Monument to now: Station to station



Hello. My name’s Emma.

I’m here to take you for a walk.      

First,  I acknowledge the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation – the traditional owners of the land where I live and where we walk today along the Upfield line. I pay my respects their elders past and present. The Wurundjeri people practised culture and storytelling here for tens of thousands of years and cared for these lands.

I ask you to respect the environment we walk through today, including the gardens.

What you’re about to hear was written and walked in January and February, with the smell of bushfire in the air. It was recorded in March in a sanitised studio, two days before COVID-19 was declared a state of emergency.

The world has changed since then. Along the Upfield Line, trains stopped running to allow for level crossing removal works, more gardens and small places of wonder have appeared – and I think the sign admonishing a stealer of stone may have disappeared.

Some ideas in this piece have become more resonant. I recorded the audio just hours after Breonna Taylor was shot by police, although her name was not yet reported.

Following George Floyd’s death, Black Lives Matter has become a global movement. Demonstrators in the UK tipped the statue of a slave trader into a harbour, and in Australia, police were deployed to protect the statues of colonisers like Cook and Macquarie… just weeks after Rio Tinto destroyed a sacred Indigenous site in the Pilbara.

I decided not to re-record this piece, because it has already become a time capsule. An archive. A monument, to the ever changing now.

This audio is designed to be listened to on location, but you can listen to it anywhere.

The walk is about two and a half kilometres, heading south from Fawkner Train Station, following the signposted Upfield bike route to Batman Station on Gaffney Street. It’s mostly flat, with one uphill section towards the end. It should take you around 30 minutes and, while I’ll refer to a few locations along the way, it’s not an exact science – so don’t worry about keeping up or slowing down to be in the right place. Wherever you are is right. There’s no wrong way to do this.

So, if you’re walking with me, start listening at Fawkner Train Station, next to the entrance to the cemetery, where, through the chain link fence, you can see an antique train funeral carriage. 

Fawkner Station to Boundary/Bain

Let’s begin in the north, where the crows perch, and you can hear birds, feel breeze on your face, see the gumtrees, imagine how the land might have been, before the white settlers came.

The story of this land goes back much longer but our journey today starts here, next to Fawkner Memorial Cemetery, which is also where the story ends for John Batman, who is buried in the grounds.

John Batman and John Pascoe Fawkner were bitter rivals for the title of ‘founder of Melbourne’.

Both men were the sons of convicts. John Pascoe Fawkner was born in England. He was 10 when his father was transported to the convict settlement at Port Phillip – not far from Sorrento – but the settlement soon failed and they were sent to Hobart Town. The family was granted land, and by the time he was 22, Fawkner was a baker and shopman… and people smuggler.

He was sentenced to 500 lashes and three years labour for helping seven convicts to escape for South America. After serving his time , Fawkner returned to his bakery and was fined for selling ‘short weight’ loaves of bread and using illegal weights. He also sold liquor illegally, and was an accessory in a robbery. He moved to Launceston for a fresh start and married Eliza, who I’ll tell you more about later.

They opened a hotel, and at one point the license was refused because Fawkner was considered ‘not a proper person’ to keep a hotel.

This hotel, the Cornwall Hotel, is where John Batman liked to drink, and it’s where Fawkner would have heard about Batman’s plans for an expedition to the mainland in 1835.

Batman was about 10 years younger than Fawkner. He had been born in Parramatta, to a convict father. When he was 20, Batman left for Van Diemen’s Land, probably because a woman he’d had an affair with was pregnant and he refused to marry her. Two years later, he’d started a relationship – and a family – with Eliza Callahan, more about her later, although it would be five years before they married.

When Batman was 25, he came to fame for leading the capture of the bushranger Matthew Brady. He also participated in the capture and violent dispersal of Aboriginal Tasmanians. He was described as a bounty hunter who was rewarded with land. His diary records how he shot and killed two injured captives.

Growing up in Parramatta, Batman had known Hamilton Hume. After Hume made the famous overland crossing from Sydney to Port Phillip, Batman saw opportunities and formed the Port Phillip Association with other colonists.

