Past Lectures

New Venue for Meetings

We shall no-longer visit the old St Paul’s Hall for our meetings.

Commencing on May 1, we meet at the Virginia Todd Hall at 9 Clarence Street, Geelong West, just one hundred metres from Pakington Street.

Carpeted floor, heating and comfortable chairs for supper after the meeting will guarantee our creature comforts.

Ample, close, well-lit parking, with no steps or uneven surfaces to negotiate, the new venue will assist all our members.

February Lecture – Alan McLean

the 1891 disaster off Moonlight Heads

The Wreck of the Fiji

Alan McLean spoke to us about the wreck of the cargo ship Fiji off Moonlight Heads in 1891. His interesting and informative presentation discussed the cause of the wreck and rescue of the passengers and crew. He presented the facts from the view of a survivor who had a connection with Geelong.

Alan also spoke at length about the ship’s anchor concreted into the bedrock shore and the monument at the top of the hill marking the name of souls who perished. His story explained, in detail, how the news of the wreck was communicated to local residents and their attempts to rescue passengers using a cable and pully apparatus from the shore. Negotiating the steep cliffs and the dense bush hindered the operation.

Alan suggested we should remember the hero Arthur Wilkinson who lost his life while herorically saving others. He is buried in the Herne Hill Cemetery.
Review written by Harry Roberts

March Lecture – Harry Roberts
DIMINUTIVE but significant

Geelong’s First Custom House

Geelong’s First Customs House was the topic presented by Harry Roberts. His presentation began with the establishment of the Port Phillip District and the settlement of Melbourne in 1836 when the area was controlled by the colony of New South Wales. The large influx of settlers required a customs presence which led to Melbourne’s Customs House being established and then one at Geelong.

Harry spoke about the issues associated with Melbourne being the only place customs duties being paid, meaning the local Geelong building was little more than an office. Its size of 10 feet by 10 feet meant in could be placed on wheels and moved about the dock.

The little building served the community well between 1837 and 1844 when it was replaced by a second, more substantial building on Corio Terrace (now Brougham Street). Harry then spoke of the building’s role as Geelong’s first telegraph office in 1854 and its final move to Geelong’s Botanic Gardens in 1889. It is now considered to be Victoria’s oldest building.

The First Custom’s House was small, being only 10′ x 10′.

April Lecture – Rob & Deb Robinson
a sad local landmark that’s seeking a new vision


The old prison chapel with evidence of an old mural

Yes, that describes our April Meeting as our members toured the Old Geelong Gaol under the direction of Rob and Deb Robinson.

Lights flickered, and hidden stairs and doorways were revealed as we made our way through the building that was established in 1854. Small, cold, empty cells exposed the harsh conditions prisoners experienced during their incarceration. Dark shadowy corners, enclosed spiral staircases, thick bluestone walls and heavy security cell doors enhanced our foreboding. It was an experience that was spine-chilling during my day visit, but at night another level of trepidation was added.

Rob spoke about his role and the Gaol. The Gaol’s continued development as a museum was explained. He stressed the importance and value of the museum as a way to message youth of the consequences of poor behaviour and making poor life choices. Part of the importance of the museum was to influence the behaviour of people to make wise choices in life.

Deb displayed her encyclopaedic knowledge of Geelong’s penal system and the people who (through societal lack of care, personal tragedy or bad life choices) ended up in Geelong Gaol. Our members asked many intelligent and interesting questions.

Rob took our large group of 27 members and visitors on a tour. His explanation of the prison was detailed and interesting. Of great interest wasn’t just the facility itself, but also the artefacts Rob found hidden in many places while he was performing cleaning and restoration jobs. A light supper concluded the visit.

Our Society’s numbers didn’t seem to be increased by any resident apparitions. Not that we saw anyway. As I departed the building, Rob’s regular Ghost Tour was about to begin.

Review written by Harry Roberts

The Bengalat of the Wadawurrung

Dr Roslyn Otzen spoke about the impacts of the collision that occurred on the Bellarine Peninsula after the European settlers landed at Indented Head in 1835.

Her work on the Wadawurrung arose after a request by the Baptist Church to research that institution’s engagement with Victoria’s indigenous population.

This photograph from 1852 shows the impact of this event. In 1841 a census was conducted in Geelong that listed 451 European settlers and 275 Wadawurrung from the Bengalat clan living on the Bellarine Peninsula. Just 10 or so years later this photograph captured the last family unit of that clan.

Dr Otzen noted that smallpox had reached the Wadawurrung prior to 1835 and devastated the population. The loss of access to their land and the impacts of ready access to alcohol ravaged the population. By 1885 the last of the clan had perished.

Whilst many of the stories of interactions between the Wadawaurrong and the settlers fitted a depressingly common stereotype of alcohol and abuse, Dr Otzen was also able to highlight numerous acts of common decency and concern for their welfare by ordinary people towards them.

Review written by Michael O’Donnell