The Art of the Collection, Melbourne, Miegunyah Press and the State Library of Victoria, 2007, pp. 107–111.
Isaac Selby produced The Old Pioneers Memorial Almanac, Melbourne, Old Pioneers Memorial Fund, 1934 or 1935. It was his last hurrah. See Biddington p. 24.


Full records of the Post War Development Plans and the Sites Committee are in a box marked ‘Trustees Miscellaneous’ and are being transferred to the Public Record Office with other Library records from the same series.
MS 8217. ‘Professor R. M. Crawford. Victoria. State Library, Melbourne La Trobe Library. File of Correspondence and notes relating to the foundation of the La Trobe Library.’
Fay Anderson, An Historian's Life: Max Crawford and the politics of academic freedom, Melbourne University Press, 2005, makes no mention of the establishment of the La Trobe Library.
McCallum, ‘The Book of the Public Library’, p. 104.


See Nicholas Draffin, The Art of Napier Waller, Melbourne, Sun Books, 1978.
The Another View Walking Trail — Pathway of the Rainbow Serpent Melbourne City Council 1995
See Sue-Anne Ware, ‘Contemporary Anti-Memorials and National Identity in the Victorian Landscape’, Colonial Post: Journal of Australian Studies, No. 81, 2004, pp. 122–224, p. 123.


MS 7853. Isaac Selby, ‘Old Cemetery and Soldiers Memorial Union Scrapbook’, p. 85.
Jeff and Jill Sparrow, Radical Melbourne, Melbourne, Vulgar Press, 2001, p. 43.
Quotations from Foley and Knowles taken from the plaque accompanying the sculpture.


See Stuart Duncan, ‘Monumental Untruths about Early Melbourne’, Victorian Historical Journal, vol. 65, issue 243, 1994, pp. 31–44. See website