The Geelong region and much of the south western parts of Victoria were home to a large tribe of Australian natives called the Wathaurong but with the arrival of the first Europeans in 1802 their full blooded numbers of our original inhabitants began to decline.
Today a large number of words and names from the original Wathaurung aboriginal language are preserved in the place names and street names within the Geelong region. Anglicised, though they may be, we now treasure names such as Moorabool, Gheringhap, Malop, Moolap, Corio, Geelong, Barwon, You Yangs, Bellarine, Colac, Beeac and Birregurra.
Although there has been some proof of Dutch visitors before him. Matthew Flinders was the first known European to visit the Geelong region back in 1802. He came ashore and explored parts of the region including the You Yangs.
The next visitors were explorers Hume and Hovell crossing overland from NSW in December 1824. Local natives told Hume that the bay was called “Jillong” and the land “Corayo”. Somehow, over the years, the names have been reversed.
In 1838, the “Town of Geelong” was pronounced with a population of 545, the survey showed a hotel, general store, church and a wool store
By 1841, Geelong was sending wool to England, it had its own newspaper (the Geelong Advertiser- still going today) and a regular steamer service to Melbourne. By 1851, it was the fifth largest town in the colony and a busier port than Melbourne.
In 1852 the gold rush started which dramatically expanded Geelong’s importance. Its population increased twenty fold. However, the restrictive sand bar at the entrance to Geelong’s harbor and the publishing of a “false map” by the merchants of Melbourne to show its false closeness to the Ballarat gold fields eventually saw it fall behind.
Geelong became the wool capital of Australia, with its busy ports and waterfront Woolstores.
Major manufacturing companies came to the region, like the Ford Motor Company, which commenced its company on Geelong’s waterfront in 1925 close to where the Ford Discovery Centre stands today, before building its first Australian factory in North Geelong.
In later years, Alcoa, Vehicle component manufactures and Shell Oil Refinery boasted Geelong’s economy.
Now as we enter a new century- Geelong is thriving with a new bustle, its long forgotten waterfront being transformed into one of the finest precincts in the land and the largest population growth and highest confidence levels the region has seen for many decades.