BECK index

Australia to 1950

by Sanderson Beck

Australia as a British Penal Colony 1788-1823
Australia in Transition 1823-50
Maconochie's Penal Reforms
Australia Gold and Democracy 1851-75
Australia Reforms 1875-87
Australian Unions and Federation 1887-1900
White Australia United 1901-14
Australia in the Great War 1914-19
Australia Between Wars 1920-39
Australia and World War II 1939-50

This chapter has been published in the book SOUTH ASIA 1800-1950.
For ordering information, please click here.

C. M. H. Clark began his multi-volume history of Australia by stating, “Civilization did not begin in Australia until the last quarter of the eighteenth century.”1 This Ethics of Civilization also does not focus on pre-literate cultures because of the lack of information about specific events. Yet it is helpful to understand something about the Aboriginal culture that still has direct influence from farther back in time than probably anywhere else on Earth. At least 38,000 years ago and perhaps 50,000 or more, the dark-skinned, curly-haired, broad-nosed Negrito people migrated from southeast Asia into New Guinea, Australia, and Tasmania. During the ice ages these lands were connected; after the ice melted, they were separated by the Pacific Ocean about 12,000 years ago. Australia’s inland sea dried up, and much of the continent became a desert. The second wave of immigrants have been called Murrayians and are related to the Ainu who inhabited Japan. These peoples went south as the Carpentarians arrived; the latter are related to the Vedda of Sri Lanka. A few thousand people lived on the island of Tasmania, and about three hundred thousand in Australia had some two hundred languages. As the Malays spread in the archipelago of Southeast Asia, the island of Timor (which means “east”) became their eastern boundary.

The Aborigines lived by hunting and gathering without using metals. They did not farm by planting grains nor did they herd animals, though some may have had fish farms. They had no private property, but about five hundred tribes were very territorial, which accounts for the multiplicity of languages. Family relationships were important, but there did not seem to be chiefs or an aristocratic hierarchy. In the warm climate they usually did not need clothes, or they used furs and fires. Yet they had a very sophisticated oral culture and passed on their lore about what they call the “dream-time,” which refers to the spiritual world that exists eternally before the creation of this Earth and is still present as the home where souls go after death. The Aborigines usually believe in reincarnation and often communicate with each other and disincarnate spirits by means of mental telepathy. The Iora tribe fished; the men hunted, and the women gathered food. Many lived in caves. Children were initiated into adulthood at puberty. By then most girls had already been promised in marriage to older men. Mothers fed their children their milk for at least three years. Abortions and infanticide were used to prevent too many children. Men sometimes swapped wives or offered their hospitality to comfort visitors.

Neither the Hindus, Buddhists, Chinese (except for a brief landing in 1432), Muslims, nor even for a time the European navigators disturbed the land of Australia. Judging by the hostile rituals by which they tried to discourage the first Europeans with sticks and stones, it seems likely to me that the Aborigines sensed the danger to their way of life by intruders from outside and used their magic to try to keep them away. In the 17th century explorers began approaching. In 1606 the Dutch captain Willem Jansz concluded that no good was to be done there, and Pieter Nuyts explored the southern coast in 1626-27. In 1642 the Dutch East India Company wanted to find precious minerals and decided that the undiscovered land must be explored. That year Abel Tasman discovered the southern island later named Tasmania after him which he called Van Dieman’s Land. In 1644 he explored the northern coast and named the land mass New Holland. The English navigator William Dampier was not impressed by the land he saw at Shark’s Bay in 1688 nor on the west coast in 1698. He called the people miserable and brutal.

Australia as a British Penal Colony 1788-1823

Captain James Cook, after visiting the “noble savages” of Tahiti in 1768, circumnavigated New Zealand, and landed at Botany Bay, claiming southeastern Australia for England as New South Wales. Cook suggested that the people there who seemed so wretched were actually very happy. The British had been sending convicted criminals to work in Maryland and Virginia since 1717; but after these colonies declared their independence in 1776, this was not practical. Joseph Banks had sailed with Cook on the Endeavour, and in 1779 he proposed that convicts be transported to New South Wales. After Britain lost their American colonies in 1783, this idea took hold; three years later George III ordered the Admiralty to transport 750 convicts to Botany Bay and appointed Arthur Phillip as governor. No convicted murderers or rapists were transported; almost all the crimes were some form of stealing or fraud, most being minor theft. A judge advocate and six military officers were to preside over a criminal court. At Sydney Cove the men began building tents and huts on January 26, 1788, and eleven days later the women convicts disembarked. That night during a rainstorm that blew down tents, many were raped or participated in an orgy with rum. The next day Phillip threatened to shoot any man who went into the women’s quarters at night, and he warned that anyone caught stealing cattle or chickens would be hanged. Only a third of the men had been working, and he said that those who did not work would not eat.

Cholera and influenza germs quickly spread and began devastating the Aborigines. Any prisoner escaping faced the likelihood of being killed by a spear. Some convicts stole native tools and weapons to sell as souvenirs. After three whites were killed, in March 1789 a group of sixteen with clubs went out for revenge; the Iora ambushed them, killing one and wounding seven. Governor Phillip ordered the other eight to be flogged with 150 lashes and be in leg irons for a year. Phillip also had six marines hanged for stealing food. The first crop failed, and the second harvest only produced enough seed to save for the next planting. Food supplies were carefully rationed. To keep the French away, Phillip sent 22 people to Norfolk Island to grow flax. A vegetable garden was planted on an island in the Sydney harbor to prevent the greens from being stolen. One ship made it to Cape Town and back in May 1789 with wheat, barley, and flour. An old man died of starvation before a ship arrived in June 1790. More convicts were brought, although about a quarter had died on the voyage. Many were too ill to work.

