Angus McMillan

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For the Prince Edward Island politician, see Angus McMillan (politician).
Angus McMillan
Angus McMillan portrait.jpg
Portrait of McMillan
Born (1810-08-14)14 August 1810
Glen Brittle
Died 18 May 1865(1865-05-18) (aged 54)
Nationality Australian
Other names The Butcher of Gippsland
Occupation freebooter

Angus McMillan, The Butcher of Gippsland, (14 August 1810 - 18 May 1865),[1] was a freebooter also remembered for organizing and participating in genocide in the Gippsland massacres which attempted to wipe out the Gunai people of Gippsland, Victoria, Australia.[2] The Victorian Federal electorate McMillan is named for him.[3]

Early life[edit]

Angus McMillan was born in Glen Brittle, Isle of Skye, Scotland,[4] the fourth son of Ewan McMillan. After an early life of hardship and deprivation he migrated to Australia in 1838.[1] Under the initial employ of Captain Lachlan Macalister he gained experience of Australian pastoralism on the Monaro, New South Wales before moving to manage the Currawang station near Delegate. It was on one of his exploratory trips to Ensay that he first viewed the Gippsland flats from Mount McLeod and sent word to Macalister that there might be both grazing land and a viable port to be found to the south. An almost deadly encounter with an Aboriginal guide at the time may have coloured his view of the native inhabitants.

In May 1839, he climbed Mount McLeod (The Haystack) and could see the plain and lakes country of Gippsland. On this trip his Aboriginal guide, Jimmy Gabber, attempted to murder him in his sleep. McMillan realized that Gabber was terrified of the strange country and then turn back to Omeo from a planned six-week trip after only nine days.[1]


By the time of 1839 and 1840, wealthy landholders in New South Wales had become interested in the Gippsland region of Victoria and funded exploration of the region. Macalister knew the early settlers in the high country of Gippsland around Benambra and Omeo as they too were from the Monaro. He put forward McMillan as a candidate to further explore the plains of Gippsland proper nearer to the coast. A second interest sent Polish scientist-explorer, Count Paul Strzelecki to also explore Gippsland.[5] Both of these expedition parties came down from New South Wales through the already established lands around Benambra and Omeo and headed south towards the coast.

McMillan completed several expeditions, and while he was not necessarily the first to visit many locations, his explorations were the most important in terms of European settlement of Gippsland proper. In 1841, on the final of his early expeditions he located a suitable port for the region, at present day Port Albert.

Memorial cairn at the Iguana Creek crossing on the Dargo Road, the site of McMillan's death

The route established then by McMillan varies substantially from the current major north-south route through Gippsland today. McMillan travelled further west along the ranges than the current Great Alpine Road. This route follows the Great Alpine Road south through the Tambo Valley to Bruthen, then West to Bairnsdale and Sale along the Princes Highway, then south from Sale to Port Albert.

For several decades Gippsland operated essentially on this north-south axis, following this route from Benambra and Omeo to Port Albert, but in the 1860s a road was opened from Melbourne to the east, and this was followed a couple of decades later by a rail line. These developments, along with development of significant east-west shipping on the Gippsland Lakes at the time, reoriented travel and transport to the simpler east-west axis, and demoted the Benambra and Omeo regions to a side branch of this main route.

Later life[edit]

McMillan later squatted on land in Gippsland for his own pastoral requirements. He was responsible for several massacres of Indigenous Australians who resisted alienation of their land and confronted the European invaders. Massacres of the Kurnai/Gunai people led by McMillan occurred at Nuntin, Boney Point, Butchers Creek, Maffra, Warrigal Creek, and other unspecified locations in Gippsland.[6]

In 1857, he married and had two sons Ewan and Angus. From October 1859 to November 1860 he was a member of the Legislative Assembly for South Gippsland,[7] less than a decade after Victoria was first declared a separate colony.

Bushfires and drought caused havoc with McMillan's financial interests and despite being recognised as the discoverer of Gippsland, McMillan died without an inheritance on 18 May 1865 on the banks of Iguana Creek while surveying what is now the Dargo Road in East Gippsland.

Bushy Park homestead[edit]

Bushy Park homestead, now at Old Gippstown in Moe

In 1848 McMillan had a homestead built on the Avon River between Boisdale and Briagolong. It has been preserved and was relocated to Old Gippstown in Moe, Victoria in 1969.[8]

Division of McMillan[edit]

In 1948 the Federal Division of McMillan was proclaimed, and named after McMillan. The first elections in the new electorate were held in 1949.[3]


  1. ^ a b c Webster, Theo. "McMillan, Angus (1810–1865)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Canberra: Australian National University. Retrieved 21 November 2012. 
  2. ^ Gardner, P.D.. (2001) , Gippsland massacres: the destruction of the Gunai tribes, 1800-1860, Ngarak Press, Essay, Victoria ISBN 1-875254-31-5
  3. ^ a b Australian Electoral Commission Profile of the electoral division of McMillan (Vic) Retrieved on September 11, 2012
  4. ^ Mennell, Philip (1892). "Wikisource link to McMillan, Angus". The Dictionary of Australasian Biography. London: Hutchinson & Co. Wikisource
  5. ^  Harris, Charles Alexander (1893). "MacMillan, Angus". In Lee, Sidney. Dictionary of National Biography 35. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 
  6. ^ Bartrop, Paul R. (2004). "Punitive Expeditions and Massacres: Gippsland, Colorado and the Question of Genocide". In A. Dirk Moses. Genocide and Settler Society: Frontier Violence and Stolen Indigenous Children in Australian History. Berghahn. pp. 200–203. ISBN 978-1-57181-410-4. 
  7. ^ "Angus McMillan". re-member: a database of all Victorian MPs since 1851. Parliament of Victoria. Retrieved 21 November 2012. 
  8. ^ Australian Heritage Moe-Yallourn Retrieved on September 10, 2012


  • Bride, T.F. (Ed) (1899) Letters from Victorian pioneers. Melbourne.
  • Morgan, P. (1997) The Settling of Gippsland: A Regional History. Traralgon: Gippsland Municipalities Association.

External links[edit]