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The Commission

Report of the commissioners appointed to enquire into and report upon the circumstances connected with the sufferings and death of Robert O'Hara Burke and William John Wills.
Melbourne: John Ferres, Government Printer.
Parliamentary papers, No 97, 1861-2. 1862.

Presented to both Houses of Parliament by His Excellencies

Command. Victoria:

By the Grace of God, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, Queen, Defender of the Faith.

To our trusty and well-beloved,

  • The Honorable Sir Thomas Simson Pratt, KCB,
  • The Honorable Sir Francis Murphy, Speaker of our Legislative Assembly,
  • The Honorable Matthew Hervey, MP,
  • The Honorable James Forrester Sullivan, MP, and
  • Evelyn Pitfield Shirley Sturt, Esquire,

all of Melbourne, in the Colony of Victoria, Greeting.


Whereas the Governor of our Colony of Victoria, with the advice of the Executive Council thereof, has deemed it expedient that a Commission should forthwith issue for the purpose of enquiring into all the circumstances connected with the sufferings and death of Robert O'Hara Burke and William John Wills, the Victorian Explorers.

And Whereas it is desirable to ascertain the true causes of this lamentable result of the Expedition to the said Robert O'Hara Burke and his companions:

And especially to investigate the circumstances under which the depot at Cooper's Creek was abandoned by William Brahe and his party on the twenty-first day of April last:

And to determine upon whom rests the grave responsibility of there not having been sufficient supply of provisions and clothing secured for the recruiting of the Explorers on their return, and for their support until they could reach the settlements:

And generally to enquire into the organization and conduct of the Expedition:

Also, with regard to the claims upon the Colony of the surviving members thereof, and of the relatives (if any) of the deceased members:

Now know ye that We, reposing great trust and confidence in your integrity, knowledge, and ability, have authorised and appointed, and by these presents do authorise and appoint you, Sir Thomas Simson Pratt, Sir Francis Murphy, Matthew Hervey, James Forrester Sullivan and Evelyn Pitfield Shirley Sturt to be Commissioners for the purpose aforesaid:

And for the better effecting the purpose of this Commission, we do give and you power and authority to call before you such persons as you shall judge likely to afford you any information upon the subject of this Commission:

And to enquire of and concerning the premises by all other lawful means and ways whatsoever:

And this Commission shall continue in full force and virtue, and you the said Commissioners may, from time to time, and at every place or places, proceed in the execution thereof, and of every matter or thing therein contained, although the enquiry be not regularly continued from time to time by adjournment:

And lastly, that you do report, as occasion may require, for the information of our Governor of our said Colony, under your hands and seals, all matters and things elicited by you during the enquiry under this Commission.

Witness our trusty and well-beloved Sir Henry Barkly, Knight Commander of the Most Noble Order of the Bath, Captain-General, and Governor-in-Chief of our Colony of Victoria, and Vice-Admiral of the same, at Melbourne, this twelfth day of November, One thousand eight hundred and sixty-one, and the twenty-fifth year of our Reign.

Henry Barkly
By His Excellency's Command,
(Signed) R Heales.

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