Everyday locals and tourists walk or drive past Flinders’ Monument in Harbour Street. It is a tribute either forgotten or ignored because of its ever-present familiarity in the landscape.
Silent but not mute, it has a story rich in reminders of the past. When the English colonised Australia in 1788, little was known about the land. Many explorers were sent or volunteered to travel north and south along the coast and west into the inland. They travelled into unknown waters naming mountains, lakes and rivers mapping the coastline and deserts.
Matthew Flinders certainly did more than his fair share. Although he never once used his own name for any feature; Flinders’ name is now associated withgeographical features, institutions, streets, parks and waterways throughout our towns and cities.
As the first circumnavigator Flinders the originator of the name ‘Australia’ is surely worthy of such recognition.He was certainly the first European to visit Yamba and deserves a mention in the pages of our European history.
We know that Flinders was an exceptional navigator but had he been a little more observant when he popped into Yamba on July 12, 1799 for a short visit, to fix his leaky boat the Norfolk and to take on board a fresh supply of water he could have rewritten that history.
Instead he unthinkingly dismissed the “turbulent estuary as dangerous and unworthy of further examination”. Instead he named it Shoal Bay and sailed off to discover other rivers further north. Consequently he missed the largest estuarine system on Australia’s East Coast, exactly what he was sent to find.
Despite this monumental mistake the Port of Yamba Historical Society erected a monument in his honour on March 1983. It stands in the shadows of overhanging vegetation opposite the Calypso Caravan Park approximately where it is believed that he replenished his fresh water supply from a spring. The exact location is uncertain. However the monument is worthy of acknowledgement for it commemorates what we value when recording our local history.
Matthew Flinders journal gives a full account of his voyage. It recounts the Norfolk entering the Heads, landing to make scientific observations and to set Yamba’s latitude. It also describes his encounter with the impressive and welcoming Indigenous People.
Flinders name is also linked with Norfolk Park, Flinders Park, Flinders Rock and Flinders Lodge.
For further reading – Matthew Flinders Discovery of Shoal Bay (Yamba) byStuart Lee and visit the Yamba Museum to find out who actually did discover the Clarence River!
Photograph – Councillor Filewood and members of the Port of Yamba Historical Society unveiling the plaque.