The story of colonial surveyor and explorer John Helder Wedge, one of the forgotten founders of Melbourne.
Wedge arrived in Van Diemens Land with his brother in 1824, and went on to map some of the most isolated regions of contemporary Tasmania. Later he became involved, along with John Batman and fellow entrepreneurs, in the claim to the Port Phillip area, later the settlement of Melbourne. A fervent Anglican, Wedge helped fashion Batman’s famous treaty with local Aboriginal clans of Port Phillip Bay. He had witnessed and documented the treatment of Tasmania’s Indigenous population — something he did not want to see repeated in the settlement on the mainland.
A member of the Royal Geographic society, Wedge, like many of his 19th century contemporaries, was a curious and keen collector of Aboriginal material culture. These artefacts included some spears and clubs, which may have come to Wedge through his association with the escaped convict William Buckley, who lived with the Aboriginal people along the western coastline of Victoria for more than thirty years.
Wedge sent most of his collection of Aboriginal artefacts back to his father in Britain, and they ended up in small museum in the market town of Saffron Walden.
A number of these artefacts are in a permanent exhibition which has opened in the new Landmarks Gallery at the National Museum of Australia in Canberra.
Historian, Monash University (http://arts.monash.edu.au/history/staff/battwood.php)
Historian, University of Newcastle (http://www.newcastle.edu.au/staff/profile/lyndall.ryan.html)
Senior Curator, National Museum of Australia
Further Information: National Museum of Australia (http://www.nma.gov.au/exhibitions/landmarks/)
John Helder Wedge’s Field Book (http://www.slv.vic.gov.au/our-collections/treasures-curios/wedge-field-book)
The State Library of Victoria has digitised John Helder Wedge’s Field Book, includes an introduction to the book.