|Description of this AgencyDescription of this Agency|
Appointment of Police Magistrate
On 9 August 1836 Sir Richard Bourke, Governor of New South Wales, issued a proclamation authorising settlement of Port Phillip. Captain William Lonsdale was appointed Police Magistrate of the District on 14 September 1836 (New South Wales Government Gazette). He proceeded to Melbourne in HMS Rattlesnake, arriving on 27 September 1836. He was accompanied by the first customs and surveying officers aboard the Stirlingshire.
Duties of Police Magistrate
Lonsdale was responsible to the Governor of New South Wales for the general administration of government in the District, fulfilling the role of head of government and of the civil service establishment. He undertook the normal duties of a New South Wales District Police Magistrate relating to the supervision of the local constabulary, the administration of justice and liquor licensing. His civil instructions of 14 September 1836 from the New South Wales Colonial Secretary (Historical Records of Victoria, Volume 1, p.49-54) set out his duties, including a census of the population and "protection of Aborigines":
It will be one of your most important duties to protect the aboriginal natives of the District from any manner of wrong, and to endeavour to conciliate them by kind treatment and presents...and to improve by all practicable means their moral and social conditions.
William Buckley was to be employed "as the medium of communication with them" (p.53).
In addition, Lonsdale was charged with general oversight of survey and customs officers with authority to act for the Governor of New South Wales and to report on the performance of survey and customs duties, although survey and customs officers also dealt directly with the Surveyor-General and Collector of Customs in Sydney.
Lonsdale also had general superintendence responsibility for the following embryonic functions:
police administration and prisons
ports and harbours
trade and customs.
He was required to report monthly in confidence to the Governor of New South Wales.
Lonsdale's judicial duties involved exercising the ordinary jurisdiction of a Justice of the Peace for the laws of England in force over the Colony of New South Wales, as well as Acts of the Governor and Council. Where two Justices were required for administration of the laws, one of the officers accompanying Lonsdale was appointed a Commissioner of the Peace. Constables were appointed to execute Lonsdale's warrants and orders. (For other developments in the administration of justice and the local constabulary see VRG 4 Courts and VRG 10 Police respectively.)
Appointment of Superintendent
Following the appointment of a Superintendent for the Port Phillip District (VA 473) on 26 March 1836, the duties of the Police Magistrate, Port Phillip District, were restricted to responsibility for the local constabulary and local magisterial functions in Melbourne, and the position was retitled Police Magistrate, Melbourne.
Location of Records
Significant holdings of the Police Magistrate, except for early survey maps, are held at the Public Record Office of Victoria. However, as until separation from New South Wales in 1851, on many issues government officials dealt directly with or referred matters to parent offices in Sydney, records are found today duplicated in the Archives Office of New South Wales. In some cases the New South Wales records are the only extant archives.
See List of Holdings 2nd edition 1985, section 3.16.2, 13.18.7.