101… as in Room 101 or the basics. Today’s walking tour could have gone either way but I’ll spare you the suspense…
This was probably the best walking tour I’ve ever been on, and I’ve been on a few.
There are lots of free walking tours in Melbourne but I was lazy and decided to join the one that picked me up from my hostel without checking any reviews.
Kevin was our guide today and his 2.5 hour tour gave us an overview of the history of Melbourne, an ode to the coffee here, the legend of Ned Kelly and his enthusiasm for life in the city.
From the Public Health perspective, I was delighted that he addressed the air quality issue and advised people not to get surgical masks (that will do very little to protect you) but to buy the P2 masks which are recommended.
One of the things that struck me yesterday at Philip Island yesterday was that the Penguin Parade opened with an acknowledgement of the indigenous people. Kevin repeated the same opening today: giving thanks and acknowledging of the elders and the indigenous people as the traditional custodians.
One of the aspects about both Maori and Indigenous Australian legends is that they both see a connectedness between nature, earth and humans. They see humanity as belonging to the earth, not the earth belonging to humans.
It’s somewhat different to the Christian tradition. I wonder if embracing that way of thinking would change our attitudes to the climate crisis and the bushfires.
This was definitely a day of stories.
Kevin told us that you can’t talk about Melbourne without talking about Batman.
Before you get your hopes up, dont.
Not that one.
John Batman founded the city in 1835 and like any shy, humble individual would, he named the new city after himself.
Born in Botany Bay to an English family, he was one of the first generation of settlers to be born here. He held the first treaty with the Indigenous People… for a few trinkets, he got 600,000 acres of land.
The idea of custodianship is important. The First People saw themselves as Custodians – the idea of ceding ownership was alien. Batman conned them.
He was a ‘delightful‘ individual. He made his fortune through bounty hunting – supporting the genocide of the Indigenous People.
Batman’s growing empire was a threat to Britain. Sydney was the hub for the Empire in Australia – they had no plans for another city.
They responded with force and drove Batman out but the 1000 people who had settled here had no plans to move so Britain renamed the city Melbourne and allowed it to continue.
Without Batman. Or his name.
A townplanner named Robert Hoddle was hired to design the city and he designed a grid. As the city grew thanks to the 1851 discovery of gold, the powerbase shifted from Sydney to Melbourne.
Hoddle deliberately left out a town square when he designed Melbourne.
Politically, there was concern that the British would have to deal with a revolution as they had in the US.
Revolutions begin in town squares – where people can gather, talk, share ideas and gather support. Hoddle simply left out a town square – there was no open spaces for the working classes to gather.
Kevin told us that Melbourne is a very political city and always has been. But there has never been a revolution.
Meanwhile, the upper classes didn’t really like Australia. It was too hot. It was too far away from everywhere else and the wildlife wanted to kill them. They wanted to make the city look European.
Arcades were built to help them forget they were in Australia. Many of the buildings in Melbourne look like European designs.
I’m sure someone is about to accuse me (again) of really having spent the last four months in Liverpool, UK rather than travelling.
This tour also included a coffee stop – that everybody having a coffee would pay for. It wasn’t included. How could it be? This was a free tour.
Kevin was adamant, nay, evangelical that Melbourne does the best coffee in the world. Frankly, I thought he had a lot to prove after travelling in Vietnam. They do amazing coffee.
Beer was the main drink but domestic violence led to the rise of the temperance movement. For some strange reason, women tired of being beaten.
This led to the lock out laws whereby pubs would close at 6pm. This, in turn, gave rise to the ‘six o’clock swill’.
Men wanted to drink 6-7 pints and they would do that in six hours or in one. So the domestic violence issue was not resolved.
The lock out laws also led to Melbourne’s coffee culture.
Italian immigrants brought espresso machines and pubs became coffee houses after 6pm.
Coffee is taken very seriously here. Coffee has tended to be made using espresso machine only. The small cafes in Melbourne all know their own suppliers. Co-working for co-roasting allows small batch roasting.
We walked around the Central Business District and passed more buildings significant to Melbourne’s and Australia’s story.
The Eureka Tower is tribute to the Eureka Miners – credited with the birth of democracy in Australia.
In the town of Eureka, Irish Gold miners’ earnings were taxed at 75%. They announced that Eureka was going to be an independent state in 1854.
The British did not respond well.
The town was attacked and 22 miners and six soldiers were killed.
Democratic reforms started two years later.
In the State Library of Victoria is the armour of Ned Kelly, but we went to the former Gaol where Kevin told us more about the bush ranger
After wrongfully being convicted of the theft of a horse, the young Ned Kelly decided that if the town’s police were going to blame him for everything, he might as well become a criminal.
He was 15.
He and his brothers formed a gang and became very successful in bank robbery. They were heroes to ordinary people because:
- Whenever they robbed a bank, they also ensure the debt and mortgage records were destroyed. Working class people were therefore no longer tied to long repayment plans to the bank – they got their houses back.
- Whenever there was a hostage situation, it always took place in a pub. With music and free beer. Plus, nobody was harmed by the Kelly gang.
Eventually, the Kelly Gang tired of this life and wanted to disappear into the Bush where they would never be found. A final robbery to confound the police and give the gang time to disappear was planned.
The reason they hadn’t been caught previously was because rural forces only had three or four officers. They couldn’t outlast the hostage situations.
Kelly wanted to lure 30-40 Melbourne officers to a spot where they could be “dealt with” by the sabotage of a train.
Eliminating 30-40 officers would mean the police wouldn’t be able to hunt for the Gang as they disappeared forever.
At the last moment, the plan was overheard by a hostage in the chosen pub who pleaded with Kelly to release him so he could go home to his sick wife. Instead, he raced to the railway line to halt the oncoming train.
The train was stopped. The police officers were unharmed and advanced on the pub, guns ready.
Seeing the pub surrounded, the Kelly Gang stepped outside to face the police.
For the first time in all of their crimes, they were wearing the armour that is now famous. The police started shooting, to no avail… until a sergeant noticed the Gang’s legs weren’t protected.
Ned Kelly was the only one brought in for trial.
An example had to be made but he never attended his trial and he never slept at the Melbourne Gaol. It was feared that there would be a jailbreak.
He was kept for three days in this pub.
During the years of the robberies, Kelly had always written to his mother. She never asked him to stop, never asked him to repent. She only told him to “die like a Kelly and not embarrass the family name.”
His final words at the gallows were: “Such is life.”
Walks 101: Free, pay what you think the tour is worth and if that isn’t enough… it ends with a discount lunch in the Captain Melville, the pub where Ned Kelly spent his last three days.