Batman was born in Rosehill, Parramatta (now a suburb of Sydney), and spent time in Tasmania (then called Van Diemen's Land) where he began farming, initially on granted land, but his holdings gradually expanded through purchases. In December 1825, or early 1826, Batman captured the notorious bushranger, Matthew Brady.
Batman sought land grants in the Western Port area of Victoria, but the colonial authorities rejected this. So, in 1835, as a leading member of the Port Phillip Association he sailed for the mainland in the schooner Rebecca and explored much of Port Phillip Bay. Batman negotiated a treaty, now known as Batman's Treaty, with some local Aborigines to rent their land on an annual basis for 40 blankets, 30 axes, 100 knives, 50 scissors, 30 mirrors, 200 handkerchiefs, 100 pounds of flour and 6 shirts. It is unlikely that the Wurundjeri people would have understood this transfer of land or agreed to it if they had, but, as Percival Serle wrote, "No doubt the blankets, knives, tomahawks, etc., that he gave them were very welcome". In any case, the Governor of New South Wales deemed such a treaty invalid as the land was owned by the Crown rather than the Aborigines. When he found the current site of central Melbourne he noted in his diary, "This will be the place for a village."
Batman and his family settled at what became known as Batman's Hill at the western end of Collins Street, building a house at the base in April 1836, where he lived until his death. Batman's health quickly declined after 1835, and he became estranged from his wife, convict Elizabeth Callaghan. They had had seven daughters and a son. His son drowned in the Yarra River. In his last months he was cared for by the local Aborigines. On his death his widow and family moved from the house at Batman's Hill and the government requisitioned the house for government offices.
His direct descendant is Australian sprinter Daniel Batman.