Before the arrival of the Europeans the Torquay region was occupied by the Wathaurong tribe of aborigines who followed a nomadic existence for thousands of years.
Shortly after the arrival of the First Fleet colonial governments began to grant, lease and sell land to white settlers. The prosperity of the colonial wool industry increased and so did the number of Europeans arriving looking for their own fortunes. The white settlement in the Torquay region occurred soon after the establishment of Melbourne and Geelong. Squatters brought thousands of sheep to the banks of Spring Creek and eventually settled on the foreshore area in the early 1840’s.
The earliest recorded settlers in the Torquay district were Henry Tait, a pastoralist, and his wife Emma. They took up the Spring Creek Station Tooyoung-e-Warra in 1842.
As squatters began to claim land they began to encroach on Indigenous sacred sites, hunting grounds and food supplies. The settlers completely ignored the deep spiritual connections the Aboriginal peoples had with the land. They believed that the Aboriginal peoples were happy to move on to new land, due to the ‘nomadic’ nature of the Indigenous lifestyle. The Indigenous peoples, however, always returned to the land after it had been given time to replenish itself.
European settlement had a severe and devastating impact on Indigenous people. Their dispossession of the land, exposure to new diseases and involvement in violent conflict, resulted in the death of a vast number of the Aboriginal peoples. The small percentage of Aboriginal people who did not die during these early decades of the colony, were not unaffected. The impact of the white settlers changed their lives, and the lives of future generations, forever.
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