1803 Collins Settlement and the National Trust

Blog Post 2: David Tutchener

The background research of the Collins 1803 Settlement site continues. For my directed studies unit I am attempting to compare the historical data and the results of a geo-survey in order to find a likely place for the possible lost burial ground of the 1803 settlement in Sorrento. A question that came out of my current research is a contemplation regarding national identity, heritage and significance. All three concepts are dynamic constructs, which are all mutually informing. I found where these constructs intersect with the Collins Settlement to be of interest during this project.

The Collins Settlement site is currently considered of national level of significance. This is partially due to the site being remarkable as an early colonial site within Australia, as the state of Victoria had not even been founded yet. The National Trust however still regards the site as being of only state level significance. The statement of significance for the Sorrento Graves Site is as follows:

The Collins Settlement Site is of State historical, social, political and cultural significance regardless of physical deposit or evidence. It is important as a place because of the role that the site plays in the colonising and settlement of Australia, and how its location and the nature of its landscape informs our understanding of this it is of great significance to all Australians… The location, history and landscape values of the site informs our community of its early history in terms of European and Aboriginal occupation and European strategies of colonisation. (National Trust, 2012)

Comments like ‘great significance to all Australians’ make me question the National Trust’s state level of significance assigned to the Collins Settlement site.

National/ state level significance, heritage/ identity: Is this really a case of forgetting the failures of our colonial past? Has this attempted settlement and its graves become a portion of Australia’s forgotten history? This site contributes greatly to the national cultural record of white Australia and to the early contact period with Indigenous people. This site is great reflection of how ‘identity’, for us, Australianness, can be manipulated and changed depending upon how we judge our own heritage. This is due to the fact the site itself has almost been developed a number times and the loss of the burial ground location indicates that this site is one that could be removed from our nation’s past. Perhaps this is why the National Trust only attaches a state level of significance to the site. Or perhaps it is just a way to conveniently forget a failure of colonial Britain. What if what it means to be Australian was not based on colonial success, but instead on failure? How would this reflect on our present national identity?

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