Victoria was originally part of New South Wales Colony. New South Wales basically included the entire Eastern half of Australia. However the small penal colony originally settled in Sydney slowly grew beyond the confines of the area. Sydney was hemmed in by the Blue Mountain Range which had acted as a barrier to westward migration for some time. The authorities had therefore searched by sea for alternative sites. One alternative site was Van Diemen's Land to the South of Australia. This meant that ships were regularly passing between Sydney and Van Diemen's Land. This regular route became well known and all the good anchorages and sources of water were gradually discovered and mapped. It was also noticed that the Southern-Eastern Coast was less dry than the area around Sydney. This meant that it might be more suitable for growing European style crops.
This good quality land made it easier to attract free settlers rather than having to rely on the more inefficient convict labour. First on the scene was the Henty family. Thomas Henty was a successful breeder of sheep and horses back in Sussex. At the age of 53 he suddenly decided that he needed new horizons. His family's original destination was Western Australia but a reconnaissance by one of his sones revealed some serious problems there. They then moved on to Van Diemen's Land and discovered the hard core convicts and high land prices. They therefore searched for virigin territory, eventually settling in Portland Bay. The land was as favourable and as bountiful as he had hoped.
News of the Henty family's success spurred others. Most notably, John Batman and John Fawker. These launched expeditions to discover other alternative areas for settlement. In 1835, they identified a suitable and beautiful spot. During his time there, he supposedly made a treaty with the local aborigines who were said to have signed a treaty which gave Batman 600'000 acres of land in return for assorted paraphernalia, including a mirror, flour etc., which was to be repeated on an annual basis. The Governor of New South Wales declared this illegal and tried to thwart the plan. But the distances defeated him. By 1836 the governor capitulated and recognised the Port Phillip settlement. A year later he went so far as to pay a visit and renamed the place Melbourne. By 1840 there were 10,000 inhabitants and 800,000 sheep. By 1850 the population climbed to 90,000 all attracted by the superior soil and climate.
This population density allowed the colony of Victoria to grow out of the New South Wales colony and it was declared a new and separate colony in 1851 and was given responsible self-government along the lines of New South Wales' model in 1855.
Victoria would receive another populatin boost in 1851 when gold was discovered near Anderson's Creek in Warrandyte near Melbourne, at Ballarat, and subsequently at Bendigo. Later discoveries occurred at many sites across Victoria. This triggered a huge influx of prospectors and assorted hangers-on. After the gold had gone, many of the new settlers remained behind in the profitable colony.
Like the other colonies, Victoria would receive a boost in the Nineteenth Century due to the technological developments of the Industrial Revolution. Trains, ships and refrigeration would allow Victoria to join the colonies in exporting foodstuffs all over the Empire and beyond.
By the 1890s, Australians were beginning to consider themselves as part of a distinct island. Strategic concerns were becoming an issue as worldwide international tensions grew. The Germans, French and Americans were slowly claiming the islands of the Pacific. The Germans actually claimed some of New Guinea which was very close to Australia. It was felt that it was time to consider pooling their resources in a Federation but it was also an expression of early Australian nationalism. The British were eager to help share the costs and burden of defending the island and eagerly agreed to the request for self-government made to them in 1900.