Following Burke and Wills Across Australia

FBWAA-Cover-208x300One of the objectives set by the Commemoration Committee was to find a way to mark the track taken by the Victorian Exploring Expedition as they crossed the continent. The erection of a consistent set of physical markers proved impractical, especially as many of them would be inaccessible if they were actually on the track.

Dave Phoenix, President of the Burke and Wills Historical Society, walked across Australia following the route of Burke and Wills in 2008. The decision was made to encourage Dave to create a Touring Guide based on his historic trip. The Guide would be for those wanting to drive rather than walk, and would follow gazetted roads, travelling as close as possible to the explorer’s track.

In November 2011, Dave published Following Burke and Wills Across Victoria. Based on the success of this volume, CSIRO Publishing commissioned Following Burke and Wills Across Australia. The book was completed in 2015, and released on 1 June.

New DVD of the 1985 film


One of the achievements of the 150th project was persuading the National Film and Sound Archive to re-master the 1985 film Burke and Wills with Jack Thompson and Nigel Havers.

The re-mastered version was released on DVD on 1 October 2014 by Umbrella Entertainment – click here to purchase.

Beckler’s Botanical Bounty: 2014 Field Trip

A group of botanical artists celebrate the work of Dr Hermann Beckler,  botanical collector, through an annual field trip to Menindee where they gather and illustrate plant specimens for comparison with those he collected in 1860-61. Their next trip is in September-October 2014. If you are interested in joining the group, download the flyer for more details.

Yet another book on Burke and Wills

Michael Cathcart has published a new book “Starvation in a Land of Plenty” based on the diary of William Wills. Read more here.

The title of the book raises a question: is dying of vitamin deficiency the same as dying from starvation? Evidence produced for the mock Coronial Enquiry in 2012 suggested that was a vitamin deficiency rather than a shortage of food that was the cause of the deaths of Burke and Wills. Describing the outback as a Land of Plenty is also somewhat generous. Aboriginal tribes had to work hard as hunter-gatherers to subsist. There is evidence that they resented the presence of explorers, particularly Wright’s Supply Party, at outback waterholes, where they were competing with the local Aborigines for limited resources of food and water.

Ballarat Conference, 4-5 October 2013

The 150th Anniversary Commemorations in Retrospect

Conference 2013 Banner

The Burke and Wills Historical Society and the University of Ballarat are inviting registration for the 5th Biennial Burke and Wills Conference, to be held at the University of Ballarat on 4-5 October. Details of themes, speakers, program, venue and how to register can be found on the Burke and Wills Historical Society website.

Book launch

The Aboriginal Story of Burke and WillsThe new book The Aboriginal Story of Burke and Wills was officially launched by the Governor of Victoria at the Royal Society of Victoria on Wednesday 7 August, 2013. The Governor, the Hon Alex Chernov AC QC, provided an excellent summary and critique of the book. We also heard from Ian Clark of the University of Ballarat, one of the editors, and Aaron Paterson, a descendant of the Yandruwandha tribe that kept King alive after Burke and Wills died. Auntie Joy Murphy began proceedings with a “welcome to country” and RSV President Dr Bill Birch did the introductions.
The book is a beautiful new addition to the Burke and Wills story. Find out more and order your copy here.

Funeral commemoration

cortegeOn 21 January 1863, the bodies of Burke and Wills were carried from the hall of the Royal Society of Victoria to Melbourne General Cemetery, in the most elaborate funeral procession yet seen in the city. The 150th commemoration was not on quite such a grand scale. A public commemoration was held on 21 January at the Burke and Wills statue, with wreaths laid by the Mayor and by the President of the Royal Society of Victoria.

grave_melbournecemeteryOn the preceding Sunday the Burke and Wills Historical Society met at the Melbourne General Cemetery to tour the graves, not only of Burke and Wills, but also of John King and others associated more distantly with the Expedition.