Royal Park was originally an important Aboriginal camping ground which fell within the territory of the Wurundjeri people, with whom John Batman made his infamous land deal in 1835.
The land today is a remnant of a much larger reserve of 625 hectares (2,500 acres) set aside for recreation purposes by Governor Latrobe in 1854. In 1868 and again in 1878 the size of the park was reduced for housing allotments. In the 1880s more land was lost to make way for trams, trains and roads.
Set up as "Camp Pell" (named after a US pilot killed in action) in 1942 for American Troops stationed in Australia during WWII, the park was used as a Transit Camp primarily for medical and vocational guidance units. In 1945, the site became a demobilisation centre for the War and was decommissioned in December of the same year. In 1946, the park was used by the Housing Commission for Emergency Public Housing, in the wake of acute post-war housing shortages. Dubbed "Camp Hell", its post-war use was initially intended to merely last one year, but in actuality lasted ten.
The tin huts of Camp Hell were demolished and the park was cleaned up in time for the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games and still exists today as a recreational reserve.