Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Richard Osburne (1825–1895)

by John Barrett

This article was published:

Richard Osburne (1825-1895), journalist and historian, was born on 15 November 1825 in New South Wales, son of William Osburne, paymaster, and his wife Mary, née McLeod. He went to Melbourne in 1837 and two years later was apprenticed to general printing on J. P. Fawkner's Port Phillip Patriot and Melbourne Advertiser.

In 1847 Osburne moved to Warrnambool. He was correspondent for the Argus and Bell's Life in Sydney, ran a general store with his brother-in-law, J. M. Chisholm, and with John Wilkinson founded the Warrnambool Examiner in March 1851. The gold rush closed the paper and Osburne reluctantly moved to Forest Creek, near Castlemaine, where he ran a store with a nephew. In October 1853 Osburne resumed publication of the Examiner. He leased it to H. Laurie and W. Fairfax for five years from October 1867, and with his family temporarily moved to Melbourne. When Osburne resumed control of his paper, Laurie and Fairfax launched the Warrnambool Standard; another competitor was the short-lived Guardian. The 'father of the Warrnambool press' complained of disloyalty from friends and the public, and gave up his proprietorship at the end of 1880. In 1883 the Examiner was incorporated in the Standard.

In 1887 Osburne published The History of Warrnambool, Capital of the Western Ports of Victoria, from 1847 … to the end of 1886. This detailed chronicle of local events is valuable beyond its purpose: it unconsciously emphasizes the dependence of pioneering communities on a few men of Osburne's stamp. He was closely associated with the founding of Aboriginal reserves, the mechanics' institute, the lending library, the hospital, the first Sunday school and St John's Presbyterian Church. He helped to establish a National school (favoured, Osburne said, by most country people while no church had the numbers to set up its own school). He was involved with a committee to press for district amenities, municipal council, bathing baths on the beach, cricket club, fire brigade, anglers' protection society, Shakespearian society and dramatic club, parliamentary debating club, building society, meat preserving company and a committee to promote exploration for gold in the Otway Ranges. He retired to Merri, Octavia Street, St Kilda, in 1882. He died of dysentery at Prahran on 16 January 1895. He had married Eliza Plummer in March 1854; they had five children.

Select Bibliography

  • A. Sutherland et al, Victoria and its Metropolis, vol 2 (Melb, 1888)
  • C. E. Sayers, By These We Flourish (Melb, 1969).

Citation details

John Barrett, 'Osburne, Richard (1825–1895)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1974, accessed online 17 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 5, (Melbourne University Press), 1974

View the front pages for Volume 5

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


15 November, 1825
New South Wales, Australia


16 January, 1895 (aged 69)
Prahran, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.