Watkin Tench recorded that 38 convicts escaped into the wilderness in 1791. That year Phillip tried to show the Aborigines his justice by having a white man flogged for having stolen a native woman’s tackle; the Aborigines felt sympathy for the victim, and the woman tried to stop the flagellator. European civilization had bad effects on the Aborigines, and some became drunkards. In 1796 Aborigines killed one of their girls for having worked in the house of a European.

After serving their sentence or upon being given a conditional pardon, each male was granted thirty acres of land with twenty more if married and ten more for each child. After Phillip left in December 1792, the settlement was governed by officers. Major Francis Ghose encouraged the convicts to work by paying them with rum, and he allowed officers to engage in trade that soon enabled them to accumulate wealth. By 1799 they owned most of the sheep and horses and a large portion of the cattle and goats. John Macarthur cultivated a large farm with vines, fruit trees, vegetables, grains, pigs, cattle, and poultry, using the first plow in 1795. Many convicts were given pardons to work, but they were not allowed to return to Britain until their sentence ended. Convicts were punished for disobedience or drunkenness, usually by flogging; those not deterred by this often fell into despair and degradation. In 1795 coal was discovered at a place later named Newcastle, and the next year a theater opened in Sydney.

In 1800 some Aborigines murdered whites and burned their houses. In revenge some settlers killed two Aborigines. On May 3, 1804 Lt. Moore ordered the 102nd Regiment to fire on five hundred Aborigines, and fifty were killed. By 1806 the soldiers were being ordered to drive the Aborigines away. As the Europeans continued to encroach, they were often met with guerrilla warfare. During this long frontier war at least 2,000 European settlers were killed, and the number of Aborigines dying by such overt violence was about ten times that.

Between 1787 and 1801 some 43 ships had transported 7,486 prisoners, of whom 756 died on the voyages. Major Francis Ghose encouraged the convicts to work by paying them with rum, and he allowed officers to engage in trade that soon enabled them to accumulate wealth. By 1799 they owned most of the sheep and horses and a large portion of the cattle and goats. Macarthur quarreled with authorities, and in 1802 Governor Philip Gidley King (1800-06) sent Macarthur to England for trial; but he persuaded the Secretary of State to let him return to begin the wool industry on a grant of ten thousand acres.

By 1800 there were more free settlers in New South Wales than convicts and military combined. To discourage the French, settlers went to occupy Port Collins in 1803. Government and the clergy tried to provide a parish school for each church. Five Scotch martyrs, who had advocated reforms, arrived in 1792 with fourteen-year sentences, but as political prisoners they were given provisional freedom immediately. More than 1,200 prisoners were from Ireland, and about half of them had been convicted for riot and sedition. In 1804 William Johnston led a rebellion by Irish convicts; but fifteen were killed, and the rest surrendered. Nine leaders were hanged; nine others were given five hundred lashes; dozens were put to hard labor cutting coal; but about 300 were only reprimanded. An ex-convict founded the Sydney Gazette in 1803, but it was under official censorship.

Joseph Banks recommended Captain William Bligh, and he became governor in August 1806. He had commanded a ship with Captain Cook and gained notoriety from the mutiny on the Bounty when he was transporting breadfruit from Tahiti in 1789. He tried to suppress the traffic in rum and prohibited payment with alcohol, but his autocratic manner offended Macarthur and others. He ordered dogs shot and demolished a row of houses occupied by pardoned convicts. Bligh was called Caligula. He threatened to arrest six military officers and had Macarthur put in jail. During the celebrations on January 26, 1808 Macarthur and others persuaded Major Johnston to arrest Bligh; they took over and ended martial law. Macarthur was acquitted by a court of six officers. Lt. Col. Joseph Foveaux arrived in July 1809, but he kept Bligh under house arrest. Macarthur and others went to England to explain their actions. Lt. Col. Lachlan Macquarie became governor on January 1, 1810, and the deposed Bligh went back to England.

On his first day Governor Macquarie announced that he intended to improve the morality and recommended religious duties. He hired a group to build a hospital in exchange for an exclusive contract to import spirits for three years. Dr. William Redfern had been convicted of participating in the Nore mutiny of 1797, but he became Macquarie’s family physician. In 1814 he advised reforms on the ships using ventilation, swabbing, clean heads, disinfection with lime, fumigation, and exercise, and he insisted on having a surgeon as the medical officer on every ship. The death rate on the voyages went down from one in 31 to one in 122. Convicts were given lime juice, sugar, and vinegar to prevent scurvy, and port wine was used as a bonus. Macquarie limited the number of lashes allowed in flogging to fifty, but this was later increased to one hundred. In Macquarie’s New South Wales only twenty of the seventy-five drinking-shops remained in business, and they had to close during church services. He encouraged cohabiting couples to marry, and many paid the three guineas to do so. New barracks were built, and roads were improved. He oversaw the planning of Sydney with a church, school, and courthouse in each district. In 1814 the Government established fifteen elementary schools. The next year Macquarie opened a school at Parramatta for Aborigine boys and girls, but the number of students never exceeded twenty. Schools were also constructed at Liverpool, Windsor, Richmond, and Wilberforce with religious instruction.

Governor Macquarie came into conflict with the stock-breeding Rev. Samuel Marsden in 1820 by trying to associate him with two ex-convicts as commissioners. Macquarie later quarreled with two judges, the brothers Ellis and Jeffrey Bent; he threatened to resign if both were not replaced. When Ellis Bent died in 1815, Marsden criticized Macquarie at his funeral service. After the European war ended, the number of convicts transported began increasing in 1817. Macquarie hired more convicts on public building projects. Merchants and wealthy settlers founded the Bank of New South Wales in 1817, and two years later they began asking for jury trials. The wool business had not yet developed much, but exploration beyond the mountains in 1813 opened up new pastures. The most profitable enterprises were whaling and sealing; but indiscriminate killing soon exterminated most of the seals in the region. The Australian Magazine was first published in 1819.

