The joint Victorian and Melbourne Centenary celebrations were held between October 1934 and June 1935. They celebrated progress and community cohesion at a time when the world, including Australia, was in the midst of a severe economic depression.
In 1934, the centenary firstly commemorated Edward Henty’s Portland settlement in November 1834, which led to the founding of Victoria. While in 1935, the focus of the Melbourne Centenary celebrations was John Batman’s pronouncement of Port Phillip as ‘the place for a village’ in June 1835. The Duke of Gloucester opened the celebrations in front of an estimated 500,000 people that lined the decorated streets of Melbourne.
Over this time hundreds of events were held across Melbourne and Victoria. Special centenary celebrations of the Royal Agricultural Show, the Melbourne Cup and other sporting events were staged. Sir Russell Grimwade purchased Captain Cook’s Cottage at Great Ayton in Yorkshire and he had it carefully measured, drawn, labelled, packed up and moved to its new home in the Fitzroy Gardens.
Sir Macpherson Robertson showed great generosity. He funded an international air race and more permanent mementoes including MacRobertson Girls High School in South Melbourne, the MacRobertson Bridge over the Yarra River at Grange Road, the National Herbarium at the Botanical Gardens and the MacRobertson Fountain near the Shrine of Remembrance. His gifts to Melbourne are still appreciated and in use today.
To recognise the part played by women in the foundation of the state of Victoria, the the Pioneer Women’s Garden was built in the King’s Domain.
The Shrine of Remembrance, arguably one of Melbourne’s most important public monuments was completed and dedicated in 1934. For many it was the crowning glory of the centenary celebrations.
In the book, Victorian and Melbourne Centenary Celebrations published in 1936, we find messages for Victoria and Melbourne from many nations around the world, including this surreal quote from Benito Mussolini:
“Italy and the Fascist Government send their greetings and cordial wishes. It is with legitimate pride that the Commonwealth of Australia remembers to-day the work accomplished by its strong and tenacious population which in only one century reached the present prosperity. It is with sympathy and admiration for the progresses obtained in every branch by the State of Victoria and its capital that the Italian nation associates itself with the actual celebrations”