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Robert O`Hara Burke & William John Wills Print Page Print this page

05-June-2005 (Kent Watson)
05-June-2005 (Kent Watson)

Photographs supplied by Kent Watson / Bryan Hardy

A monument commemorates explorers Robert O`Hara Burke and William John Wills with reliefs of scenes from their expedition.  This was the first statue cast in Australia. In January 1862, the Victorian government made a grant of 4000 pounds, conditional on public contributions of 2000 pounds. Like almost every other aspect of the expedition, the monument was a source of controversy. The anti-Burke faction questioned the absence of King and Gray from some of the proposed designs, and the German community threatened to boycott the fundraising because of the poor treatment of Becker, Beckler and Brahe. The government finally funded the entire cost of the monument.

On 2 November 1861, news of the death of Burke and Wills reached Melbourne, and within days grief swept the city; more than 40,000 people are said to have paid their last respects to the fallen heroes. The Victorian government announced a memorial would be erected and Charles Summers submitted the winning design. Burke stands to the left of the seated Wills, his forearm resting on his companion’s shoulder. A book lays open book in Wills’ lap. Mounted atop granite blocks, the statue also features bronze bas-relief plaques depicting events during the expedition. It was unveiled on 21 April 1865 – the fourth anniversary of Burke and Wills’ return to Coopers Creek.

The monument was originally located on the corner of Collins and Russell Streets, the growth of traffic and the laying of tram tracks led to the removal of the monument in 1886.  It was placed in a reserve in Spring Street, opposite Parliament House on the corners of Spring, Lonsdale and Nicholson Streets. It was moved to the corner of Swanston and Collins in City Square in 1979 and a fountain added. The statue was moved to its present location at the corner of Swanston and Collins Streets in 1994.

The bas reliefs at the base of the monument show , "The Departure from Melbourne", "Return to the Dig Tree", "The death of Burke", and "Howitt`s rescue of King".

Note : As at 10 April 2017 , the monument which was within the fence-off construction site of the $10.9-billion Metro Rail project, was removed to avoid damage during the tunnelling works.  It will be stored in a secret location, with $30,000 allocated for a facelift before its return to City Square once construction is complete.

It is the fifth time the monument has been relocated since being erected in 1865.  It was originally placed in the middle of the intersection of Collins and Russell streets, and acted as a roundabout.  But 20 years later, in 1886, the laying of tram tracks forced the monument to be moved to a traffic island outside the Princess Theatre on Spring Street.

It stayed there for almost 90 years, before again being shifted in 1973 to the edge of Carlton Gardens in Victoria Street because of the planned City Loop train lines.  Again, the monument did not stay in place for long, and in 1979 it was relocated to City Square.  It was placed over a large waterfall and the chemicals in the water caused significant corrosion.  It removed for restoration and during the process, part of a decorative bronze skirt was stolen, and in 1993, was placed in its current street-corner location at Collins and Swanston Streets.

 

 

Location

Address:Collins & Swanston Streets, Melbourne, 3000
State:VIC
Area:AUS
GPS Coordinates:Lat: -37.815631
Long: 144.966715
Note: GPS Coordinates are approximate.
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Details

Monument Type:Monument
Monument Theme:People
Sub-Theme:Exploration
Monument Designer:Charles Summers

Dedication

Actual Monument Dedication Date:Friday 21st April, 1865
Front Inscription

Robert O`Hara Bourke and William John Wills.

Leaders of the Victorian Exploring Expedition.

The first to cross the continent from south to north.  They perished on the return journey at Coopers Creek, Central Australia June 1861

 

Source: MA,MED,VMR
Monument details supplied by Monument Australia - www.monumentaustralia.org.au
Exploration
Exploration
Settlement
Settlement
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