The expedition sailed  for the mainland and anchored at Indented Head on the Bellarine Peninsula in May 1835. 

That very same day, Fawkner, who had acquired a ship for his own expedition, was appearing in court for assault. He was forbidden from leaving the colony for two months.

Meanwhile, in Port Phillip, Batman signed so-called treaties with the local Aboriginal people for the purchase of land, and also sailed up the Yarra and chose the site that he would return to settle – the location of the CBD today. 

In July, Fawkner loaded up a vessel and sailed to George Town in preparation to cross the Bass Strait, where he was detained because of unpaid debt. He was told he must pay in full or stay in Van Diemen’s Land, so he claimed he had sea sickness to deceive the rest of his expedition.

Fawkner’s ship, the Enterprise, arrived at Port Phillip without him on 29 August and established a settlement on the banks of the Yarra.

Batman’s party arrived – without Batman – three days later, to find that the party on the Enterprise had stolen their spot.

Although Batman and Fawkner continue to argue over who could claim to be the founder, neither one of them was.

A journalist and early historian summarised the facts:

That Batman was the first prospector of Melbourne and Geelong. That not Fawkner, but Fawkner’s party – five men, a woman, and the woman’s cat – were the founders of the white settlement.

And of course, as Batman’s so-called treaty demonstrates, the area was clearly already inhabited by the people of the Kulin nation.

Exchanging 68 kilograms of flour, four suits of clothes and a collection of axes, knifes and scissors for 250,000 hectares of land was an unfair deal.

But that Batman’s Treaty was declared null and void because the British Crown did not recognise the Aboriginal People as having any claim to any lands, and considered any person on the ‘vacant’ land of the Crown without authorisation was trespassing. 

Despite this, Batman brought his family over and settled on Batman’s Hill – the area where Southern Cross Railway Station is today.

Fawkner, meanwhile, built Melbourne’s first hotel on the corner of William Street and Flinders Lane, the site of today’s Immigration Museum.

Batman was determined to build his empire and leave a legacy – because by then, he was dying of syphilis, so weak he couldn’t walk, his nose rotting away. He was ostracised, and his wife left him for another man.

He died, in debt, in May 1839. He was 38 years old.

Fawkner, in contrast, had a long and prosperous life. He established Melbourne’s first newspaper and became a member of Parliament. He was very involved in all aspects of the growing settlement – some would say too involved – and his abrasive personality had him described as half froth half venom. He died in 1869.

Fawkner would probably not have liked having a cemetery named after him. Much less one that held the syphilitic remains of his rival.  So too, Batman, who was moved here from his original burial place beneath the Queen Victoria Markets, would have hated to be buried in a place bearing Fawkner’s name.

In the here and now, we become so used to words, that we forget what they mean.

But should we honour people from the past who don’t reflect our values today?

Maybe the names Batman and Fawkner mean nothing to you. Maybe they are hurtful.

Today, as we walk, instead of Batman, I’ll say B word – and you can think of someone you’d like to commemorate with a train station.

Instead of Fawkner, I’ll say F word, and you can think of a word you like, a word you find satisfying to say.

Is it offensive, to have B word station? Is it offensive to have F word station?

There’s a network of neurons in our brains, called a Reticular Activating System.

The Reticular Activating System takes what you focus on and puts a filter on it.

Like when you learn a new word and start hearing it everywhere.

Or you buy a particular model of car in a particular colour, and it turns out every second person in Melbourne drives that car, which is amazing, because you hadn’t noticed it until you bought it.

My brain is noticing how our streets, suburbs and train stations are named after people.

How the names of things, as a way of memorialising someone can be just like a monument.

Each time I encounter a new name, I wonder who the person is.

Boundary/Bain to Merlynston

Merlynston Station takes its name from the housing estate built by Donald Stuart Bain, named after his daughter Merlyn. The path we’re walking on merges into Bain Street, running parallel with the train line past the station carpark.

Merlyn was the only child of Donald and Lillian Bain. In 1914, she was three, and her father  set off for Gallipoli. During the war, he was hospitalised in Egypt and later in Belgium with shell shock, before convalescing at a hospital for soldiers back in Melbourne.

