Oxley, John (DNB00)

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OXLEY, JOHN (1781–1828), Australian explorer, born in England in 1781, entered the royal navy, in which he saw active service in various parts of the world, and obtained a lieutenant's commission on 25 Nov. 1807. He went out to Australia, and was appointed surveyor-general of New South Wales on 1 Jan. 1812. On 6 April 1817, in company with Cunningham, king's botanist [see Cunningham, Allan, 1791-1839], Charles Frazer, colonial botanist, William Parr, mineralogist, and eight others, he started on an exploring expedition in the interior of Australia. They returned on 29 Aug. to Bathurst, having during their nineteen weeks' travel traced the Lachlan and Macquarie rivers, named the Bell and Elizabeth rivers, Molle's rivulet, and Mounts Amyott, Melville, Cunningham, Stuart, Byng, Granard, and Bauer. On 20 May 1818 Oxley started, with some companions, on a second expedition. In this remarkable journey the party traversed the whole of the country between Mount Harris and Port Macquarie, carrying a stranded boat on their shoulders ninety miles of the way, discovering and naming the Peel and Hastings rivers and Port Macquarie. The results showed the need of finding a track to the Liverpool Plains, and to the problem of many mysteriously flowing rivers added the rumour of a great inland sea. On 23 Oct. 1823 Oxley started in the Mermaid, with Lieutenant Stirling and Mr. John Uniacke, to find a site for a penal settlement north of Sydney. They examined Port Curtis on 6 Nov. and Boyne river on 11 Nov., reaching Moreton Bay on 29 Nov.; there they found a white man named Pamphlet, who gave them information which led to the discovery of the Brisbane river, on which the capital of Queensland now stands. A settlement was formed there in August 1824. On 11 Aug. 1824 Oxley was made a member of the legislative council of New South Wales. He married the daughter of James Morton of New South Wales, by whom he had a family. He died on 25 May 1828.

Oxley was author of 'Narrative of Two Expeditions into the Interior of New South Wales, under the orders of the British Government, in 1817-18' (London, 1820), and of a 'Chart of Part of the Interior of New South Wales' (1822). His name has been adopted as the name of several places in New South Wales and Victoria.

[Heaton's Handbook of Australian Biogr. under 'Oxley' and 'Australian Land Explorers;' Oxley's Narrative.]

H. M. C.