Immigration History in Rural Victoria

11 April, 2009

A young girl in Scottish costume in front of Garvoc State School c.1935.
A young girl in Scottish costume in front of Garvoc State School c.1935.
Source: Museum Victoria

Question: I live in a rural Victorian region. How can I find out more about migration history in my region?

Answer: Migration is a historical theme common to all Victorian regions. Immediately after the founding of Melbourne in 1835, and particularly after the discovery of gold in 1851, migrants began to settle in all parts of Victoria. In the decade between 1846 and 1855, the Victorian population grew from 32,879 to 347,305. Less than 30% settled in Melbourne.

At the same time as beginning new lives for themselves, Victorian migrants were also contributing to the development of the state of Victoria as a whole by establishing farms and businesses, starting schools and founding community organisations. The rich historical traces left by the early migrants to Victoria can be explored using a range of resources.

At a broad level, sources such as Museum Victoria’s ‘Origins’ web site, James Jupp’s The Australian People and the SBS World Guide provide useful overviews of community histories, including settlement patterns in regional Victoria.

Official government records such as wills, inquests, education records, immigration records, land titles, and court proceedings are accessible through the Public Records Office of Victoria or on-line through the Department of Justice web site. The Australian Bureau of Statistics can provide profiles of populations by place of birth (or parents’ birth) over time.

You can also discover more about local places through maps, plans, correspondence, and photographs pertinent to your region. Many of these are available at the State Library of Victoria, which holds an important genealogy collection. The National Archives of Australia holds extensive migration-related information, such as individual applications to migrate and war records.

Another way to explore local or regional history is through your local historical society. These organisations may hold resources such as personal histories of families from the region, histories and documentation about local buildings, and oral testimonies from current and former residents. Some towns may have heritage museums that display objects and memorabilia related to local history. It may also be possible to access old local newspapers and locally-produced history books through library services.

Historical traces of migrant history in particular regions can also be seen in more physical expressions such as the mining landscapes and streetscapes of goldfields regions, the farming methods or crops in certain regions, and the naming of towns, streets and monuments, as well as local companies and shops. In particular, streetscapes, local building and food and wine businesses offer more tangible expressions by which present day residents can imagine and consider the stories and histories of their region. 

Comments (8)

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lien my thi vo 15 August, 2009 10:34
What resources does the musium have that reflects knowledge of the principles of equal employment opportunity, sex, ,race, disability, anti-discrimination and similar legislation and the implications for work and social practices for people new to the Australian culture?
mymy 15 August, 2009 10:47
How does the Migrant resource centre give recognition of cultural influences and changing cultural practices in Australia annd its impact on diverse communities that make up Australian society?
hau tran tan 15 August, 2009 10:51
How does the Migrant resource centre reflect own cultural conceptions and pre-conceptions and perspective of diverse cultures?
Discovery Centre 21 August, 2009 11:09

Thanks for these enquiries. Information about Museum Victoria's corporate values have a strong focus on social inclusion and diversity upheld by the organisation. You would also be welcome to visit the Immigration Discovery Centre to discuss these issues in more depth. Hope this helps!

Nirosha Kodikara 12 October, 2010 18:31
Hi, Can someone please help me to answer these questions. Thanks
Discovery Centre 17 October, 2010 16:41

Hi Nirosha, If you have specific questions, why not contact the Discovery Centre through our Ask the Experts page:  We can certainly help you with your research and point you in the right direction.

Russ Reilly 5 September, 2015 15:12
What happened to the unassisted passengers once they got off the ship (Nov1863)? How/were they tracked to see if they coped with Australian conditions. How would I go about finding their tracks to their eventual deaths in various parts of Vic and NSW?
Discovery Centre 6 September, 2015 09:39
Hello Russ - good question, piecing together the lives of unassisted passengers post-arrival can be challenging, and there's no single resource that can give you everything you need. We aren't aware of a single record of any 'checking' of post-arrival migrants from this time, or even if this occured routinely - it may be a case of the new arrivals were left to their own resources and/or contacts to establish themselves. Depending on the type of work they did once they settled, you may be limited to piecing together a story from whatever records you can find housed in the Public Records Office of Victoria (or their NSW counterpart, the New South Wales State Records) such as births, deaths, wills and probate, land purchases etc. The State Library of Victoria, who have a Genealogy Centre and diaries and the like, are worth checking too. Local historical societies from the settled region may be able to assist, and Trove might also be useful in searching for newspapers. Good luck!
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