Many complaints were made against Macquarie, and in 1819 Lord Bathurst, the Secretary of State for the Colonies, appointed John Thomas Bigge as commissioner for an inquiry to determine if transportation of convicts was still viable. By 1821 Macquarie had more than doubled the number of convicts working for the Government to 4,000. He resigned at the end of 1821 and sailed for London. During his twelve years as governor the human population had increased nearly fourfold, but the number of cattle, sheep, and pigs had increased about ten times to a total of 477,000. Cultivated acres went from 7,615 to 32,267. By November 1823 a total of 37,606 convicts had been put on ships going to New South Wales, and only 15 percent of these were women.

The British government lost £450,000 on New South Wales in 1822, and the lawyer Bigge spent two years collecting evidence. He discovered that one in three convicts in Sydney committed an additional crime; but only one in eight in Windsor did so and even less out in the country. Thus he advised getting the convicts out of the towns by letting them work in the country while putting the recidivists in isolated penal stations. In his three reports published in 1822 and 1823 Bigge recommended that most convicts be employed in the management of sheep but that the hardened should be severely punished. He wrote that those given tickets of leave should have restricted privileges; he criticized their working on public projects and suggested abolishing the land grants for emancipists (former prisoners). Yet he approved of Macquarie’s giving them positions of responsibility. Bigge agreed that those emancipated should have legal rights, but he opposed using juries.

On Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania), Lt. Governor Thomas Davey declared martial law in 1813 to try to suppress bush ranging, but he was alcoholic, approved of liquor smuggling, co-habited with convict women, and was called “Mad Tom.” In 1817 he was replaced by William Sorrell, who curbed banditry by hanging most of Michael Howe’s gang. By 1822 Van Diemen’s Land was operated as a police state, and 58 percent of the people were convicts. Macquarie Harbor was used for extra punishment.

Australia in Transition 1823-50

From 1823 New South Wales was no longer treated as a penitentiary but as a British colony. The British government ordered Governor Thomas Brisbane to implement Bigge’s recommendations, and he moved the convicts out of the towns and into the country. In 1823 Parliament authorized a legislative council of five to seven men, but only the governor could initiate legislation. The governor could still issue decrees if they were explained in writing, and the chief justice was required to certify that each new law did not violate the laws of England. The Crown could disallow any bill within three years of its enactment. A convict pardoned by the governor had one’s legal rights restored. When Moreton Bay did not work as a convict settlement in 1824, Brisbane transferred them the next year to Norfolk Island. In 1825 the Church and Schools Corporation established the Anglican religion, causing the Presbyterians, Methodists, and Catholics to unite in opposition to this monopoly that affected the schools also. The average family had 5.3 live births, and most children began working by the age of nine. Anglican infants’ schools began in 1829.

William Charles Wentworth was born in Australia and started the Australian newspaper in 1824. After John Macarthur refused to let him marry his daughter, Wentworth campaigned against the exclusives. He opposed the policies of Governor Ralph Darling (1825-31), who moved convicts from the government farms in New South Wales and distributed them among the settlers. A social division developed between the aristocratic governors and wealthy settlers on one side and the drinking revelry of the lower class. Darling tried to restrict the press by requiring a license and heavy stamp tax, but Chief Justice Francis Forbes ruled this was repugnant to British law and freedom of the press. In 1826 Governor Darling started a subscription library.

In 1828 a law empowered the local legislature to arrange for juries, and the legislative council was increased to between ten and fifteen persons. Every new law had to be passed by the council and was to be submitted to the Supreme Court with seven days for enrollment. Also in 1828 the Masters and Servants Act allowed up to six months’ punishment for workers who violated their contract or lost or damaged the master’s property. Forbes laid the foundation stone for Sydney College in 1830. Many Aborigines in eastern Australia were wiped out by a smallpox epidemic in 1829-31. Saxe Bannister was considered an incompetent attorney-general under Brisbane and Darling, but he wrote pamphlets to help indigenous peoples. In 1830 he published Humane Policy: or Justice to the Aborigines of New Settlements.

In 1823 John Oxley explored what became Queensland in the north. Hamilton Hume and William Hovell explored the south that became Victoria, and Charles Sturt went down the Murray River to South Australia. In 1827 Allan Cunningham ventured inland, but eventually they would discover that most of the center and southwest of Australia is desert. That year Edmund Lockyer founded a settlement at Albany in Western Australia. The British now claimed all of Australia, the name proposed by Matthew Flinders, who had explored the coast a decade earlier. James Stirling explored the Swan River and became the governor of Western Australia in 1829, administering it for a decade.

George Arthur took over Van Diemen’s Land in 1824 and governed it until 1836. He believed that crime was a sickness and that prisoners should be broken like horses. He developed a system with seven levels of punishment with increasing severity as follows:

1) having a ticket of leave
2) being assigned to a settler
3) laboring on public projects
4) laboring on roads near civilization
5) laboring in a chain gang
6) being banished to an isolated penal settlement
7) laboring in chains in a penal settlement

Bad conduct sent one down the ladder, but good behavior back up.

