Goyder’s day 2020

About 30 persons attended the National Trust’s annual Goyder’s Day event at Roadmasters House on 5th February. Goyder’s Day commemorates the arrival of the Northern Territory Survey Expedition under South Australia’s Surveyor-General, George Woodroffe Goyder, to survey land for a settlement that has since evolved into the City of Darwin and places beyond.

Trevor Menzies, the curator of the Roadmasters House Museum, opened the proceedings by welcoming the guests and outlining the program for the commemoration, which comprised displays, talks and a walk to Goyder Park. The displays included material on the land survey and botanical work carried out by members of the expedition.

National Trust director Tim Dixon spoke about the Trust’s involvement with Goyder’s Day, which it initiated in 2008 in keeping with its mission to promote and protect our cultural heritage – the stories, the people, its land and its buildings.

Russell Dempster from the Top End Native Plants Society outlined the work of the expedition’s naturalists Frederick and Alfred Schulze, and artist William Hoare, who collected, described and illustrated many specimens of flora and fauna. Some of this work was on display.

Trevor Menzies then led a walking tour to Goyder Park via Travellers Walk, the Esplanade and Hughes Avenue visiting historic sites along the way.

Travellers Walk, also known as Chinamen’s Walk, provided a pedestrian link from the wharf to old Chinatown and the town centre. The path was well used in the days when all arrivals and departures to Port Darwin were by ship.

Hughes Avenue was the first road constructed in the settlement to provide access from the main camp on the waterfront to the town site above the coastal escarpment. At the start of Hughes Avenue, near the base of the escarpment, a plaque was unveiled in 1969 by Goyder’s granddaughter, Margaret Goyder Kerr, to commemorate the 100th anniversary.

Goyder Park was opened on Goyder’s Day 2017 on the site of the expedition’s main camp at Fort Point now at the intersection of Hughes Avenue and Kitchener Drive. Various structures in the park show the location of the principal camp buildings. Six pillars around the site display information outlining aspects of the experiences and achievements of the members of the expedition. One pillar describes their interaction with the local Larrakia people. Relations were initially friendly but deteriorated over time as the survey parties penetrated the interior. A low point was the spearing of two members of the expedition in a remote camp at Fred’s Pass near the Adelaide River. One was draftsman John Bennett who later died from his injuries. He is now commemorated in Bennett Park on Bennett Street, Darwin.

Over a seven-month period in 1869 the expedition surveyed 4 town sites and 2,200 rural blocks. This notable achievement led to the foundation of Darwin and the subsequent European settlement of the Northern Territory.

After about an hour walking through this historic part of Darwin, the group returned to Roadmasters House ready to enjoy the refreshments on offer and view the displays.