The settlement of Melbourne began in 1835 when settlers from Tasmania "purchased" land on Port Phillip Bay and the Yarra River from the local Aboriginal tribes. It was named Melbourne after the (then) current British Prime Minister, William Lamb, who resided in the village of Melbourne in Derbyshire. The first British lieutenant-governor, Charles La Trobe, arrived in 1839 and his cottage still stands and can be visited in the Kings Domain Parklands as well as Captain Cook's cottage in the Fitzroy Gardens.

The year 1851 was a landmark for Melbourne - the colony of Victoria was separated from New South Wales and very soon after, gold was discovered, sparking a huge goldrush. Aspects of this time can be seen at the Gold Treasury Museum in the Old Treasury Building, as well as many other fascinating exhibitions on Melbourne's history. Gold was the catalyst for several decades of prosperity lasting through to the late 1880's. Examples of the ornate Victorian-era structures built during this time still stand, including Parliament House, Old Melbourne Gaol, Victoria Barracks, State Library, Supreme Court, Melbourne University, General Post Office (GPO), Government House, Old Customs House, Melbourne Town Hall, St Paul's and St Patrick's cathedrals, and several major markets including the Queen Victoria Market. Throughout the gold and building booms, Melbourne managed to retain its many spacious parks and gardens and these remain to this day.

After World War II, Melbourne grew rapidly, with its mainly Anglo-Celtic population boosted by immigration from Europe and Asia, particularly Greece, Italy, China and South-East Asia, as well as Jewish populations. Today, about one third of Melbourne's population was born overseas!

New high-rise buildings replaced many of Melbourne's interesting old structures in the construction boom of the 1970's and 80's. Melbournians belatedly recognised the loss of their architectural heritage and steps were taken to protect what was left. Construction of the huge Crown Casino (briefly the largest casino in the world) in the 1990's upset some locals with its introduction of gambling culture. Melbourne's development continued in the 2000's with the opening of the Melbourne Museum, Federation Square and the Docklands precinct.

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