Founded by free settlers from the British Crown colony of Van Diemen's Land on 30 August 1835, in what was then the colony of New South Wales, it was incorporated as a Crown settlement in 1837. It was named "Melbourne" by the Governor of New South Wales, Sir Richard Bourke, in honour of the British Prime Minister of the day, William Lamb, 2nd Viscount Melbourne. It was officially declared a city by Queen Victoria, to whom Lord Melbourne was close, in 1847, after which it became the capital of the newly founded colony of Victoria in 1851. During the Victorian gold rush of the 1850s, it was transformed into one of the world's largest and wealthiest cities. After the federation of Australia in 1901, it served as the nation's interim seat of government until 1927. Additionally, it was the host city of the 1956 Summer Olympics and the 2006 Commonwealth Games.
Melbourne rates highly in education, entertainment, health care, research and development, tourism and sport, making it the world's most liveable city—for the seventh year in a row in 2017, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit. It is a leading financial centre in the Asia-Pacific region, and ranks among the top 15 cities in the world in the Global Financial Centres Index. Referred to as Australia's "cultural capital", it is the birthplace of Australian impressionism, Australian rules football, the Australian film and television industries, and Australian contemporary dance. It is recognised as a UNESCO City of Literature and a major centre for street art, music and theatre. It is home to many of Australia's largest and oldest cultural institutions such as the Melbourne Cricket Ground, the National Gallery of Victoria, the State Library of Victoria and the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Royal Exhibition Building.
The main passenger airport serving the metropolis and the state is Melbourne Airport (also called Tullamarine Airport), the second busiest in Australia. The Port of Melbourne is Australia's busiest seaport for containerised and general cargo. Melbourne has an extensive transport network. The main metropolitan train terminus is Flinders Street station, and the main regional train and coach terminus is Southern Cross station. Melbourne is also home to Australia's most extensive freeway network and has the world's largest urban tram network.
Before the arrival of European settlers, humans had occupied the area for an estimated 31,000 to 40,000 years. At the time of European settlement, it was inhabited by under 2000 hunter-gatherers from three indigenous regional tribes: the Wurundjeri, Boonwurrung and Wathaurong. The area was an important meeting place for the clans of the Kulin nation alliance and a vital source of food and water.
The first European settlement in Victoria was established by Colonel David Collins in October 1803, at Sullivan Bay, near present-day Sorrento, but this settlement was relocated to what is now Hobart, Tasmania, in February 1804, due to a perceived lack of resources. It would be 30 years before another settlement was attempted.