Established in Melbourne in 1880, the Field Naturalists' Club of Victoria (FNCV) was the first such club in Australia. An amateur scientific society with a focus on the local natural environment, it emphasises practical field skills gained through excursions and camp-outs. Through these activities, often organised in association with local enthusiasts, the FNCV has become the centre of a network of regional field naturalists' clubs. Most of these have been established in the last 50 years, although the Ballarat Field Club and Science Society dates from 1882, the Ararat Field Naturalists' Club from 1929 and the Portland Field Naturalists' Club from 1945. The FNCV also has links with the Melbourne (formerly Hawthorn) Junior Field Naturalists' Club.
The FNCV takes pride in its association with senior scientific figures, dating from Ferdinand von Mueller, one of its early members, but has always asserted itself as an amateur and popular club with an emphasis on field rather than experimental science, unlike 'professional' societies such as the Royal Society of Victoria. Because of the amateur and inclusive style of the club, women have always been well represented.
The FNCV's journal, the Victorian naturalist, has been published continuously since 1884. The 'Vic Nat' combines technical scientific articles with reports of excursions and meetings, and occasional historical reviews. Since 1939 the FNCV has awarded the annual Australian Natural History Medallion for 'increasing knowledge and appreciation of natural history in Australia'.
Nature conservation has always been a concern of the FNCV, which was instrumental in the reservation of Victoria's first national park, Wilsons Promontory. In 1952 the FNCV sponsored the establishment of the Victorian National Parks Association. The Microscopical Society of Victoria (founded in 1908) was incorporated into the FNCV in 1954.