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» Victoria & the Age of Exploration

Victoria & the Age of Exploration

When the Burke and Wills expedition was being planned, Victoria was barely ten years old as a separate colony - until 1851 it had been the 'Port Phillip District' of New South Wales. Why was the government of such a new state prepared to spend thousands of pounds on an expedition far outside its borders?

Reasons for the Victorian Exploring Expedition

Intercolonial rivalry was one of the motives. Victoria had become, thanks to gold, the richest and most populous colony in Australia. The expedition was a chance to show what Victorians could do with their money, and that they could afford to spend it on things that would not benefit them directly.

Popular commentators, however, saw it more as simple one-upmanship - a race to beat John McDouall Stuart, who had set out from South Australia with the same goal of crossing the continent.

Promoters of the expedition had many reasons to offer - there was the possibility of discovering new lands suitable for crops or livestock, the potential to pave the way for a telegraph connection with Europe, the discovery of new species of plants and animals. The expedition might even find out what had happened to the explorer Ludwig Leichhardt, who had disappeared without trace in 1848.