I wonder if Merlyn understood the absence and noticed the change in her father when he returned. 

In 1919, Donald bought the 80 acres then known as Station Heights Estate. That same year, his wife left him, taking eight-year-old Merlyn with her.

Donald subdivided the land for housing. He named a street after the ship that had taken him to the war, and another for the hospital ship that had brought him back.

He advertised Merlynston as a new model suburb. Six and a half miles from the GPO and 50 yards from the train station, with ‘the first electric service to begin next Sunday week, when there will be a service of 21 trains per day each way.’

In case you were wondering, now, 100 years later, there are about 54 trains per day each way, on a good day.

Donald became a major investor in the local area, promoted a high quality to the homes built in Merlynston, and offered ‘special inducements to fellow diggers to “dig in there”’. He went on to become a councillor for Coburg and a Justice of the Peace.

Meanwhile, Merlyn, who had moved with her mother to Toorak, was separated from him, by a river, by a social class.

I don’t know if Merlyn saw her father. She was 12 when the divorce proceedings went to court. Both her parents filed against the other for ‘desertion’. It was bitter, sordid and was thrown out of court without divorce being granted.

When she was eighteen, Merlyn was presented at court in England.

A few years later she married John Bell Osboldstone at St John’s Church, Toorak.

The newspaper described the bride ‘in shimmering pearl white satin, brocaded in silver, and four pretty bridesmaids, in lily of the valley green silk net’.

It noted that Merlyn was the only daughter of Mrs. Bain, of Toorak.

It described the moment Merlyn entered the church with her uncle, who gave her away.

But the newspaper made no mention of her father Donald.

Was he invited and chose not to go? Or was he scanning for his land advertisements in the newspaper classifieds once day only to discover the notice of his daughter’s marriage?

Merlyn lived the life of a wealthy society lady, attending cocktail parties, hosting bridge parties and appearing in the social pages where her outfits – ‘a very becoming frock of navy blue and white patterned crepe, with a matching coat’ – and here floral arrangements – ‘tawny gladioli made a vivid splash of colour and the tea tables were bright with pink carnations and blue iris’ –  were described in breathless detail.

Lillian was there to assist her daughter host parties, until she died two years later. Donald died two years after that.

Whether or not Merlyn had seen him in the years since she married, surely she attended the funeral – a death notice listed him as her ‘beloved father’ and Merlyn’s husband John was the chief mourner at the funeral.

Back then, funeral trains still ran to F-word station.

From Flinders Street, mourners could travel in the passenger cars, with specialised mortuary carriages bringing up the rear, like the one on display at the cemetery, visible through the fence.

But for Captain Donald Stuart Bain, the funeral party left his home on Orvieto Street, the road that runs perpendicular to Merlynston Station, and travelled to the crematorium at Fawkner Memorial Cemetery.

But on other occasions, maybe Merlyn had taken the train, going through the station bearing her name, visiting her father in his homes on Boundary Road and Orvieto Street when he was still living. Maybe not. Maybe she was his daughter only in name.

Bain/Plaisted to Merlo Junction

A hundred years earlier, life was very different for women living here.

There are two Elizas in this story, both married to men called John – John B-word and John F-word.

Both Elizas arrived as convicts. 

One was robbed of the chance to have children, the other was killed violently.

October 11, 1818. Eliza Cobb arrives to Hobart town. Mount Wellington looms above. She is alone at the bottom of the world.

The men of the colonies rush to the ship to take a wife.

Eliza has no hopes for herself. She has a pockmarked face and a caste eye.

John Pascoe F-word has chosen one of the most attractive women, leading her away like a prize. He and another man brawl in the street. John loses.

He dusts himself off and returns to the ship’s captain, changing his tactic.

 ‘Hullo,’ says the captain, ‘what do you want now?’
‘Another wife,’
‘Why, confound you, how many wives do you want? You took the best looking girl on the ship a few minutes ago.’
‘Yes,’ John says, ‘but my mate took her away from me, and now I want the homeliest-looking girl you have got, and I will marry her.’