Andrew Bent had been publishing a Hobart gazette since 1814, but Arthur wanted to control it as a government publication. Bent and his editor appealed to Governor Brisbane in Sydney, and he gave them the same freedom that the Australian had won. In December 1825 the new governor Ralph Darling proclaimed that Van Diemen’s Land was a colony independent of New South Wales. In May 1826 Edward Curr arrived as the agent for 250,000 acres in the northwest part of the island. A company was started with one million pounds of capital. Edward Dumaresq, brother of Darling’s wife Eliza, was the first commissioner. Joseph Gellibrand criticized Lt. Governor Arthur severely in the press, and in October 1827 Arthur got a law enacted against seditious libels. In May 1828 Bent began publishing the Colonial Advocate, attacking Col. Arthur and calling for trial by jury, representative government, and a free press. The Tasmanian had been published for a year, and in that newspaper Robert Murray defended Arthur.

The Van Diemen’s Land Supreme Court ruled that a judge could decide whether to grant a jury trial, though the governor and council were to determine the jurors’ qualifications. The right of appealing to the governor was replaced by an appeal to the king and his council, and they decided that the Colonial Press Act of 1827 was repugnant to the laws of England. Bent celebrated and declared that his newspaper was “Open to all, influenced by none.”2 Henry Savery, using the pen-name Simon Stukeley, published a series of satires on the public figures in Hobart Town without using their names, exposing their greed, arrogance, laziness, vanity, and foolishness. He also wrote the three-volume novel Quintus Servinton, describing the suffering of going astray before returning to virtue.

Liberal Richard Bourke of the Whig party governed New South Wales 1831-37 and was praised by Wentworth for treating convicts humanely, extending jury trials, tolerating criticism, and restoring religious equality. He did try to impose the Irish system of education and was opposed by the Tories led by the doctrinaire Protestant William Broughton. In 1833 the monopoly of the Church and School Corporation was ended, and that year Bourke urged educator Henry Carmichael to found the Sydney Institute. Begun as Mechanics’ Institutes, Hobart had an institute in 1827, and by 1850 every capital city had an institute used by the middle class to learn about science, technology, literature, and the arts. In 1835 liberals formed the Australian Patriotic Association and began raising funds to hire an agent in the House of Commons, but conservatives believed the colony had too much crime for democratic institutions. That year New South Wales had 771 convictions, making its crime rate ten times that of England. As more immigrants arrived, the crime rate decreased rapidly. In 1837 the Theatre Royal was built in Sydney, but plays had to pass the censorship of the Colonial Secretary. Wool exports from Australia rapidly increased from less than 80,000 kilos in 1821 to 900,000 in 1830 and 4,530,000 kilos in 1840. By mid-century Australia had sixteen million sheep.

In 1830 Henry Melville took over the Colonial Times from Bent and began advocating the abolition of the convict system. Land grants ended in Van Diemen’s Land in 1831, and Arthur’s attempts to collect quitrents in arrears were met with resistance. After Robert Bryan and James Stewart were sentenced to death for stealing one heifer, Melville accused the police of perjury. Lt. Governor Arthur had Melville put in jail, where he wrote The History of Van Diemen’s Land before he was released for Christmas. Many prominent citizens petitioned to remove Arthur, and he was recalled in May 1836. By then Van Diemen’s Land had 911,357 sheep. By mid-century 37% of the arable land on the island was cultivated.

In 1829 Robert Gouger in London and Edward Gibbon Wakefield each wrote a series of articles advising that colonial lands be sold at a price sufficient to keep laborers from becoming landowners too soon and to use the money to pay for immigration. These ideas coincided with news of Sturt’s discovery of the Murray River. Wakefield suggested selecting young people of both sexes in equal numbers. A South Australian Land Company was planned in 1832, and two years later Parliament authorized the province of South Australia with three commissioners and a governor. A fixed price for land was set, and no convicts were to be transported there. George Angas advanced £8,000 to Lutherans from Prussia in exchange for thirty years as tenant farmers. The Aborigines were considered inferior, and their land rights were not respected. The colony had financial difficulties until George Grey was appointed governor in 1841; conflicts were reduced after the Parliament removed the commissioners the next year. Grazing land was found southeast of Adelaide. In 1843 copper mines began operating in Burra, and that year J. E. Ridley invented a reaping machine that made harvesting more efficient. By 1850 more than 200,000 young people had received bounties for immigrating.

In 1838 the British government ordered Governor George Gipps of New South Wales to divide Port Phillip into four districts and appoint a protector of Aborigines in each district. They were to teach them but were especially needed to defend the natives from the greed and abuse by the Europeans. In 1842 Parliament increased the legislative council by having six selected by the governor, six civil servants, and twenty-four large property owners elected by those owning some property. The Parliament had control over Crown lands and could disallow any new law within three years.

Squatters settled on the virgin land to let their stock graze. Aborigines who got in the way might be shot or given flour poisoned with arsenic. In 1838 some settlers massacred 28 natives at Myall Creek, but this time seven were eventually hanged for murder. The Aborigines became more hostile, killing a few white men and driving off their sheep in 1842. A drought in the late 1830s led to a depression in the 1840s. Squatters were forced to “boil down” their sheep to fat, which they could make into tallow for candles and soap. The number of sheep boiled down exceeded two million by the late 1840s. During this depression the Colonial Office demanded that the squatters pay one pound per acre for their land. Wool-growers complained they could not afford that, and paying the annual rate gave them no secure tenure. In 1847 the Parliament gave them leases for paying £2.1 per thousand sheep. By then the Australian economy was rapidly recovering.

