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Separation Tree
Separation Tree

Photographs supplied by Kent Watson / Graeme Saunders

The Separation Tree in the Royal Botanic Gardens was the location where the citizens of Victoria gathered on 15 November 1850 to celebrate the news of the separation of Victoria from New South Wales. A shield shape metal tablet  was originally attached to the tree explaining the significance of the site. An additional plaque was added to the base of the tree in 1951 to mark the beginning of the second century of self government in Victoria. 

The news that the Act had been passed reached Melbourne on 11 November 1850 and was the cause of great rejoicing, fireworks, illuminations, street demonstrations, processions, games, thanksgivings and three public holidays (13-15 November), but only when the necessary details were completed was the new Crown Colony of Victoria formally proclaimed on 1 July 1851. 

In June 2015, a final reduction of the Separation Tree’s canopy saw the completion of works performed by Melbourne Gardens’ arborists to make the tree safe following two fatal ringbarking attacks in 2010 and 2013. The plaque at the base of the trunk remains. 

The head of the Royal Botanic Gardens says he is sad, but determined to take positives from the death of the 400-year-old Separation Tree, one of Melbourne's landmarks. On Monday, for safety reasons, arborists will begin lopping branches and the trunk of the towering, heritage-listed river red gum, which vandals killed by ringbarking.

The once majestic tree was one of the few left in the gardens that pre-dated European colonisation. It is believed to date from the 17th century when Indigenous tribes met by the Yarra River.  It was also the place where, on November 15, 1850, superintendent Charles La Trobe announced that what is now Victoria would separate from NSW.

Botanic Gardens chief executive Tim Entwisle said members of the public have expressed their sadness at the tree's demise. On Friday, Channel 10's Studio 10 morning show was due to cross live from the site as arborists prepared for the severe canopy reduction. Professor Entwisle hopes the tree's death will help us "realise how important and significant our big old trees are".  

On Monday about 25 per cent of the tree will be removed. In the next six months it will be reduced from 25 metres tall to a 10-metre high trunk, with leaf-less remnants of some of the limbs remaining. "I want there to be a presence there that's substantial and significant and represents what was there," he said. Some people had suggested the tree be sculpted in some way. "My feeling at the moment is that it's better kept in a natural form, but I'm open to ideas."

Professor Entwisle said while it was "incredibly sad" he was determined to look for the positive. Three offspring of the Separation Tree – planted 64, 10 and five years ago – stand nearby on the Tennyson lawn. Seedlings from the tree have been sent to 20 schools, and the Botanic Gardens' nursery has hundreds of seeds. The vandals, who made two overnight attacks in 2010 and 2013 that cut off the tree's food system, have not been caught. Asked what he would say to them, Professor Entwisle said he would be speechless.

A plaque at the base marking La Trobe's 1850 announcement will remain, as will a metal spike embedded in the tree that marks the high water mark from an 1860s flood. In future, Professor Entwisle would like to see interpretation panels installed about the indigenous history of the area. He said wood from the lopped branches could be made into benches, a table in Parliament House or souvenirs to raise money to support tree care.
The Age (Melbourne), 13 February 2015. 



Address:Alexandra Avenue, Botanic Gardens, Melbourne, 3000
GPS Coordinates:Lat: -37.828808
Long: 144.984225
Note: GPS Coordinates are approximate.
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Monument Type:Plaque
Monument Theme:Government
Actual Event Start Date:15-November-1850
Actual Event End Date:15-November-1850


Actual Monument Dedication Date:Thursday 15th November, 1951
Front Inscription

Under This Tree On 15th Of November 1850
The Citizens Of Melbourne Rejoiced
On The Receipt Of The News That
Victoria Was To Become A Separate Colony.

This Tablet Was Unveiled On The 15th Of November 1951 
By His Excellency
K.C.B., G.M.C., D.S.O., R.M.,
Governor Of This State
To Mark The Beginning Of The Second Century
Of Self-Government Of Victoria On The 1st July 1851

Plaque :

In Memory of
Eustace Tracy O.A.M
who was responsible for this plaque being restored
to its position at the Separation Tree
20th November 2003

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