Victoria began in the 1830s as a farming community when the Hentys settled at Portland, Melbourne being founded soon after. With the discovery of gold in 1851 and Victorian independence from New South Wales, it was transformed into a leading industrial and commercial centre of the nation. In 1901, it became a part of the Commonwealth of Australia. Melbourne became the economic centre of both Australia and neighbour New Zealand at the time.
The Victorian economy is the second largest in Australia, accounting for a quarter of the nation's gross domestic product. The total gross state product at current prices for Victoria was at just over A$222 billion, with a GSP per capita of A$44,443. The economy grew by 3.4% in 2004, less than the Australian average of 5.2%. Finance, insurance and property services form Victoria's largest income producing sector, while the community, social and personal services sector is the state's biggest employer. Despite the shift towards service industries, the troubled manufacturing sector remains Victoria's single largest employer and income producer.
Melbourne University is ranked amongst the top universities both in Australia and the world. The University is highly regarded in the fields of the arts, humanities, and biomedicine.
The University has almost 40,000 students, who are supported by nearly 6,000 staff members (full or part-time). On November 15, 2005, Vice-Chancellor Glyn Davis announced a reform programme entitled "Growing Esteem". The University will aim to consolidate its three core activities - Research, Learning and Knowledge transfer - in order to become one of the world's finest institutions. The University's degree structure will be changed to the 'Melbourne Model', a combination of various practices from American and European Universities, which administrators claim will make the university consistent with the Bologna Accord, ensuring its degrees have international relevance.