Table Of Historical Events



Port Phillip District is constituted the colony of Victoria, and the northern boundaries are settled. Gold is discovered in payable amounts in New South Wales by Edward Hargraves and by various individuals in Victoria. First representative legislatures meet in Tasmania, Victoria and South Australia.

1852 Peninsular and Oriental Navigation company (P & O) and the royal Mail Steam Navigation company begin carriage of mail every alternate month. Transportation to Norfolk Island is abolished.
1853   P & O is contracted for a mail service every alternate month from Singapore to Sydney via King George's Sound, Adelaide and Melbourne. Transportation to Norfolk Island is abolished.
1854   First electric telegraph line in Australia: between Melbourne and Williamstown, Victoria. First private railway in Australia is opened, between Flinders Street, Melbourne, and Port Melbourne.
1855   Responsible government is proclaimed in Tasmania, Victoria and New South Wales. Victoria: restriction on Chinese immigrants.
1856 South Australia: proclamation of responsible government Chinese begin entering the colony of Victoria via Port Robe, on Guichen Bay; SA; anti-Chinese riots at he Buckland River diggings near Mount Buffalo. A monthly mail service begins between Southampton and Sydney.

First telegraph line in New South Wales: Sydney to South Head; extended to Albury, linking Sydney to Melbourne. Melbourne and Adelaide are linked by telegraph. Thomas Champion 'trains' as a photographer. Australia: population reaches 1 million


Tasmania: first submarine cable is laid between Tasmania and Cape Orway on the mainland (listed only a few weeks). Queensland becomes a separate colony and is granted responsible government.


John McDouall Stuart opens up Central Australia; dispels the illusion of an impassable desert or an inland sea.

1860-61   The fated Burke and Wills expedition crosses the continent to the Gulf of Carpentaria.
1861   Sydney is linked by telegraph to Brisbane.
    Anti-Chinese riots at Lambing Flat and Burrangong diggings in New South Wales, followed by regulation of Chinese immigration. Death of Burke and Wills at Cooper's Creek.

John MacDouall Stuarts third expedition crosses the continent and returns a route for the overland telegraph line has been found. John McKinlay also crosses the continent east of Stuart's route in search of Burke and Wills.