From 1821 to 1830 about 28,700 men and 4,100 women had been transported, and the numbers peaked between 1831 and 1840 as 43,500 males and 7,700 female convicts were shipped. Although the British had abolished slavery in 1833, to many the penal system seemed like a new system of slavery. In 1834 on Norfolk Island 162 inmates mutinied and tried to escape, but they were caught within seven hours; five were killed, and about fifty were crippled. The only guard that died on the day after it was over was shot accidentally by a military search party. Severe flogging was inflicted in revenge. Thirteen mutineers were hanged, and sixteen had their sentences commuted to hard labor for life. Catholic Vicar-General William Ullathorne converted four before they were executed. The lack of women led to increasing homosexual relations, and in 1837 this was criticized in books by Ullathorne and by Presbyterian minister John Dunmore Lang. The latter also opposed employing ex-convicts on newspapers. Governor Bourke believed that the abduction of Aboriginal women was causing the frontier war, and that same year he made a law against detaining an Aboriginal woman, making lasting relationships with them impractical. In 1836 Charles Darwin predicted that the Europeans’ prosperity would bring degradation and wickedness to the Aborigines.

The shortage of women also led to many female convicts becoming prostitutes. Destitute women from Dublin, Cork, and London were shipped in 1832, and in the next four years fourteen ships transported 2,700 women to Australia. In 1838 Mrs. Caroline Chisholm visited Sydney and was appalled by the prostitution. She persuaded Governor Gipps to give her a rat-infested old barracks. She cleaned it, took young women into her Immigrants’ Home, and then found jobs for them in the country. She raised money by the Family Colonization Loan Society, and by 1846 she had found husbands for hundreds of women and helped an estimated 11,000 immigrants get jobs. Her work was supported by Samuel Sidney, Charles Dickens, Harriet Martineau, and Edward Bulwer-Lytton. She wrote pamphlets on helping the poor, Female Immigration in 1842, and The A.B.C. of Colonization in 1850. Mrs. Chisholm returned to Australia in 1854 and arranged for the construction of shelters along the routes of the gold diggings.

After transportation of convicts to New South Wales ended in 1840, the price of Crown land went up to one pound per acre so that laborers could still be hired. J. D. Lang traveled in the United States in 1840 and returned to Australia as a strong advocate of local government. In 1842 he argued that the Colonial Office should not govern New South Wales. In 1843 New South Wales had its first election for 24 members of the Legislative Council, and Lang was elected. Lang complained that the Crown still nominated a third of the Council and that the Council did not control one-third of the budget that paid the salaries of the top officials nor the revenue from the Crown lands. The next year Governor George Gipps (1838-46) proposed collecting ten pounds per run from squatters to raise revenue for immigration. That year the Colonial Literary Journal began publishing essays to promote moral uplift and the Christian faith. The Mutual Protection Society based in Sydney with 500 members ran an employment agency, petitioned the council, and expressed their views in The Guardian. Wentworth and others formed a committee to work toward greater self-government; they wanted a colonial parliament for internal affairs while leaving defense and foreign policy to the imperial parliament.

In 1845 Rev. John D. Lang began advocating that Australia should be an independent republic with manhood suffrage. He went to England for three years and arranged for six ships to take migrants to Australia. Lang agreed with the Chartists on universal manhood suffrage, secret ballots, equal electoral districts, abolishing property qualifications for legislators, and paying them salaries; but he could not convince the Colonial Office to build railways or organize land companies. In April 1850 Lang, Henry Parkes, and J. R. Wilshire founded the Australian League. The Presbyterian Lang criticized the Government for paying the Anglican bishop W. G. Broughton a salary of £2,000 a year. In 1850 Lang published his visionary pamphlet of a democratic republic called “The Coming Event” and in 1852 the book Freedom and Independence for the Golden Lands of Australia. Lang warned that staying in the British empire for national defense could draw them into its imperial wars.

Australia Gold and Democracy 1851-75

Maconochie's Penal Reforms

In 1837 the House of Commons appointed a committee led by William Molesworth to inquire into the morality and effectiveness of transporting convicts. After nine months of study they concluded that it did not deter crime but tended to corrupt further those being punished. More than two hundred political prisoners were transported after the 1837-38 rebellion in the French-speaking provinces of Canada. In 1840 the Secretary of State for the Colonies, John Russell, told the House of Commons that assigning convicts to a penal colony perpetrated the evils of slavery and that it should be abolished. Transportation of convicts to New South Wales ended in 1840, but Van Diemen’s Land received about 26,000 between 1841 and 1850.

Col. Arthur fought a guerrilla war against the Tasmanian blacks to extermination as wool exporting increased. On this issue the Colonial Advocate expressed the atrocious opinion: “Let them be removed, or they will be exterminated.”3 Arthur appointed George Robinson to be the guardian of the Aborigines on Bruny Island, and by learning their language he gained their trust. Arthur divided Van Diemen’s Land into six districts with a military officer for each and proclaimed martial law against the Aborigines; some settlers took it as a license to kill them. All those holding tickets of leave capable of bearing arms were ordered to report in October 1830. Some three thousand people attempted to “round up” the remaining Aborigines, but they only were able to shoot two and capture two. Robinson tried to civilize them by luring them into camps with gifts, but by 1835 only 150 Aborigines remained. Most of the remaining 54 were taken to the mainland in 1843. The name of the island was changed to Tasmania in 1856. The last native man died in 1869, and Trucanini, the last full-blooded Aborigine from Tasmania, died in 1876. In Australia 6,985 Aborigines were counted in 1861, but many more lived a nomadic life.

