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The 2009 issue of Provenance features two articles relating to the early years of Port Phillip and Victoria, both of which discuss the jurisdiction of British law to the Aboriginal people already living there. In ‘Superintendent La Trobe and the amenability of Aboriginal People to British law 1839-1846’ Frances Thiele examines Charles Joseph La Trobe’s efforts to bring reason and order to the legal status of Aboriginal people in the Port Phillip District, while Fred Cahir and Ian D Clark in ‘The case of Peter Mungett: Born out of the allegiance of the Queen, belonging to a sovereign and independent tribe of Ballan’, explore the issue of the jurisdiction of the British colonial criminal law over Indigenous Australians through the 1860 case files of Regina v Peter, involving a Marpeang buluk clansman of the Wathawurrung language group.

This year’s issue also features two contributions from Anna Kyi presenting research into Chinese petitions held in the PROV collection and elsewhere. In ‘”The most determined, sustained diggers’ resistance campaign”: Chinese protests against the Victorian Government’s anti-Chinese legislation, 1855-1862′, the Chinese protests against unjust taxation during the gold rushes emerge from the numerous petitions that Victorian Chinese communities authored during this period with the aim of swaying government policy. In her accompanying forum article ‘Finding the Chinese Perspective: Locating Chinese Petitions Against Anti-Chinese Legislation During the Mid to Late 1850s’, Kyi provides potential researchers with an inventory of petitions authored by Chinese Victorians and details of where these may be accessed, whether in public records or in publications.

In the wake of the recent global market meltdown, Peter Yule in his article ‘Searching for WL Baillieu at Public Record Office Victoria’ provides a timely account of one of Victoria’s major entrepreneurs, utilising a wide variety of PROV records to shed light on many previously unknown or misinterpreted aspects of the life and work of William Lawrence Baillieu, founder of the Baillieu family’s fortunes.

Madonna Grehan in ‘”A most difficult and protracted labour case”: Midwives, medical men, and coronial investigations into maternal deaths in nineteenth-century Victoria’, features a case study of the 1869 coronial inquiry into the death of Mrs Margaret Bardon which examines the care of women during childbirth in nineteenth-century Victoria. Liz Rushen in ‘Nichola Cooke: Port Phillip District’s First Headmistress’, tells the story of well-connected governess Nichola Anne Cooke, who established Melbourne’s first ladies’ seminary in 1838 and participated in the development of early Melbourne. Louise Blake takes us on a journey of rediscovery in ‘”Woods Point is my dwelling place …”: Interpreting a family heirloom’, revisiting her own family’s history by weaving information available in public records with a reading of the scrapbook created by her great-grandmother Margaret Knopp. Marilyn Kenny and Anne Martin in ‘The Black Sheep: Robert Herdman of Paisley, Scotland and Australia’, trace the life of Robert Herdman by researching records held by descendents, PROV, and other sources both in Australia and overseas.

Ken James in ‘The Surveying Career of William Swan Urquhart, 1845-1864’, follows the life and work of one of Victoria’s early surveyors through correspondence and hand-drawn maps held at PROV, and Helen Dehn in ‘The Royal Oak Hotel, corner of South and Raglan Streets, Ballarat’, recounts part of Ballarat’s colourful social history through records relating to one of its busiest and well-loved hotels.

Sebastian Gurciullo


Material in the Public Record Office Victoria archival collection contains words and descriptions that reflect attitudes and government policies at different times which may be insensitive and upsetting

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples should be aware the collection and website may contain images, voices and names of deceased persons.

PROV provides advice to researchers wishing to access, publish or re-use records about Aboriginal Peoples