Port Phillip Conservation Council Inc.

A0020093K  Victoria


Port Phillip named for Captain Arthur Phillip R.N. - Proclamation as a British Possession


Formal possession, on behalf of the British Crown, of the whole of the eastern part of the Australian continent and Tasmania was not taken until 26th January 1788, when the Commission, first issued to Captain Arthur Phillip, a Captain in the Royal Navy, on behalf of King George the Third by the Viscount Sydney, the British Home Secretary, on 12th October 1786 and amplified on 2nd April 1787, was read to the people whom he had brought with him in the "First Fleet".


The Commission appointed Phillip

"Captain-General and Governor-in-Chief in and over Our territory called New South Wales, extending from the Northern Cape or extremity of the coast called Cape York, in the latitude of ten degrees thirty-seven minutes south, to the southern extremity of the said territory of New South Wales or South Cape, in the latitude of forty-three degrees thirty-nine minutes south and of all the country inland westward as far as the one hundred and thirty-fifth degree of east longitude reckoning from the meridian of Greenwich, including all the islands adjacent in the Pacific Ocean within the latitudes aforesaid of ten degrees thirty-seven minutes south and forty-three degrees thirty-nine minutes south".

The above statement is derived from an account on Page 2 of the Official Year Book of the Commonwealth of Australia No. 55, 1969 under the heading "Annexation of eastern part of Australian continent and Tasmania". It is preceded by a paragraph headed "Possession taken of eastern coast of Australia by Captain Cook", which reads, "Although representatives of the nations mentioned in the previous section landed or claimed to have landed on the shores of Australia on various occasions during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, it was not until 23rd August 1770 that the history of Australia was brought into definite political connection with western civilization. It was on that date that Captain Cook took possession "of the whole eastern coast, from latitude 38 degrees S to this place, latitude 10.5 degrees S, in right of His Majesty King George the Third", i.e. over only what are now the eastern parts of New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland."


Captain Cook's claim, made 17 years earlier than Governor Phillip's proclamation, had as its southern limit the latitude of 38 degrees south and had thus not included any part of Port Phillip Bay, its coastline or hinterland south of a line between a point a little south of Table Rock Point, Beaumaris, and Kirk Point, Avalon. Captain Cook specified 38 degrees south because that was the latitude of the point where he first sighted the coast of the Australian continent, and he sailed north along the coast from that point, which he named Point Hicks, after the officer on his ship that had first sighted the Australian continent.


A plaque on the monument at Point King, Sorrento, Victoria (Melway 157A3), records the raising there of the Union Jack flag (used to mark possession of territory by the British Crown for the first time in Australia in its current modern form including St Patrick's cross, as shown above), and the Proclamation there, by Lieutenant John Murray RN, on 8th March 1802, of the British possession of Port King, named after the then Governor of New South Wales, Captain Philip King, as a Port, in the name of King George III. Port King was later officially renamed Port Phillip, after the first Governor of New South Wales, Captain Arthur Phillip.


Click here for an account of the visit to Port Phillip by Lieutenant Matthew Flinders RN in April 1802 as part of his circumnavigation of the continent of Australia in His Majesty's Ship Investigator.


Click here for details of the short-lived first British settlement at Port Phillip, in October 1803, which was led by Lieutenant-Governor David Collins.


Before the British occupation of the Port Phillip District, which was the name used for the area that later became the Colony, and then the State, of Victoria, the land around Port Phillip was occupied, for what is believed to have been over forty thousand years, solely by aboriginal people, of whom there were relatively few, compared with the flood of British settlers that subsequently arrived. The scale of environmental degradation during that period of sole occupation by small numbers of aboriginal people was very small. Significant degradation has occurred since then, and is still occurring. Recent governments of Victoria have nevertheless had a policy to encourage further increase in the population of Victoria. The history of the descendants of those original occupiers has not been a fortunate one.


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Last updated on 2012-11-30