150th Anniversary of the Burke & Wills ExpeditionPrint Page Print this page

16-September-2013 (Graeme Saunders)
16-September-2013 (Graeme Saunders)

Photographs supplied by Graeme Saunders / Bryan Hardy

The monument commemorates the 150th anniversary of Victorian Exploring Expedition led by Burke and Wills. The plaque on the memorial is made out of a single casting of bronze. The plaque is one of a series of 13 plaques to mark the route of the expedition from Melbourne to the Gulf of Carpentaria. 

The Burke and Wills expedition was an Australian exploration expedition in 1860–61 of 19 men, led by Robert O`Hara Burke and William John Wills, with the objective of crossing Australia from Melbourne in the south, to the Gulf of Carpentaria  in the north, a distance of around 3,250 kilometres (approximately 2,000 miles).  At that time most of the inland of Australia had not been explored by non-Indigenous people and was largely unknown to the European settlers.

The expedition left Melbourne in winter. Bad weather, poor roads and broken-down wagons meant they made slow progress at first. After dividing the party at Menindee on the darling River Burke made good progress, reaching Cooper Creek at the beginning of summer. The expedition established a depot camp at the Cooper, and Burke, Wills and two other men pushed on to the north coast (although swampland stopped them from reaching the northern coastline).

The return journey was plagued by delays and monsoon rains, and when they reached the depot at Cooper Creek, they found it had been abandoned just hours earlier. Burke and Wills died on or about 30 June 1861. Several relief expeditions were sent out, all contributing new geographical findings. All together, seven men lost their lives, and only one man, the Irish soldier John King crossed the continent with the expedition and returned alive to Melbourne.

It was a case of history repeating itself at the unveiling of a new monument to honour the Burke and Wills expedition on Monday. The monument is Swan Hill's second tribute to the Burke and Wills expedition, and was publicly unveiled with the help of a second John Forrest.

The first came in 1914, when a granite obelisk called the Explorer's Memorial was opened by explorer Sir John Forrest at the site where the expedition party was farewelled — in the McCallum Street median strip near Curlewis Street.

Ninety-eight years later, Member for Mallee John Forrest, along with Swan Hill mayor Les McPhee and sculptor Dr Ross Bastiaan, unveiled a bronze plaque next to its predecessor in honour of the 150th anniversary of the Burke and Wills expedition.
The Guardian (Swan Hill, Vic), 5 December 2012.


Address:McCallum Street, Median Strip near Curlewis Street, Swan Hill, 3585
GPS Coordinates:Lat: -35.338417
Long: 143.560597
Note: GPS Coordinates are approximate.
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Monument Type:Monument
Monument Theme:Landscape
Approx. Event Start Date:
Approx. Event End Date:
Designer:Dr. Ross J. Bastiaan
Artist:Dr. Ross J. Bastiaan


Actual Monument Dedication Date:Wednesday 5th December, 2012
Source: MA
Monument details supplied by Monument Australia - www.monumentaustralia.org.au