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Melbourne's Centenary

In 1934, as Melbourne planned to celebrate the centenary of European settlement, it seemed to some that there was little to celebrate. The financial strains of the depression, unemployment and the scandal of the city's slums all undercut claims of unbridled progress.

Perhaps because of such troubles, the organisers of the centenary celebrations tried doubly hard to be positive. The themes of the celebrations were conservative, reflecting the desire of some Melburnians for security in troubled times. The widely promoted image of the 'Garden City' and 'Queen City of the South' emphasised the idea of Melbourne as a very British city. A visit by the Duke of Gloucester, son of George V, the ageing king, provided a reassuring strengthening of Melbourne's imperial connections.

The presented view of Melbourne's history stressed the 'myth of the pioneer', embodied in the person of John Batman. Elevated to heroic status, he was reinvented as a courageous pioneer whose life exemplified the rewards of self-improvement. Such a portrayal ignored Batman's dubious 'treaty' with local Aborigines and the less savoury details of his personal life.

Melbourne's indigenous people were excluded from this triumphant view of Melbourne's past. The centenary celebrations now seem dated, but the image of Melbourne as a conservative city largely influenced by Britain has been more enduring.


'Centenary of Melbourne' souvenir box
magnify'Centenary of Melbourne' souvenir box
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