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History of the Committee

Ambrose Kyte, a wealthy Irish merchant, made an anonymous offer of £1,000 for exploration if it was matched by £2,000 of public subscription. Sir William Stawell, Chief Justice of Victoria, announced the offer in the Argus on Thursday, 19th August 1858.

Page 4.


A public meeting was held at the Mechanics Institute on Collins Street, on 31st August 1858.

Thursday, 30 August 1860. Page 8.

This meeting was poorly attended with around 50 people showing an interest in exploration. It was decided to set up an Exploration Fund Raising Committee to secure the £2,000. The Committee released a circular explaining the need to raise funds.

Although it was a public meeting and supposedly separate to the transactions of the Philosophical Institute of Victoria and their Exploration Committee, all members of the Exploration Fund Raising Committee were members of the Philosophical Institute and all except James Smith were also members of the Institute's Exploration Committee. The only members of the Committee that gave to the fund were Wilkie, Mueller, Smith and Elliott [elected later], who contributed £25 between them.

The Exploration Committee then had a meeting on Friday 3rd September 1858 when it was decided that the Philosophical Institute should approach the Government of the Colony of Victoria in order to :

present the position of the Institute in relation to Australian exploration.

and ask the Treasurer of Victoria to place on the estimates for 1859, the sum of £5000 for exploration of the interior. This was a convoluted and self-indulgent process, given that Sir William Stawell was the Chairman of the Fund Raising Committee and the Exploration Committee, was President of the Philosophical Institute and Chief Justice (Premier) of Victoria and therefore was fully aware of the position of all the committees at the time. For the Fund Raising Committee under Stawell to raise a motion to approach the Chief Justice, Stawell in order to put the position of the Institute, whose president was Stawell was considered by the editor of the Yeoman & Australia Acclimatiser, William Lockhart Morton, to be:

nothing short of burlesque.
Yeoman & Australian Acclimatiser,
Saturday 21st December 1861

This proposal was detailed in the Third Report of the Exploration Committee of the Philosophical Institute of Victoria which was read and adopted at a meeting on Sunday 26th September 1858.

By the Monday 5th September 1859, £2,199 had been raised, enough to secure Kyte's offer. The Exploration Committee applied to Stawell for the £1,000 from the anonymous donor and a cheque was sent to the Committee on 19th October 1859. On the 9th January 1860 at a meeting of the Institute, the Fourth Report of the Exploration Committee of the Philosophical Institute of Victoria was read when it was announced the required funds had been raised and the Government was asked for £6,000.

On the Monday 23rd January 1860, a public meeting was held at the Mechanics Institute, Collins Street, when the Special Report of the Exploration Committee of the Philosophical Institute of Victoria was read out. Because the funds had been raised, the Fund Raising Committee was dissolved and most of its members were re-incorporated into the Exploration Committe. Now in its third incarnation it comprised of 17 members.

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