Eliza joined John and helped build up his business operations – bakery, a timber business, a bookshop, a newspaper, nursery, and orchard and the Cornwall hotel. At some point they got married, and Eliza got a pardon.

In October 1835, the two of them boarded a ship with two cows, two calves and two horses and went to the Port Phillip District.

The two of them.

Because Eliza bore no children of her own.

She and John adopted two daughters and fostered numerous children during the 50 years they were together. It was not until John died, and Eliza remarried, she that she revealed on her marriage certificate that she had given birth to one child – no longer living.

When Eliza had arrived as a convict to Hobart Town half a century earlier, the crime that had her transported was kidnapping a four-month-old baby.

Eliza had taken the baby from his 12-year-old sister by pretending she knew the child’s parents. When first apprehended she claimed the baby boy was hers, that her milk had not come.

Did the loss of her own child lead her to kidnap another?

Ararat Avenue to Fame/Renown

In your walk, you’ve probably reached ‘Merlo Junction’ where the path meets Ararat Street and there are gardens started by cuttings.

I’m a recent transplant myself. I’ve been here a bit over a year now. I’d been uprooted for a while when I blew into Melbourne, to Coburg, unsure I’d stay. I bought a plant from the farmer’s market, found myself putting roots down. Discovered the lemon tree and mint growing wild in our backyard – one of those verdant backyards with the fruit trees courtesy of someone else’s great Australian dream. We share the lemons with the neighbours, and in an exchange of homegrown produce that is starting to get competitive, we’ve swapped nectarines and tomatoes, capsicum and zucchini.

I’ve never been a gardener, I even kill succulents, but here I feel a sense of nurturing and abundance.

It’s something I love about the Upfield Bike Path. The small acts of kindness, and the custodianship of the community. People who create upcycled gardens to beautify stark post-industrial landscapes. People greening the transport corridor, popping in some colour, inviting birds and bees and bugs – and biodiversity, helping to rehabilitate the place.

It might be gone by now but along the rail line in Ararat Street roughly across from number nine, look for a round home-made sign that reads ‘hey bluestone thief, you suck!’

Someone has been pilfering the stone from the borders of the  gardens tended by Upfield Urban Forest volunteers.

I mentally shake my fist at the bluestone thief, and think about bluestone, and how it retains something sacred about it. In fact, I was christened in a bluestone church in the city of Ararat.

Historically, buildings were constructed from local rock – easily obtained, inexpensive.

Bluestone is that stone for much of Victoria, and especially for Melbourne. It’s such a part of this city’s identity that bluestone-cobbled laneways are heritage protected.

In Coburg, we might also think about Pentridge Prison – the Bluestone College. It’s one of Melbourne’s most iconic bluestone buildings, and built by prisoners. Pentridge Prison took the name from the township around it. Then it stole the name because no one in the area wanted to be associated with the prison. Coburg was selected as a more suitable name back in 1870.

Bluestone, then, makes me think of convicts.

Convicts brought from New South Wales made up many of the prisoners who helped to build Pentridge in the 1850s and 60s, quarrying stones from Merri Creek just east of here, at Coburg Lake Reserve.

The rocks along Ararat Street have lived multiple lives, have been dug up, repurposed, held histories and now hold the borders for a garden. 

And someone’s bloody nicking it. Bluestone thief: you suck.

Eliza Batman

The other Eliza arrived on a convict ship three years after Eliza F-word.

Eliza Callaghan’s story begins with a one pound note.

Found guilty of passing counterfeit notes in London, she was sentenced to death. Eliza was just seventeen.

The sentence was commuted to 14 years transportation instead and she arrived in Hobart Town in 1821, but there were no men seeking wives from this ship.

Eliza was put into service. Described as attractive, with a lively spirit, she soon had three offences recorded against her: drunk and disorderly and absconding twice.

She took off again and headed for the bush, where, in the rugged forests near the mountain Ben Lomond she encountered John B-Word.

Eliza stayed with John, giving birth to their first daughter the following year. Six more daughters would follow.

Eliza remained an escaped convict, forced to hide in the cellar when the authorities came by. Finally, John sought permission to marry her in 1828.