Increasing numbers of convicts caused chaos on Van Diemen’s Land. Alexander Maconochie had been a prisoner of war for four years during the Napoleonic Wars. He went to Van Diemen’s Land when his friend John Franklin was appointed governor. Maconochie was commissioned by the Society for the Improvement of Prison Discipline, and he criticized the graft and waste of using convict labor in public works. His 1837 report argued that Arthur’s levels blunted the moral sense by damaging both body and soul. He believed that physical pain should be moderate and moral pain designed for reform. He persuaded the Molesworth committee that convicts should have hopes for distant advantages and fears for losing them so that they would use their reason. Maconochie wanted to reform the penal system by replacing punishment with rehabilitation. He recommended variable sentences so that convicts could earn early release by their own constructive behavior for which they would earn marks. After individuals learned that morality was related to their self-interest, he advised having six prisoners work as a group to learn social responsibility; but this part was rejected by the Molesworth committee.

In 1838 Maconochie published Australiana, or Thoughts on Convict Management. In the preface he noted that society reacts to a person’s moral defect by making “an example” of him, instead of treating him as an individual as it does when the defect is physical. He observed that people will take from their neighbors as long as it is legal, regardless of how wrong it is. He believed that the severity of punishment does not deter as much as the probability of detection; having good police is better than a severe judge.

In 1840 Maconochie was assigned to work with the toughest repeat offenders at Norfolk Island. Governor George Gipps allowed him to try his approach on 600 new prisoners and ordered him to keep the 1,200 old prisoners separate; but Maconochie could not treat even the repeat offenders harshly. He ordered books for the prisoners and made music a main therapy. He had the gallows dismantled and stopped the flogging, except for sodomy which he could not control. He had two churches built for Catholics and Protestants, and a few Jews met in a makeshift synagogue. Prisoners were given plots for gardening and could sell their surplus produce to officers. Maconochie’s occupational therapy was quite successful; but he received little support, and the Government failed to honor his promises of release. The Colonial Office was trying to cut expenses. After Gipps became governor of New South Wales in 1843, Maconochie was recalled the next year. He had released nearly 1,400 prisoners and claimed that most did not offend again. Maconochie influenced Charles Dickens and wrote the pioneering books, Secondary Punishment (1848), The Principles of Punishment (1850) and On Reformatory Prison Discipline (1851).

Maconochie’s successor at Norfolk Island was Major Joseph Childs. He was so cruel and incompetent that a major riot broke out in July 1846, killing five guards; twelve convicts were hanged, and many were flogged. Prisoners at Norfolk Island suffering from bad food mutinied in 1846, and twelve were hanged. John Price cancelled Maconochie’s reforms and ruled with the lash. This brutal commandant was satirized in the novel by Marcus Clarke, His Natural Life. After twelve years of brutality, the convict settlement at Norfolk Island was closed down in 1856. In 1865 the 194 descendants of Fletcher Christian and the Bounty mutineers from Pitcairn Island were settled there.

Lt. Governor John Franklin had established schools on Van Diemen’s Land in 1839, but he was recalled in 1843. Owen Stanley ordered a probation system implemented for those with shorter sentences, and gangs of 300 worked building roads and bridges. After about eighteen months they would get a probation pass and be assigned to work for a settler for wages the Crown would not supplement. Lt. Governor John Eardley-Wilmot (1843-46) soon had 16,000 unemployed prisoners and ex-convicts, and immigrants stopped coming to Van Diemen’s Land.

In the south, landowner Thomas Henty and his family took possession of Portland Bay in 1834. John Batman formed the Port Phillip Association and claimed he purchased 600,000 acres by giving the Aborigines some clothes, blankets, flour, knives, tomahawks, scissors, and mirrors. The next year John Fawkner just occupied land by squatters’ rights. In 1837 Governor Bourke visited and named the town Melbourne. The Southern Australian reported the excessive spending by the Government. The over-spending George Gawler was replaced as governor of South Australia in 1841 by George Grey, who reduced relief payment to 1,240 unemployed people. Grey refused to hire anyone for public works. By 1840 landowners were complaining about the land reserved for the exclusive use of the Aborigines. That year some natives killed the survivors of the shipwrecked Maria. In revenge some men led by the police commissioner captured two Aborigines and hanged them. The explorer Edward Eyre tried to mollify the Aborigines by giving them blankets and flour at every full moon, but both sides continued to avenge each other’s wrongs. In the Port Phillip area an estimated two thousand Aborigines were killed by the military and settlers in punitive raids. In 1842 the colonization commissioners for South Australia were replaced by a legislative council of seven. By 1847 the area had 43,000 Europeans and more than four million sheep, and the province Victoria formed in 1850.

When the new colonial secretary William Gladstone learned of the sodomy in 1846, he suspended transportation to Van Diemen’s Land for two years. He created a new colony above Brisbane north of 26 degrees south called North Australia for convicts with conditional pardons and tickets of leave from Van Diemen’s Land. People in Sydney complained because no fence would keep them out of New South Wales.

In 1842 Alexander Maconochie’s suggestion led to forming the Port Phillip Native Police force so that the bush skills of the Aborigines could be used in tracking and detecting criminals. However, they were made to imitate European behavior in war and were turned against their own people. Yarra elder Billibellary, who had encouraged young men to join, soon urged them to leave, but they could be punished for desertion. In 1844 Wentworth argued in the Council that the testimony of Aborigines should not be admitted in courts of law because they are a “savage race.” He and others compared them to monkeys. In 1843 the Dangerous Lunatics Act permitted magistrates to certify vagrants and disturbers of the peace as insane based on the advice of two medical practitioners. The asylum at Turban Creek began in 1838, but it was not put under a doctor until 1848. Diagnosis and treatment of most females was related to sexuality. In 1850 the institution for paupers at Parramatta was named a Lunatic Asylum and was put under a doctor two years later. By the 1870s most inmates of prisons were men, and most patients in asylums were women.

