Image First settlement at Challicum, January 1, 1842

TLF ID R3301

This is a watercolour by Duncan Cooper that depicts the first settlement at Challicum, a sheep run west of Ballarat in western Victoria. The watercolour shows the camp the men set up on New Year's Day, 1842 while they assessed the suitability of the land for running sheep. The two men depicted standing next to the campfire may be George and Harry Thomson, Cooper's partners. The watercolour, which measures 11.3 cm x 19.2 cm, is the first watercolour included in a field album that Cooper called 'The Challicum Sketch Book', and Cooper himself inscribed the words 'First Settlement at Challicum, Jany 1, 1842' on the mount.

Educational details

Educational value
  • This asset shows an aspect of western Victoria in this period - Cooper and the Thomson brothers took over the sheep run, which they called Challicum, from Alexander and Colin Campbell; the run could not be sold because it was located on crown (government) land but by purchasing the flock of sheep that belonged to the Campbells, Cooper and his partners assumed the right to squat (or occupy) the run; they paid an annual licence fee of £10 (the equivalent of approximately A$1,500 in 2004, based on the retail price index) to the colonial government in New South Wales for the privilege.
  • It shows an aspect of Challicum - like many Englishmen in this period, Cooper and the Thomson brothers were lured to Australia by tales of the wealth to be made from wool; two months after arriving at Port Phillip, the three men took over Challicum and by 1844 the 15,000-acre (6,070-hectare) run was stocked by 3,500 weaned sheep and was establishing a reputation for producing high-quality wool.
  • It suggests that squatters occupied land in western Victoria in this period - prior to 1836 the colonial government in New South Wales limited settlement to an 86,262-square-kilometre area around Sydney known as the 'Nineteen Counties'; however, from 1820 squatters pushed beyond this limit and illegally occupied crown land; the Port Phillip district (Victoria) was occupied in the 1830s and proclaimed a separate colony from NSW in 1851.
  • It shows an aspect of a sheep run in this period - from 1835 squatters paid the annual licence fee of £10 to pasture their stocks on any amount of land beyond the limit of settlement; in 1844 the government levied the licence fee per 'run', which was defined as an area of no more than 20 square miles (about 12,800 acres or 5,180 hectares) with a maximum of 4,000 sheep or 500 head of cattle.
  • It shows an aspect of the terrain at Challicum - the run consisted mainly of sparsely wooded, grassy plains, which were ideal for sheep grazing; Challicum was in the fertile area of south-western Victoria that explorer Major Thomas Mitchell encountered on an expedition in 1835 and called 'Australia Felix'; his discoveries fired the imagination of settlers in Tasmania and Sydney and people in London, who followed his tracks in search of pastoral land.
  • It is a record of the pioneering phase of squatting - equipped with basic supplies and shelter, squatters went beyond the frontiers of settlement into largely unknown territory, where they usually led isolated and arduous lives, with the constant threats of drought and diseased sheep flocks.
  • It provides an example of the basic type of shelter used by pioneers prior to the construction of buildings - the tent depicted by Cooper consists of tarpaulins slung across spars (poles) that are supported by forked stakes.
  • It is an example of the work of Duncan Cooper (c1813-1904), an amateur artist who recorded the establishment of Challicum from his arrival in 1842 until his retirement in 1853, when he returned to London; his collection of sketches and watercolours, most of which were compiled into 'The Challicum Sketch Book', provides one of the few pictorial records of squatting in this period.
Year level


Learning area
  • History
  • Studies of society and environment

Other details

  • Author
  • Person: Duncan Cooper
  • Description: Author
  • Contributor
  • Name: National Library of Australia
  • Organization: National Library of Australia
  • Description: Content provider
  • URL:
  • Name: Education Services Australia
  • Organization: Education Services Australia
  • Description: Data manager
  • Person: Duncan Cooper
  • Description: Author
  • Copyright Holder
  • Name: National Library of Australia
  • Organization: National Library of Australia
  • Publisher
  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organization: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Description: Publisher
  • Address: VIC, AUSTRALIA
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  • Resource metadata contributed by
  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organisation: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Address: AUSTRALIA
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  • © Education Services Australia Ltd and National Library of Australia, 2013, except where indicated under Acknowledgements