After moving to the Port Phillip settlement, Eliza had her last child and only son. Any happiness was not to last.

Her husband’s illness, which she attributed to ‘exposure’ and which we know is a sexually transmitted disease, effectively ended the marriage. Eliza took up with one of his storemen, Willoughby.

John changed his will so she would only be left with five pounds. Eliza was abroad in England when he died and returned to debt and disarray, her children separated among other people’s homes.

Six years later, her beloved son drowned in the Yarra Falls. 

The Falls was rocky ledge of bluestone that separated salt water from the freshwater so necessary for the settlement. It was also a crossing place before the first bridge was built, roughly where the Queens Bridge is now.

The Falls were destroyed by dynamite in the 1880s. The hill where John and Eliza lived was also destroyed – levelled as part of the reshaping of the city, although the name’s still there.

Devastated by the loss of her son, it wasn’t long before Eliza left her second husband, Willoughby and, the rumours say, turned to drink.

In 1852, Eliza was going by the name of Sarah Willoughby, living in Geelong, and probably working as a prostitute. In what appears to be a dispute over payment, she was beaten so violently she died the next day.

Two suspects were apprehended. A woman named Eliza Wilson and a man named John Trigg.

The newspaper reported: “On searching the female prisoner at the watchhouse, a one pound note with fresh blood stains on it was found concealed under her armpit.”

So Eliza’s story ended as it began: with a one pound note.

But maybe that’s too simple.

Maybe there was no one pound note in that transaction at all, but merely poetic license.

Is it too coincidental that Eliza was destroyed by a pair called Eliza and John?

Maybe she wasn’t a fallen woman, and maybe she was never beautiful – accounts differ here, others say she had the pockmarked skin of a childhood disease.

Maybe her husband never had syphilis, but skin cancer of the nose, perhaps.

How much can we trust the facts as written down, depending on who wrote them, and who was in favour at the time?

You see, we are all revisionists of our history.

Fame/Renown to Batman

Passing through the point where Fame and Renown Streets meet seems like a good place to reflect on our two rivals for the name of founding father.

They are no Romulus and Remus, but they were two men, skilled at self-memorialisation. 

John B-word was prolific in naming places after himself. If he had his way, the city would be known as Batmania. As for F-word, as well as the suburb of Pascoe Vale, from his mother’s maiden name, he has a cemetery, suburb, roads and park named after him. 

Then there’s the monuments.

Statues of John Pascoe F-word and John B-word were unveiled on Collins Street in 1979, paid for by the City of Melbourne.

They were cast in bronze – a material sculptors like to work with because, they say, it appears to be living.

And yet, memorialising someone in bronze consigns them to the past.

The construction of the new Collins Arch building has displaced the statues. There are no plans to put them back on display and their current location is unknown.

It’s not the only statue to B-word. On Swanston Street, at the Bourke Street intersection, he’s one of the three businessmen that tourists throng through.

There’s a cairn at the Queen Vic Markets, marking his original site of burial. And a bluestone monument at Fawkner Memorial Cemetery. If you were going to make a monument to the past, it would be bluestone, wouldn’t it? John F-word too, is entombed in bluestone in Carlton. 

But time change, tides turn, and titles have been stripped away.

The federal electorate of Batman was renamed in 2019, after William Cooper, a Yorta Yorta man.

In February this year, Northcote High School followed suit and renamed one of  its school houses from Batman to Cooper.

There has been a movement to remove his name from public places and buildings, like Batman Park.

And there’s even been a petition in recent years to rename Batman Station. The petition jokingly proposed a new name: Aquaman, for the superhero.

This is not as a simple as a hero-villain story.

There are arguments too, that Fawkner was as much a villain – and Batman is not the only controversial figure commemorated with a monument. Australia is littered with them, statues that have been graffitied or defaced, like the statues of Cook and Macquarie – or those that have been removed, like the Burke and Wills monument – taken from Melbourne’s streets to a secret storage location to allow for rail works.

But like hiding statues in storage, does erasing a name erase history? Allowing us to forget the atrocities committed in the name of colonisation?

