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French Island

French Island (Boonwurrung: Bellarmarin, Woone, or Jouap) is the largest coastal island of Victoria, Australia, located in Western Port, 61 km (38 mi) southeast of Melbourne.

Details

  • Area:170.032 km2
  • Elevation:32 m
  • Population:119
  • Local Government Area:Unincorporated VIC Islands

Description

French Island (Boonwurrung: Bellarmarin, Woone, or Jouap) is the largest coastal island of Victoria, Australia, located in Western Port, 61 km (38 mi) southeast of Melbourne. In 1997, about 70% of the island was declared the French Island National Park, administered by Parks Victoria, and was listed in the former Register of the National Estate in 1984. The island is an unincorporated area, which means that it is not part of any municipal council, and is a declared locality of Victoria having its own postcode. Community issues are dealt by the French Island Community Association. The island is otherwise administered by the Department of Infrastructure. The population of the island in 2011 was around 116 people, of which about 60 were permanent residents. French Island is relatively isolated and undeveloped. There are no mains water, mains electricity, or medical services on the island. There is one small general store and post office located on Tankerton Road about 3 km (1.9 mi) from Tankerton Jetty. Many of the locals actively promote environmental tourism. Visitor accommodation includes camping, bed and breakfast, guesthouse and farmstay. # History According to the French Island Community Association, prior to European settlement, French Island was a hunting ground of the Bunurong people. They lived on the mainland and travelled to French Island to collect shellfish and swan eggs. There are several registered sites on the island that consist of shell middens and stone scatters they left behind. In April 1802, a French expedition ship Naturaliste under Jacques Hamelin explored the area, as part of the Baudin expedition to Australia. He named the island Île de Françoise , which has since been Anglicised as French Island.The first European settlers on the island were William and John Gardiner in 1847. They had the first pastoral lease and grazed 8,000 sheep. The first land subdivision was in 1867 when 4733 acres were divided into 14 allotments. The first land sales took place in 1873 with the minimum price £1 per acre. In the 1880s, koalas were introduced to the island. During the depression of the 1890s the government of the day encouraged settlement of the area and established seven village settlements on French Island under the Village Settlement Scheme. These were called Energy, Star of Hope, Callanan's, Perseverance, Industrial, Kiernan's and Grant Homestead Association. Altogether about 200 people made up these settlements. Tankerton Post Office opened on 3 September 1890 and remained open until 1994. It reopened in 2001 under the name French Island. A Fairhaven post office was also open from 1911 until 1957. Four schools were built of which the Perseverance Primary School, established in 1896, is the only one remaining and now caters for only a small number of primary school children. The Phillip Island chicory industry started in 1878 and John Ratford spent a season there in 1895 to learn about it. He then introduced it to French Island where it became the main source of income for over 70 years. The Bayview chicory kiln was built in 1896-97 and was the second kiln built on the Island. In the 1890s, there was chicory planting and some 30 chicory kilns were established. The Bayview chicory kiln is now the oldest one remaining, and is currently an operating cafe and museum. The McLeod prison farm occupies 222 hectares and opened on 17 July 1916 as an Alcatraz-style penitentiary. Timber cabins housed the prisoners until 1946 when concrete cells were built. It operated as a self-sustaining farm. The prison closed in 1975 and was used as a holiday camp facility until 1995. Most recently it operated as an eco-village until it was bought in 2017 for $4 million by a Chinese-based company with plans to turn it into a major tourism operation. In 1967, at the request of then state Premier Henry Bolte the State Electricity Commission of Victoria proposed the island as the site of the first nuclear power plant in Australia, but the plans were abandoned. During the 1960s and 1970s BHP, Hooker Rex and the State Electricity Commission paid inflated prices for land, inducing land owners to sell up and move off the island.In July 1997, 11,050 hectares (27,300 acres), about 70%, of the island was declared French Island National Park, and in May 2002 the waters directly north of French Island were declared the French Island Marine National Park. # Weather # Things to do

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