1862 First visit by an English cricket team.
Site of Somerset at the tip of Cape York is selected.
1863   John Tebbutt builds his first observation at the Peninsula, Windsor, Northern Territory is annexed by South Australia.
    Queensland: Kanakas are introduced as labour on the sugar plantations: Somerset is established as a pearling centre.
1864   First commercial sugar is milled from Queensland cane.
1865   William Macleay, squatter and politician, inherits his uncle's and cousin's natural history collections.
1867   Victoria imposes protective tariff on imports.
    Direct telegraph line between Sydney and Adelaide.
    Gold is discovered at Gympie, Queensland.
1868   HMS Blanche, a sail and steam corvette, is commissioned to work on the Australia Station. C.J. Norcock sails with her to Australia and records her progress in his log.
    Arthur Clarke emigrates to Australia per the Conflict.
    Clontarf, New South Wales: attempted assassination of HRH Duke of Edinburgh followed by an outburst of patriotic shock - all princely acts of commission and omission are instantly erased.
    Queensland: the Polynesian Labourers Act is passed by the Queensland government with Colonial Office approval; deals with the labour market in Queensland only.
    Pearl-fishing starts in the Torres Strait, off the Warrior Reefs.
    The last convict ship, the Hougoumont, reaches Fremantle, Western Australia, with 279 prisoners.
1869   Monthly mail service between Sydney and San Francisco via Auckland.
    Settlement of Port Darwin.
    Tasmania: a second-successful-telegraph cable links Tasmania with the other colonies, via Low Head and Cape Schank.
    The Flying Squadron of six ships reaches Melbourne, at first Australian port of call.
    Fiji: Captain George Palmer of HMS Rosario seizes the Daphne for blackbirding and escorts it to Sydney, where the owners get off scot-free.
    Missionary agitation for the abolition of blackbirding.
1870   Imperial troops are withdrawn.
    The amalgamation of post and telegraph offices is almost complete. Travelling post offices are established.
    South Australia gets the contract to build the overland Telegraph line. Charles Todd, Postmaster-General, is put in charge.
    Western Australia government decides to resume exploration, to find a route for a telegraph line to South Australia.
    Leadership is given to John Forrest.
    HMS Blanches runs aground in the Torres Strait.
    Europe: France declares war on Prussia (July). Emperor Napoleon III abdicates after battle of Sedan (September).
    The Republic fights on.
1871   A permanent military force is raised in New South Wales.
    Robin Walpole is shipwrecked on St Paul's Island, en route for the Australia Station.
    Anthony Trollope makes the first of two visits to Australia.
    South Australia: work begins on the Overland Telegraph.
    New Guinea: the Russian scientist, traveller and explorer Nicolaus de Miklouho-Maclay arrives at Astrolabe Bay.
    Solomon Islands: the brig Carl kidnaps 85 natives in Buka passage; 60-70 natives, dead or wounded, are slung overboard following an uprising.
    Bishop Patteson is murdered in reprisal for this and other outrages.
    Europe: Paris capitulates after a siege of four months.
    The Franco-Prussian War is over, and Germany becomes the major continental power in Europe.
1872   William Bethell reaches Melbourne (29 January).
    Arrest of the captain and crew of the brig Carl on blackbirding charges.
    The Pacific Islanders Protection bill is introduced into the House of commons (February).
    Arthur Clarke resumes his shipboard diary; the Theatre Royal, Melbourne, is destroyed by fire; Robert Walpole joins HMS Blanche as a midshipman (March).
    John Morison begins a diary of his 15-month trip (April)
    Passage of the 'Kidnapping Act'; provides for punishment of British subjects who enlist or decoy natives against their will (June).
    Queensland: Charters Towers goldfield is declared.
    First overland telegraphic message from Port Darwin to Adelaide.
    First telegraphic message to Adelaide from London, via Java-Port Darwin link.
    Ernest Giles sets off from chambers Pillar (Idracowra) on the first of four expeditions; names Lake Amadeus and Mount Olaga (sighted from a distance).
    William Bethel leaves for the Canterbury Plains, New Zealand.
    New Guinea: HMS Blanche explores Blanche Bay and anchors in Rabaul Harbour.
    HMS Beagle and Sandfly, the first of five fast RN schooners to patrol the islands, are commissioned for anti-blackbirding duty.
1873   Publication of Anthony Trollope's Australia and New Zealand.
    William Macleay offers to bequeath his museum to the University of Sydney, plus 6000 pounds to pay the salary of a curator.
    Peter Egerton Warburton, a retired Indian Army officer of 60, crosses from Alice Springs to Perth - not without difficulty - the first European to reach the Indian Ocean from the Overland Telegraph Line. En route he antagonises the Aborigines, desecrates sacred sits, and on arrival is acclaimed a hero.
    W.C. Gosse likewise sets out from Alice Springs, in the employ of the South Australian Government; reaches the Townsend Range 100 miles within the Western Australian border , and is forced to turn back.
1874 The Transit of Venus (9 December).
    Formation of the Linnean Society of New South Wales, with William John Macleay as President (October).
William Macleay retires from political life.
    John Forrest makes crossing from the west to the Overland Telegraph Line via the Gibson Desert.
New Guinea: first London Missionary Society mission is founded at Port Moresby.
1875 William Macleay's New Guinea expedition (May-September).
    Ernest Giles crosses from Beltana to Perth, and back to the Peake Downs telegraph station. End of period of major explorations.
Fiji becomes a Crown Colony.
    The Pacific Islanders Protection Act 1875 comes into force, extends powers to control activities of British subjects in islands not possessed by Britain or under the jurisdiction of any other civilised power.
1876 Sydney-Wellington telegraph cable connects Australia and New Zealand.
Tasmania: death of Truganini, last of the Tasmanian Aborigines.
Luigi d'Albertis explores the fly River, New Guinea.
1877 Victoria: first Test match is played.
Telegraph is set up between Adelaide and Perth.
Chinese outnumber whites 12.1 on the Palmer goldfield, Queensland.
109 pearling vessels operate out of Somerset; settlement is moved to Thursday Island.
Population of Australia reaches 2 million.
1878 Queensland: restrictions on Chinese immigration.
Seamen strike against coloured labour.
1879 First steam tramway opens in Sydney.
First artesian bore is sunk at Kallara Station, near Bourke, NSW.
First successful shipment of frozen meat is sent to England.! Shop Mizuno Team Sports! Never Settle!

