Boronia

Boronia, unusually for a Melbourne suburb, has a name that is mis-spelled, but not mis-pronounced. The habitual Australian accent tends to make it “Baronia”, and for once, this more accurately reflects the origins of the suburb.

When the Fever of 1848 gripped Europe, those who had the means and saw a need often fled. They fled from France and Sicily, from Denmark, San Marco and Milan, from Hungary and Switzerland, from the Ukraine, Poland, Wallachia, Ireland and Belgium, and and most especially, they fled from the assorted states of the German Confederation. They sought a new life in the Antipodes, far away from the ancestral grudges of Europe, a place where, if social change was inevitable, it would at least come at a statelier pace.

They came primarily from the lower ranks of their assorted aristocracies, the lesser earls, knights, dukes and barons, all too often sharing ship space with now fleeing revolutionaries whose lives weren’t worth whatever the lowest denomination coin of their respective former realms might be at home. For the revolutions of 1848, almost without exception, left no lasting legacy of political change. Their effects, whether in the lands they were fought in, the lands that looked on wondering if they would be next, and the lands that accepted well-educated and still somewhat wealthy immigrants, were almost entirely social, and unevenly distributed from place to place.

In Australia, a large number of these royalist refugees settled in a place that reminded them somewhat of home: in the foothills of the Dandenong Ranges and the plains nearby them, where the lands felt more or less right, even if the trees and birds and flowers and beasts were all wrong. Boronia, refuge of Barons, was a new home in a land where a man’s title meant less than what he could do – which was all to the good given that back in Europe, a man’s title was all too often his death sentence.

Boronia remained a secluded enclave until the 1920s, when the coming of the railway opened it up to easier settlement, and a housing boom dramatically changed the demographics of the region (and lowered the average wealth of its inhabitants).

Suburbs near Boronia: