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Land uses in Australia, late 18 th century – mid 19 th century Dr Dmytro Ostapenko

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1 Land uses in Australia, late 18 th century – mid 19 th century Dr Dmytro Ostapenko

2 Presentation outline Australia: the nature of the continent The first Australians: Indigenous land uses European settlement in Australia, The pastoral age, The golden age,

3 Rainfall and evaporation of the continents Continent Average annual rainfall (mm) % lost as evaporation Africa66076 North America66060 South America Asia61064 Europe58060 Australia46087 Davidson, European Farming in Australia, p. 7

4 Felling the tall timber in Gippsland from M Cannon, Life in the Country: Australia in the Victorian Age, Currey O'Neil Ross, South Yarra, Vic., 1978, p. 86

5 The painting of unknown artist, Government agricultural establishment Castle Hill, c. 1806, accessed at

6 Physical environment Mild climate Low rainfall/high evaporation River system contains little water Forests along the coastal wetter areas Land resources are enormous in terms of Australia’s population

7 Indigenous land uses Relied almost entirely on food gathering, hunting and fishing for their subsistence Semi-nomadic way of life Generally sufficient food supplies Land was collectively ‘owned’ Incompatibility of the Aboriginal and European land uses

8 European settlement and land use in Australia in 1788 – 1820 Social and political factors of settlement Failure of state farming Granting land to ex-convicts promoted small- scale private farming In 1821, there were 1665 owners of land (64 % of all granted in preceding years), 1245 of whom had holdings below 99 acres.

9 James Atkinson, An Account of the State of Agriculture and Grazing in New South Wales, 1826 If a foreigner who had travelled through England, were afterwards to visit New South Wales, he would scarcely be able to persuade himself that the inhabitants where derived from the same stock; he could hardly believe that the people, who, in their mother country, cultivate their lands with such preserving industry and intelligence, should here became so extremely slothful and negligent; yet such is the case – the state of agriculture being rude and miserable in the extreme.

10 Robert Ross, Lieutenant Governor (1788) “ I do not scruple to pronounce that in the whole world there is not a worse country than what we have yet seen of this. All that is contiguous to us is so very barren and forbidding that it may with truth be said, here Nature is reversed”

11 Official Land Policy in the 1820s-40s Influenced by Wakefield's theory of systematic colonisation –the state as highest regulating authority had to maintain a perfect balance between land, labour and capital in Australia This balance would foster the development of farming in Australia 1831 – abolition of grant system to commence land sales 1829 – establishment of the Swan River colony British Parliament passed the South Australia Colonisation Act Between 1831 and 1850, free migrants came to Australia, 65 percent of whom were assisted ones

12 Expansion of pastoral industry and European settlement in Discovery of fertile plains further inland “We had at length discovered a country ready for the immediate reception of civilized man…Unencumbered by too much wood, it yet possessed enough for all purposes; its soil was exuberant, and its climate temperate … it was traversed by mighty rivers, and watered by streams innumerable. Of this Eden I was the first European to explore its mountains and streams … and, by my survey, to develop those natural advantages, certain to become, at no distant date, of last importance to a new people. “ Major Thomas Mitchell, the Survey-General of New South Wales (1836) Large areas could be occupied at little cost by graziers, despite the attempt of the government to prevent uncontrolled spread of settlement High wool prices make wool production profitable Almost all of the capital required consisted of livestock, a form of capital which reproduced and increased itself In 1821 in NSW - 100,000 sheep. By 1850 – 12 million in NSW.

13 Political tensions between the colonial authorities and the squatters Official attempts to restrain settlement: ‘limits of location’ Demands for security of land tenure Compromise between the government and the squatters: The Order-in-Council of 1847

14 John Hood, Australia and the East, being a journal narrative of a voyage to New South Wales, 1841 In the levels around Richmond [agricultural district in the vicinity of Sydney], I saw... real agriculture. Ploughs with two horses, instead of half a score of bullocks, and ridges manured for wheat as in Old England; the rich, deep black soil... reminded me of the best land to be seen at home

15 The golden age, : Agricultural change in Victoria in the 1850s Number of crop-farmers 1,000 (estimate)13,000 Cultivated area (acres) 52,000420,000 Wealth of farmers (from probate records) D Ostapenko, ‘Growing Potential: Land-Cultivators of the Colony of Victoria in the late 1830s-1860’, PhD thesis, La Trobe University, 2011

16 Dream of an Australian yeomanry A yeoman - a person who owns and cultivates a small farm; specifically : one belonging to a class of English freeholders below the gentry Call to unlock the land – free selection Land Acts of 1860s-70s aimed to undermine the monopoly of the squatters and promote the establishment of yeomanry in Australia Christmas card from M Cannon, Life in the Country, p. 126

17 Summary Land UsesPublic Perceptions Small subsistence farmingUnwelcome, hostile, uncivilised land Expansion of commercial sheep farming Sheep walk; land in which it was relatively easy for the small man to live Gold mining, small-scale profit-making cropping Land of opportunities, vision of an Australian yeomanry.


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