By the 1860s and 1870s, the pioneers' efforts were bearing fruit. The colonies in Australia and New Zealand were maturing and (whether thy liked it or not) the mother country - for not particularly maternal reasons - was about to encourage her progeny to stand on their own two feet. The whole decade of the 1870s was one of advance and retreat. Responsible government had been in place for some 15 years, and the power base was shifting. building, manufacture and infrastructure were all-important, and pastoralists were no longer the power in the land that once they had been. Horizons were becoming ever wider as a vast continent was crossed and re-crossed, if never quite conquered. The white population reached 2 million, the Aboriginal population continued to decline.

In cities, the public building programs reflected a confidence in the country's future. The railways opened up the bush; the farmers cleared it. Capitalism was on the rise, but so were the forces of labour. It was a man's world. in whatever direction one looked. Brothels were well frequented, domestic service and clothes-making the respectable alternatives for single women of the lower classes. In the Brave New World of down-under, servants were as good as their masters (The standard of Education is much higher with the lower orders than in England,' observed Lieutenant Hugh Massy, RN. 'They seldom drop their hs and as seldom address their Mate or Mistress, as "Sir" or "Mam"), and were always in demand. conditions for men, women and child factory-workers, on the other hand, were an abomination. For middle-class women opportunities for economic independence wee rare: few looked beyond marriage as a goal and, for those who did, teaching or governessing were the only respectable occupations. As for the unemployed, the human debris, the seemingly feckless of society - the idlers, the vagrants and the drunks - it was a cold, self-congratulatory charity that swept them off the streets and into the various benevolent asylums of the towns and capital cities.

For the sober citizen with a penny or two in his pocket, there was play as well as work (and church on Sunday). Variety companies and travelling circuses toured the country towns, and in the cities the theatres were wee booming. The plays were 'foreign', the players Australian, the audiences rowdy; the bars a trysting place for sexual congress. Opera brought a sense of refinement, as did concerts in palatial town halls: a setting fit for worthy burghers, fine oratorio and soaring aspirations. Relaxation could also mean sport as participants or spectators. The use of the natural sciences provided stimulation for both sexes in the form of geology field trips, perhaps, or botanising. A sense of pride in and curiosity about Australia's unique flora and fauna led to a series of leaned papers and books, produced in this country for and by Australians. An increasing number of learned societies counted erudite men (but not women) among their members. At a more popular level, features such as 'A Voice from the Country' by 'L.A.' (later 'L.C.') found a following among the readership of the Sydney Morning Herald and Sydney Mail.

THE 1870s SAW A RISE in social tensions, with the labour force already questioning the terms of its employment. Victoria's protective tariffs created friction with its neighbours, while in the country districts land reform at last was under way and crating tensions of its own. It was boom time for post-and-rail as pastoralists fended off the advance of free selection, or moved on to the Riverina and northwards into Queensland. The farmers followed, for the land on the Darling Downs was not only rich but cheap. Wheat farming would be problematical for years - good harvests subsidized the bad - and mixed farming brought mixed blessings. These were bad times that put pressure on farmer and pastoralist alike: the need for finance to buy the land and stay there; the accompanying spectres of bankruptcy and eviction.

