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John Batman and John Pascoe Fawkner

A reason for leaving Tasmania Fawkner's small cottage at Austins Ferry (AOT, PH30/1/4896)

John Batman (1801–39) and John Pascoe Fawkner (1782–1869), founders of Victoria, were both sons of convicts. Fawkner arrived on the Calcutta in 1804, and his pioneering experiences included work as a timber-getter, builder, farmer, colonially-sentenced convict and baker, before he moved to Launceston, where he tried a variety of occupations but was best known for his establishment and operation of the Cornwall Hotel and the Launceston Advertiser.

Batman, born in Parramatta, came to Tasmania in 1821. He acquired Kingston, a rural property near Ben Lomond, large in acreage and poor agriculturally, and achieved local prominence by capturing bushranger Matthew Brady, by his conciliatory dealings with Aborigines, and as founder and agent for the Port Phillip Association which aimed to develop this area. In 1835 the rivals departed separately for Port Phillip, Batman in the Rebecca establishing first at Indented Head and signing the celebrated Treaty with the Aborigines in June before, on a later expedition, moving up the bay to present-day Melbourne. Fawkner acquired the Enterprise and after a couple of false starts left in September with stores for his new settlement on the Yarra.

Their subsequent careers were in great contrast. Batman's wealth and health deteriorated dramatically in the four years preceding his death. Fawkner resumed his career as a publican, newspaper proprietor (Melbourne Advertiser and Port Phillip Patriot) and landholder, and became involved with local then colonial government as a member of the Legislative Council. His reminiscences, while undoubtedly subjective, give insights into two Australian states' histories. At his impressive funeral he was mourned by hundreds as the founder of Melbourne.

Further reading: ADB 1; C Billot, Life and times of JP Fawkner, Melbourne, 1985; and Life and times of John Batman, Melbourne 1979; R Sharman, 'John Pascoe Fawkner in Tasmania', THRAPP 4/3, 1955; J Fawkner, 'Reminicences [sic] of John Pascoe Fawkner', 1856, TL.

Gwenda Webb