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Explorers and Settlers

Explorers and Settlers

land cleared for farming
Forest clearing for farming
Source - National Library of Australia

The indigenous people of Melbourne's east, the Kulin, chose to reside along the river valleys rather than in the 'cold country' of the Mountain Ash forests. They did, however, travel through the Mountain Ash forests on a seasonal basis, in search of food, shelter, material for fire, and tradeable goods.

The first Europeans to venture into the vast mountain forests north and east of Melbourne did not stay. The size of the trees, the darkness and dampness of the fern valleys, and the denseness of the vegetation made the mountain ranges unattractive and forbidding to those who were looking for land to farm; they preferred to settle the lesser-timbered land to the north and west.

wooden house
Tree and the house built out of it.
Photographer - N Caire
Source - National Library of Australia

Gradually, European settlers began to explore the foothills, and eventually the ranges themselves; they carved narrow tracks and then roads through the valleys and hills, exploring for gold and other minerals, in search of pastoral land, and in search of the timber wealth of the forest

By the mid nineteenth century, all the 'easy' land in Victoria had been appropriated, and selectors began to take up land in the ranges and to start the long process of 'clearing' the Mountain Ash forest. Settlers began by ring-barking the trees on their block. This killed trees with the minimum of labour and let in the light to encourage grass growth.

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