In 1832 Quaker missionaries founded the first temperance society in Hobart. In 1837 the Australian Temperance Magazine began publishing in Sydney, and it was followed the next year by total abstinence societies. They saw drunkenness as a cause of poverty, not its result. In 1840 the Temperance Advocate warned that alcohol was destroying families by disease, insanity, and death. In 1843 The Teetotaller proclaimed that ladies should have the vote because women are more civilized than men. Two years later 3,000 people signed an abstinence pledge in Sydney.

In 1848 public National Education was added to the denominational schools, which continued under a board of commissioners. The Van Diemen’s Land council passed a resolution that sending convicts there was injurious. In 1849 many people in Sydney protested the arrival of a ship with convicts, and Robert Lowe spoke of rebellion and independence. An attempt to land convicts in Melbourne was also resisted.

In August 1850 the Port Phillip district became the province of Victoria. Parliament granted legislative councils and the power to make laws to Van Diemen’s Land, Victoria, and South Australia. In September 1850 the People’s Advocate warned that squatters exploiting convicts might drive the colony to rebellion. In October the New South Wales council asked the British government to revoke its order to send convicts there. Finally the convicts were shipped to Moreton Bay.

Australia Gold and Democracy 1851-75

Australia in Transition 1823-50

In January 1851 Edward Hargraves returned from the California gold-fields, and on May 15 the Sydney Morning Herald announced his discovery of gold in New South Wales. A nugget weighing about forty kilograms was found in a block of quartz. Others in July found the precious metal near Melbourne at Clunes, then at Baltarat, Bendigo, and Mount Alexander. Victoria commissioners governed the gold-fields, requiring thirty shillings per month for a license. Gold fever brought 85,000 immigrants in 1852. Thousands of convicts came from Van Diemen’s Land, and much crime was blamed on these Vandemonians or “Demons.” John West and William Weston formed the League of Solemn Engagement to keep convicts out of Victoria and got them barred on penalty of three years’ hard labor even though pardoned convicts had been able to go anywhere in Australia previously. Van Diemen’s Land stopped accepting convicts on its fiftieth anniversary in August 1853. Petitioning to Queen Victoria to prevent the renewal of shipping convicts began in 1851, and the gold rush ended transportation except in sparsely populated Western Australia, which received 9,688 felons from Britain between 1850 and 1868. In eighty years a total of 158,829 convicts were transported to Australia. In 1871 the population of Western Australia was still only 25,447.

Gold-mining was hard work and was done in teams of four or six. As with shepherding, trusting one’s mates was important, and equality was valued. At first London banks made a 30% profit buying gold until Adelaide businessmen offered ten-percent discounts. In 1853 Sydney established its own mint. In 1852 the average earning per miner was about £260, but by 1858 this had fallen to £69. In the 1850s Australia provided 25 million ounces of gold, which was 40% of the world total; in the following decade Australia’s share was 30%. A thousand diggers met in February 1853 to discuss their grievances; in July 2,500 people heard Dr. D. G. Jones denounce the license tax; and in August 15,000 miners gathered in the rain and resolved not to pay the fee. In May 1854 Victoria’s unpopular Governor Charles Joseph La Trobe was replaced by Charles Hotham, who visited the gold-fields. He learned that 26,250 miners had not paid the license fee, and he sent police to check licenses twice a week. Author Henry Kingsley came to Australia during the gold rush and lived in Victoria for four years. His novel The Recollections of Geoffrey Hamlyn was published in 1859 and describes the colonial experience.

In Ballarat the police hunted for diggers to make sure they had paid the thirty shillings for the license, arresting and fining those who had not. The gold miner James Scobie was killed in a brawl at the Eureka Hotel on October 6, 1854, and six days later the Vandemonian hotel-keeper James Bentley was acquitted by a corrupt magistrate. Angry miners burned the hotel on October 17, and three minors were arrested for rioting. On November 11 some miners formed the Ballarat Reform League. Bentley was tried again and convicted of manslaughter. After the three miners were found guilty of the hotel burning, miners met at Bakery Hill on November 29. They demanded abolition of the licenses and manhood suffrage with a secret ballot, fair representation, and no property qualifications. They built a stockade and burned their licenses. Peter Lalor had designed a blue flag with five stars of the Southern Cross representing the colonies, and they vowed to defend their liberties.

On December 3 about 280 soldiers and police attacked some 150 rebels remaining at the Eureka stockade, killing 24 miners and losing five soldiers. Lalor was wounded but escaped. The next day six thousand gathered, but Henry Langlands persuaded them to use the Christian way of moral force alone; others insisted on the British way of the rifle. The Governor revoked martial law, and juries refused to convict thirteen rebels of treason. The license fee was abolished and replaced by a more fair tax on exports. Mining wardens were elected to replace the arrogant commissioners.

W. C. Wentworth founded the secular University of Sydney in 1850, and two years later classes began with 24 students. Melbourne University was founded in 1853 and started a medical school a decade later. The first steamship arrived at Sydney in 1852. Colonial Secretary Henry George Grey (1846-52) suggested federation, and in 1852 the British Parliament invited New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania, and South Australia to draft new constitutions. Wentworth and a select committee proposed a constitution calling for hereditary titles, plural voting for the assembly, and property qualifications for voters. Plural voting allowed those with property in various constituencies to vote in each one. Henry Parkes denounced these proposals as “political absurdities.” About 2,500 people met in Victoria Theatre on August 15, 1853 to oppose the attack on public liberty. Daniel Deniehy suggested that the aristocracy should be based on merit under free institutions rather than on class and creed. By December all agreed on two legislative houses with the lower house elective.

