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As Victoria reeled from the severe economic and social fracturing of the depression, its Centenary celebrated progress and community cohesion. Held between October 1934 and June 1935, the Centenary firstly commemorated Edward Henty's Portland settlement in November 1834 as Victoria's founding, then John Batman's pronouncement of Port Phillip as 'the place for a village', and thus the city's foundation, in June 1835. The Centenary Celebrations Council co-ordinated over 300 events held across Victoria, including 'Centenary editions' of the Royal Agricultural Show, the Melbourne Cup and other sporting events.

An estimated 500 000 people lined the elaborately decorated streets from Port Melbourne to the Melbourne Town Hall to see the Duke of Gloucester open the celebrations. MacPherson Robertson, a wealthy Melbourne confectioner, donated £100 000 to the Centenary's ailing funds, including prize money for the Centenary's highlight, Mac Robertson's London to Melbourne Air Race. Held in October 1934, the race was won by Britons Scott and Campbell Black, who were later welcomed along Swanston Street by 100 000 people. Other events included the opening of Cook's Cottage and the dedication of the Shrine of Remembrance, which took place on 11 November 1934 in front of 300 000 people. Religious events were a feature of the Centenary with 150 000 people watching the Catholic Eucharistic Procession in Victoria Parade on 9 December 1934. An historical exhibition was staged at the State Library and Museum, and the fiercely patriotic All-Australian Exhibition, featuring Australian industries, was held at the Royal Exhibition Building.

The Pioneer Women's Memorial Garden in the Kings Domain commemorated women, but with no acknowledgment of the Koorie people that these early settlers had displaced. While Aboriginal Victorians provided a backdrop on the commemorative stamp and several of the Centenary's other official images, northern Australian Aboriginal people were imported to perform a rain dance at the 'Outback Exhibition' at Melbourne Town Hall. The Yarra Boulevard beautification scheme, carried out by sustenance workers, underlined the ongoing economic struggle of many ordinary Victorians, while the federal government's attempt to ban Czechoslovakian Egon Kisch from speaking at the National All-Australia Anti-War Congress highlighted political rupture in the community. Throughout the Centenary, however, people could find solace at the Joyland 'People's' Fair in Batman Avenue, where they could purchase one of 250 000 pieces of the 10-ton (10.1 tonne) Centenary Birthday Cake.

Maryanne Mccubbin