Australian Historian Geoffrey Blainey has described Point Gellibrand at Williamstown as an Australian heritage ‘sacred site’, the only other place in Australia comparable with the site of the First Fleet’s landing.
Point Gellibrand was the landing place for Victoria’s first white settlers and was also the site for Williamstown’s first burial ground, established in 1842. The Southern Hemisphere’s first telegraph station was also built at Point Gellibrand in 1854 around the same time as the establishment of Victoria’s Navy.
There have been other uses for this hallowed ground with prisoners, including Ned Kelly, tasked with quarrying bluestone at the site. Much of the bluestone was used as ballast for cargo ships returning to London, and a number of London buildings, particularly in the docks area, are constructed from Point Gellibrand bluestone. Busy railway workshops were situated here before being relocated to Newport.
It had a more sombre function too, in the middle of the nineteenth century. The Victorian Colony was not founded on convict settlement, as most of the Australian colonies were. However, Victoria did have an imported convict population, kept on five rotted and filthy prison hulks off Point Gellibrand from 1852 to 1859. Today visitors to Point Gellibrand can see an anchor reputed to be from one of the prison hulks on display near the Timeball Tower.