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Phillip Island is an Australian island about 140 km (87 mi) south-southeast of Melbourne, Victoria. Named after Arthur Phillip, the first Governor of New South Wales, Phillip Island forms a natural breakwater for the shallow waters of Western Port. It is 26 km (16 mi) long and 9 km (5.6 mi) wide, with an area of about 100 km2 (39 sq mi).It has 97 km (60 mi) of coastline and is part of the Bass Coast Shire.
A 640 m (2,100 ft) concrete bridge (originally a wooden bridge) connects the mainland town San Remo with the island town Newhaven. In the 2011 census the island’s permanent population was 9,406, compared to 7,071 in 2001. During the summer, the population swells to 40,000. 60% of the island is farmland devoted to grazing of sheep and cattle.
The earliest inhabitants of the area were the Yalloc Bulluk clan of the Bunurong people, indigenous Australians of the Kulin nation. In the Bunwurrung language the Island was known as ‘Corriong’ or ‘Millowl’. Their coastal territory, with sheltered bays, meant that the Yalloc Bulluk, along with other Bunurong clans, were amongst the first Aboriginal people in Victoria, to have contact with European mariners.
Following reports of the 1798 exploration by George Bass and Matthew Flinders, the area was frequented by sealers from Van Dieman’s Land whose interaction with the Bunurong people was not without conflict. In 1801, navigator James Grant visited the adjoining Churchill Island (which he named) and planted a crop of corn and wheat. In 1826, the scientific voyage of Dumont d’Urville, in command of the corvette Astrolabe, led to British concerns of an attempt by the French to establish a colony in Western Port. This saw the dispatch from Sydney of H.M.S. Fly, under the command of Captain Wetherall, and the brigs Dragon and Amity, by Governor Darling.
While the French colonisation did not eventuate, Wetherall reported on finding a sealer’s camp and also two acres of wheat and corn. A fort was constructed, named Dumaresq, after the Governor’s private secretary, near Rhyll and the ‘abundance’ of wood, quality soil and the discovery of coal at Cape Woolamai, were mentioned in newspaper accounts. Wetherall also erected a flag staff on ‘the flat-top’d rock off Point Grant’ (commonly known today as The Nobbies) on the Island’s Western extremity as a marker for the harbour entrance.
“The Natives appear numerous, but we have not been able to obtain an interview, as they desert their camp, and run into the woods on our approach, watching our movements until we depart. As I am aware it is Your Excellency’s wish to conciliate them as much as possible, I have not allowed them to be pursued, or molested in any way.”