Melbourne is the second most populous city in Australia, with a metropolitan area population of approximately 3.8 million (2007 estimate) and serves as the state capital of Victoria. It is located at the mouth of the Yarra River and on the northern and eastern shorelines of Port Phillip on an area of land that formed part of the Wurundjeri and Boonwurrung nation’s territories for around 40,000 years. The area was an important meeting place for clans and territories of the Kulin nation alliance as well as a vital food and water resource that was managed sustainably until early European settlers cleared much of these resources, forcing both nation’s people into neighbouring territories.
Melbourne was founded by free settlers in 1835, 47 years after the first European settlement of Australia, as a pastoral settlement situated around the Yarra River. Transformed rapidly into a major metropolis by the Victorian gold rush in the 1850s, ‘Marvellous Melbourne’ became Australia’s largest and most important city by 1865 the second largest in the British Empire, and the tenth largest in the world for a brief moment at the turn of the 20th century. Such rapid growth from nothing was unprecedented at the time. However, Melbourne’s growth slowed after 1900 and it was overtaken by Sydney as the largest city in Australia during the early 20th century.
Today, Melbourne is a major centre of commerce, industry and cultural activity. The city is referred to as Australia’s ‘sporting and cultural capital’ and it is home to many of the nation’s most significant cultural and sporting events and institutions. It has been recognised as a gamma world city by the Loughborough University group’s 1999 inventory. Melbourne is notable for its mix of Victorian and contemporary architecture, its extensive tram network and Victorian parks and gardens, as well as its diverse, multicultural society. Melbourne has hosted multiple international conferences and events, including the 1956 Summer Olympics and the 2006 Commonwealth Games. Politically, it was the location of the 1981 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting and the 2006 G20 summit.
Melbourne served as the federal seat of government from the time of the new nation’s federation in 1901, until Federal Parliament moved to the purpose-built capital, Canberra, in 1927. Melbourne’s demonym is Melburnian.
The Secret History of Melbourne