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Still Learning


The traditional owners of the Frankston area were the Bunurong people, part of the language group or nation known as Koolin, sometimes spelt, Kulin. They claim land from the Werribee River to Wilson’s Promontory in the south-east, taking in the catchments of the old Carrum Swamp, Westernport Bay including the Mornington Peninsula, Phillip Island, French Island and the Tarwin River (Compton, 2008). One of the clans of the Bunurong, the Mayone Bulluk Bunurong, lived in coastal camps at Mordialloc, Frankston and Warneet on Westernport Bay (City of Greater Dandenong, 2008). Through the summer they collected kangaroo and possum skins for winter clothes. In the winter months they moved inland where they caught eels, collected shoots and mushrooms, and seeds from ant’s nests. Middens on the cliff tops of the Mornington Peninsula indicate that the Bunurong Aborigines used the area on a seasonal basis for hundreds if not thousands of years before the arrival of Europeans.

The Bunurong’s first encounter with Europeans probably dates back to the sighting of the French ship l’Astrolabe. Its commander, Dumont d’Urville, recorded a visit to Westernport Bay in his diary in 1826. He notes sighting sealers, their Aboriginal wives and children. The first sighting was recorded by lithographer Hippolyte Vanderburch, on board l’Astrolabe.

European settlement was formalised after 1835 when the District of Port Phillip was opened up to squatters wishing to graze their cattle and sheep. The whole district was divided into Parishes and the first parish plans were drawn up. In 1851 the district of Port Phillip separated from New South Wales and became the Colony of Victoria. Surveying and land sales in Victoria continued with the influx of migrants in search of gold and merchants ready to supply their needs.

Frankston was first known as a fishing village 26 miles (40 kms) from Melbourne. The fishermen sailed up to Melbourne to sell their catch or travelled along the ‘Fish Track’ which later served as the basis of the Nepean Highway. The first school was established in 1855, the first Frankston post office was opened in 1857, and in the same year a pier was completed. By the 1860s, Frankston’s population was around 30 residents with about 200 in the surrounding area. The first state school was built in Frankston in 1874; a Mechanics’ Institute and free library were constructed in 1880.

The first savings bank opened in 1881, and when the railway arrived in 1882, Frankston gradually became a popular holiday resort. William M K Vale purchased 320 acres of crown land at Frankston after declaring that, with its picturesque scenery, Frankston and Snapper’s Point were ‘likely to become the Ramsgate of Victoria and certainly the rival of Queenscliff’ (Inglis, 1999: 5). Following Federation in 1901, Frankston developed slowly, first as a seaside resort and fishing village and later as a small regional township. It was declared a city in 1966.

Still Learning

   by Fay Woodhouse