Point Nepean History

2.1 Introduction

…we cast anchor on the night of the 6th of April [1853] in Ticonderoga Bay close to land. The next morning we were all up by day light to see this said land and a most Splendid place it looked to us. We all wished to be on it. Little did we think Some would be Sent there. It turned out to be the quarantene [sic] ground. There was a great number of sick on board. About 8 in the morning the quarantene Doctor came on board and about 120 adults were sent on shore with Scurvey [sic] and Whooping Cough…this quarantene ground is one of the worst places any one could set foot on. There is not common necessaries nor neither can you get them for love or money. It matters not how bad any one is there is nothing but damper and Beef. It is most shamefull [sic] on the part of the government to send a lot of sick people on shore on such a wild uncultivated unchristian like place as this.5

So wrote William J Walker, passenger on the Confiance, enroute from Liverpool to Geelong, in 1853. Walker’s observations, infused with his feelings at such an unanticipated end to a long sea voyage, were understandable. The land, new to European eyes, did appear uncultivated and wild. However, prior to European occupation, the Point Nepean peninsula had long been occupied by people of the Bunurong Bulluk clan, who inhabited the area as part of their tribal territory. In more contemporary times, for Walker’s arrival, subsistence farmers and lime burners had also inhabited the peninsula.

2.2 Pre-European History

It is generally believed that the land occupied by the Boon wurrung /Bunurong people – one of six different clan groups which formed the Kulin nation, and in turn, divided into six further clan groups – extended from the Werribee River in the west to Andersons inlet in the east.6 Described essentially as coastal dwellers, the Boon wurrung ballug clan group of the Boon wurrung/ Bunurong people may have been the first to make contact with those Europeans who had accompanied Captain David Collins (1756-1810) in the establishment of the ultimately unsuccessful settlement at Sorrento in 1803. Early writers observed that animal skins were used as clothing by aboriginal people, possibly because of the climate, and that they built mia-mias for shelter and had a number of semipermanent camp sites. Some of these were known to have been near Arthur’s Seat, on Portsea Downs Estate, Portsea and close to the intersection of the Flinders and Cape Schanck Roads, Flinders. As a consequence of contact with Europeans, infectious diseases were primarily responsible for the disappearance of aboriginal people from the region and by 1856, few if any members of the Boon wurrung/ Bunurong people remained on the Mornington Peninsula.