Angus McMillan was a Scottish explorer who came to New South Wales in 1838. He became the overseer of Lachlan Macalister's cattle station, befriended the local Aboriginal people and quickly became an expert bushman. And although Paul Strzelecki is heralded as the first European to explore Gippsland, it was actually Angus McMillan who discovered the area.
In 1839, Macalister instructed McMillan to set up a cattle station at Numbla Munjie, near what is now Omeo, where McMillan was involved in massacres of the Aborigines in retaliation for their herding of cattle.
Around this time McMillan and five other men set out on an expedition to find grazing land and a harbour on the Gippsland coast. They explored many of the rivers and lakes, but were forced to return to Numbla Munjie when they ran short of food.
During 1840, McMillan set up another cattle station for Macalister near the mouth of the Avon River, and also his own station, Bushy Park, further upstream. From here, McMillan made two unsuccessful attempts to reach the coast at Corner Inlet:
I again tried to find my way to the inlet, but was disappointed. After crossing the La Trobe high up, and getting within sixteen miles of Corner Inlet, we came to a dense scrub, which we found impossible to cut our way through, having lost one of our tomahawks and broken another.
– Angus McMillan, 1840
Bonwick, J 1883, Port Phillip settlement, Sampson Low, Marston, Searle and Rivington, London.
On his third attempt, in February 1841, he finally reached the coast, near where the Albert River flows into the inlet.
In 1840, Count Paul Strzelecki and his party (including James Riley) passed through Numbla Munjie and followed McMillan's trails to the west. Strzelecki claimed – and was given – credit for the discovery of Gippsland, but he didn't admit that he had followed McMillan's footsteps. McMillan did not receive the credit that was due to him, and from then on regarded Strzelecki as a ‘foreign imposter.'
McMillan continued exploring in 1864, in a Victorian government expedition to find new gold mining areas and open tracks between Matlock, Dargo and Omeo. The expedition found rich gold deposits, and McMillan was successful in cutting 354km of track through rough terrain. However, in May 1865, one of his horses rolled on him, causing him severe internal injuries. He died soon after.