John Oxley (1785 – 1828)

John Oxley (1785 – 1828) was born in England and sailed to Australia as a surveyor with the Royal Navy in 1801. He was appointed Surveyor-General of New South Wales in 1812.

Oxley's First expedition

Ordered to do so by Governor Macquarie in 1817, Oxley, with explorer George Evans as second in command, led an expedition to follow the Lachlan River. Oxley surveyed and mapped the river and discovered good grazing land west of Bathurst. When swamps blocked his way Oxley led the explorers north and returned to Bathurst, following the Macquarie River.

Oxley's Second expedition

In 1818, Oxley (again with George Evans as second in command) led another expedition to trace the course of the Macquarie River. As before on the Lachlan River he was blocked by swamps and marshes. Oxley led his men north-east and explored the Castlereagh River (George Evans had discovered a portion of the Lachlan River west of Bathurst in 1815) and the fertile lands of the Liverpool Plains. Travelling east, the explorers crossed the Great Dividing Range, discovered the Hastings River and followed it to its mouth on the coast. Oxley named the coastal area Port Macquarie, after the governor, and then returned to Sydney.

Oxley's Third expedition

By the 1820s it was decided that a new place needed to be found to house convicts. In 1823, under orders from Governor Brisbane, Oxley sailed up the coast and into Moreton Bay. He was shown the mouth of a large river and guided upstream by some escaped convicts who had been shipwrecked earlier and who had been living with local Aboriginal people. Oxley explored the river for about 20 kilometres and named it the Brisbane River after the governor.

On his return to Sydney, Oxley recommended Moreton Bay as the place for a convict settlement. The penal settlement was established on the bay at Redcliffe in 1824. Later the colony was moved south to a site on the Brisbane River at North Quay, where there was a more reliable water supply. This area became the city of Brisbane.


Oxley's Last days

Oxley became a farmer and sheep breeder. He was a director of the Bank of New South Wales and a member of parliament. He died in Sydney in 1828.

How is John Oxley remembered?

  • Oxley is a town in New South Wales
  • Oxley is a suburb in the Australian Capital Territory
  • Oxley is a suburb in Queensland
  • The Oxley Highway is in New South Wales

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