The Wimmera in Victoria's north-west was settled. South Australia's Lutherans arrived by the wagon-load, leaving a sadly depleted land behind them. (Danish settlers would lead the thrust into the timeless forests of Gippsland.) In South Australia, more land was marketed by government to halt the growing drift. Farmers and would-be farmers moved north to the hearth-break of the Willochra Plain, beyond Goyder's line of acceptable rainfall - following the plough rather than the dictates of common sense. Gold brought its own particular form of idiocy. From the declining gold towns of Victoria and New South Wales, the diggers moved up to the mining camps of Queensland. Indentured Chinese on subsistence wages made the mines of the Northern Territory pay - then refused to leave them. Governments followed Victoria's lead of 20 years before and legislated against the 'yellow horde'. Gold, that great equalizer of the past and springboard for the future, now triggered a racist policy that would endure for generations. (The 'tin lands' discovered at Vegetable Creek in 1871, which stretched from New England and across the Queensland border, would only exacerbate the problem.)

THE STEAM ACE MADE COMMUNICATION regular and predictable: links with the folks back home, always treasured, were now assured. The continent - crossed and re-crossed from south to north in 1861-1862-was crossed again in 1872 by the land line of the Overland Telegraph. More features of the map of Australia were written in (named after the distant, dad or disappeared) as the line became the starting point for the last westerly expeditions of any note. The Forrest brothers heading east from Perth in 1870 made the final transcontinental link. The telegraphic network was completed. Tasmania to the mainland; Port Darwin to Adelaide, Perth and Sydney; Darwin to Java by submarine cable; Australia to the world.   

Increased awareness did not come alone. While Britain thought to distance herself from her antipodean colonies, to her nations were closing in. Russia, Japan, the United States of America - all had Pacific coastlines and at one time or another were the subject of a minor frisson or a major scare. with a Dutch, French and German presence already established in the Western Pacific, Australian adventurers and entrepreneurial spirits wee not the only ones casting in eager eye towards the South Sea Islands. Ironically, it was the islands, and men looking for a new frontier, that brought the ships of the Imperial Navy back to Australian waters in significant numbers. The men who sailed them wee welcomed with open arms - for their own sakes, and for love of the Queen who sent them. That affection was transferred to her Majesty's sailor son, Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, on his Australian visit in 1867. Any hostility was reserved for the British Government, and the colonial governors, its servants - but never to the Queen, whose birthday was celebrated each year with patriotic fervour.

When the last convict transport to Western Australia arrived in 1867, transportation was finally at an end. (Alone of all the colonies, South Australia, a colony founded on religious and political freedoms in 1836, had never known the stigma.) visitors now travelled out from Britain to eye with curiosity the white native-born Australian as well as the native black. The colonist were put under the microscope, as it were, every bit as much as beetles as butterflies; they and their habits were studied as avidly as the platypus and kangaroos sent back to Britain's scientific institutions. They did not fare particularly well under such an examination: they were felt to be different, and it was true.

Gold had made Australia a melting pot of nations. The young migrants of the 1850s had married; their children had grown up, taller and stronger than those 'at home', and owing their allegiance to Australia rather than to a country talked about, but never seen. They read the same books as heir counterparts in Britain, they sang the same songs - yet they were beginning to march to a different tune. Grandiose new buildings might be copies of the old, yet a separate Australian culture was in the making. by the end of the 1870s the colonists had embraced their environment and a sense of nationhood was slowly emerging.

THE PICTURE OF THE 1870s painted in these pages is incomplete. The author's interests and the material in the National Library's Manuscript Collection have dictated the direction taken, and for the most part the book illuminates the eastern states of Australia. An unfinished portrait, then, or one employing the chiaroscuro technique: one side of the subject in light, the other in shade - or, quite simply, a series of sketches, with each chapter inviting readers to take the topic further, should they wish.

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