Researching significant Victorians

This pathway brings together resources and activities for students exploring the stories of significant Victorians as part of AusVELS Levels 5 and 6 Humanities - History.

ergo is a great place for students to start their research into significant Victorians from the past and explore ways they contributed to society. On this page you will find a list of key figures and links to primary and secondary sources that will assist students in their research as well as related activities for the classroom.

Learning intention

Students will:

  • Explore the role that a significant individual or group played in shaping the colony and in the development of Australian society; for example, explorers, farmers, entrepreneurs, artists, writers, humanitarians, religious and political leaders, and Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander peoples 


Below is a list of significant Victorians from the past who are featured in the Explore History section of this site.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples

  • Simon Wonga: Indigenous leader and founder of Coranderrk. Born 1820s.
  • William Barak: Aboriginal artist and cultural leader. Born 1824.
  • Tommy McRae: Aboriginal artist. Born 1830s.


  • Robert Russell: British surveyor, architect and artist. Migrated to Australia 1833
  • Alfred Howitt: English explorer, magistrate and anthropologist. Migrated to Victoria 1852
  • Angus McMillan: Scottish explorer. Migrated to New South Wales 1838.
  • James Riley: Member of Strzlecki's 1840 expedition across the Australian Alps.
  • Burke and Wills: Members of the Victorian Expedition Party aiming to cross the continent, from South to North, in 1860.
  • Douglas Mawson: English geologist and the pioneer of Australian Antarctic exploration. Born 1882
  • John King Davis: Master of the Aurora on the Australasian Antarctic Expedition, 1911

  • Ernest Shackleton: British Antarctic explorer who played an important role in Australian Antarctic exploration. Born 1874.

Religious and political leaders




  • John Batman: Born in NSW in 1801, Batman arrived in Port Phillip in 1838. Considered one of Melbourne's founders.
  • John Pascoe Fawkner: Born in England in 1792, transported from England in 1803. Considered of of Melbourne's founders.
  • Redmond Barry: Judge and founder of the University of Melbourne and the State Library of Victoria. Migrated to Australia 1839.
  • Charles La Trobe: First Governor of the state of Victoria, 1851.
  • Robert Hoddle: Surveyor of the Port Phillip district. Migrated to Australia 1823.

Artists and writers

  • Garryowen: Journalist. Arrived in Melbourne 1841.
  • S.T.Gill: Artist. Arrived in Victoria 1852.
  • A collection of paintings, by Victorian artists and/or exploring Victoria's history, can be found in the Library's Cowen Gallery


Once students have chosen a significant Victorian, these activities can support students' research and writing:

The Research skills section of this site provides addtional information and strategies for students.

More to explore

Australian Dictionary of Biography

National Trust - National Living Treasures

Culture Victoria

Portrait of Eliza Cobb, wife of John Pascoe Fawkner.