How do we acknowledge past wrongs and move on?

I’m not here to give you answers. After all, art exists to ask questions, and I’m not here at all. I’m a digital archive in your ear. Only you are here, now.

These two train stations that we’ve walked between have not been renamed, but perhaps, rather than thinking of the two men called John, you can imagine they are named after the two women called Eliza.

As we approach Eliza Batman station, beware the narrow squeeze and keep to the left.

Consider this: what good is a monument when meaning is lost?

The year Eliza Fawkner arrived to this country, Percy Bysshe Shelly published a poem, called Ozymandias.

Percy Shelley’s “Ozymandias”

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed:
And on the pedestal these words appear:
‘My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!’
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away

The poem speaks of a monument that outlasts empires. Maybe they shouldn’t.

How many statues and street names do you come across that mean nothing for you?

And how many more will you notice now that the reticular activation system switches on in your brain?

Who is to say that succulents planted in a second-hand toilet or Styrofoam bike helmets are any less monumental that statues sculpted of bronze or stone?

On our journey, you’ve seen all the small and wondrous ways that Upfield Bike Path is being nurtured, cultivated, tended to by people in our community.

Being here today, moving through space, paying mind to your surroundings, you have marked a living moment that will never happen again – you are being a monument to now.


This podcast was produced for Monument to Now: MoreArt 2020 with support from Moreland City Council.

Written, recorded and edited by Emma Gibson, with production support by Petra Elliott.

Check the description for full credits and footnotes. 

Thank you.


Written, recorded and edited by Emma Gibson. Production support by Petra Elliott.

Produced for Monument to Now: MoreArt 2020 with support from Moreland City Council.


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Research sources for Batman and Fawkner

The Canberra Times, 1934, ‘The Founders’,

Encyclopedia of Melbourne, ‘Founding myths’

George Ganitis, 2019, ‘The stubborn myth of Batman’s Treaty,’

Jeff Sparrow, 2012, ‘Melbourne from the Falls’,

State Library of Victoria, ‘Melbourne’s founders’,

State Library of Victoria, ‘Batman’s early days’,  

Merlyn Bain

Cheryl G, ‘Donald Stuart Bain, founder of Merlynston’, 

The Herald, 1 October 1934, ‘Bridge Party at Grosvenor, page 13,

Obituaries Australia, ‘Bain, Donald Stuart (1880-1937)’,

People Australia, ‘Bain, Lilian Emma’,

Table Talk, 26 October 1933, ‘Family Notices: Osboldstone-Bain’, page 43,

Eliza Fawkner

Naomi Clifford, ‘Two cases of child stealing’, 2 January 2016,

Convict Records, ‘Eliza Cobb’,

Jan Hanslow, ‘Eliza Fawkner: A Founder Mother of Melbourne’,

State Library of Victoria, ‘The wives of Batman and Fawkner’,

 Eliza Batman

Geelong Cemeteries Trust, ‘The Story Of Eliza Batman’,

The Old Bailey online, ‘Eliza Callaghan, John Newnam, John Madden’,

POI Australia, ‘Eliza Batman (nee Callaghan)’,


Stephanie Trigg, ‘Bluestone and the City: Writing an Emotional History’, 2017, Melbourne Historical Journal, 44 (1), pp.41-53,

Stephanie Trigg, ‘From molten lava to cobbled laneways: how bluestone shaped Melbourne’s identity’, June 27, 2019,


Paul Dale, ‘Statues are not history. Here are six in Australia that need rethinking’, 25 August 2017,

Joe Hinchliffe, ‘Call to remove statue of John Batman, ‘founder of Melbourne’, over role in Indigenous killings’, August 26, 2017,

Nicholas Clements, 2011, The truth about John Batman: Melbourne’s founder and ‘murderer of the blacks’

Patrick Mercer, Australia’s Double Standard on Statues and Sacred Sites, 3 August 2020,

Melbourne Heritage Action,

Benjamin Millar, ‘Statue of limitations: No place in the city for men we’d rather forget’ 18 September 2018,

Monument Australia, ‘John Batman’,

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