In May 1854 Parkes spoke in favor of British intervention in the Crimean War, but J. D. Lang and Deniehy opposed the war. That year Parkes won election over Wentworth, who went to London and in 1855 heard Robert Lowe speak in the House of Commons denouncing a conspiracy by large landowners to prevent democracy. Deniehy opposed letting the governor nominate members of the Legislative Council. On July 16, 1855 Wentworth and Bill Thompson got the Parliament to pass a constitution by which the 21 members of the Council were to be nominated, but 54 members of the Legislative Assembly were to be elected by the 54% of adult males who were qualified to vote. Unions led by the stonemasons in Melbourne began using strikes to win the eight-hour day in 1855, and the next year the Eight Hours’ Labor League was formed.

Chinese miners began arriving at the gold-fields in 1855, and in 1857 alone 23,623 Chinese men came to Victoria. Disliked, most of the Chinese worked the areas abandoned by the Europeans. In 1857 a hundred armed men tried to drive two thousand Chinese from the gold-field along the Buckland River by burning their huts. By 1860 most diggers accepted the Chinese as honest and hard-working. However, the next year a thousand men attacked Chinese quarters at Lambing Flat, and juries acquitted the Europeans charged in the riot.

In January 1857 Deniehy was elected to fill a vacancy in the Assembly, and in February he and others formed the New South Wales Electoral Reform League. In 1858 liberals won suffrage for adult males, redistribution of electoral districts, and no property requirement for members of the assembly in New South Wales and Victoria. However, plural voting and the unequal distribution of electorates still persisted. The district of Moreton Bay (Brisbane) got a similar constitution when it became the new province Queensland in 1859. That year Deniehy began publishing the weekly Southern Cross to conscientiously review public affairs, and he satirized the appointment of L. H. Bayley in his “How I Became Attorney-General of New Barataria.”

In the ten years after 1851 the population of Australia more than doubled, and Victoria went from 97,489 to 539,764. Melbourne suddenly became larger than Sydney, and railroads went from Melbourne to the gold-fields. By 1858 Sydney, Melbourne, and Adelaide were connected by telegraph wires. In 1861 the Miners’ Protective League was formed. By then the crime rate in Australia had fallen 90% since 1835 and was only twice England’s rate.

The middle class complained that the squatters were wasting the land and denying equal opportunity, and radicals in the cities called for homesteads so that more people could rise above being laborers. Wentworth became president of the Legislative Council, but Charles Cowper persuaded him to accept two land reform bills pushed through by Jack Robertson. Starting in 1862 any person in New South Wales could purchase up to 320 acres of Crown land for twenty shillings an acre. That year the Duffy Act in Victoria allowed any person other than married women and infants to buy up to 640 acres from ten million acres proclaimed agricultural land. In 1864 Victoria’s Governor Charles Darling proposed not only land reform but also adjusting tariffs and reducing property qualifications for legislators. Queensland passed the Selection Act in 1868 and South Australia the Strangways Act the next year. The squatters used wire to fence off their land, and in 1865 they began paying “dummies” a pound a day to select land for them.

In ten years the sheep population went from five million to fourteen million, as 96 sheep-farmers used eight million acres. The price of wool would continue to increase until 1872. Only in South Australia did land used for growing crops rapidly increase. Sugar cane was brought from Java and Mauritius, and in 1863 Captain Louis Hope pioneered the crop near Brisbane. In Queensland the Colonial Sugar Refining Company hired Melanesians (Kanakas) to develop that industry; their mortality rate of five times the average suggested to critics the workers were being maltreated. Many people became isolated in the bush, and in the mid-1860s a crime wave of robberies began. In three years eleven policemen were killed by bushrangers; by 1867 seven robbers had been shot dead, and three were executed. Some bush people sympathized with the romantic bushrangers. In Queensland native police were used to clear their fellow Aborigines from the roads, and prisoners who did not obey were often shot. In 1863 Australia sent 1,475 volunteers to fight in British regiments for New Zealand in the Maori Wars.

A middle class in Sydney and Melbourne began accumulating wealth in many industries and trades, though some of the working class still suffered poverty. The first tariffs were passed, as factions replaced political parties. In his book Australia Anthony Trollope criticized the hostile tariffs the colonies imposed on each other. South Australia had eight governments in the 1860s, and between 1855 and 1877 Victoria had eighteen governments and New South Wales seventeen. Politicians like Henry Parkes were hired by the middle class. Parkes had been editor of the Empire since 1850, and despite his financial difficulties he was elected premier in 1872. That year Australia was connected to London by telegraph. The British garrisons withdrew from Australia in 1870, and New South Wales abandoned the effort to create an army after only 300 infantry could be recruited. In 1873 building workers in South Australia won the eight-hour day, and the next year Victoria began including an 8-hour clause in all its government contracts. Strikes were used for this cause in Tasmania and Sydney in 1874. That year the play Struck Oil by J. C. Williamson attracted audiences totaling 93,000 in Melbourne.

Marcus Clarke published Old Tales of a Young Country in the weekly Australasian newspaper in 1870 and 1871. These lively stories told of the pickpocket Barrington who became a supervisor of convicts and historian, Buckley who lived in the wild for thirty years, the “Rum-Puncheon Revolution” that overthrew the tyrannical Bligh, the Bushrangers, and other fascinating incidents in Australian history. Clarke serialized his stories describing the life of a convict from 1870 to 1872, and it was published with a shortened prolog and epilog as the novel His Natural Life in 1874. He described the suffering of the penal system when convicts were cut off from society and put under cruel discipline by those who had power over their lives. In 1879 his “Civilization without Delusion” was published in the Victorian Review. Printed as a booklet the next year, Clarke questioned the value of religion in modern society. He predicted that in the twentieth century science and reason would replace religion and faith.

Education became the concern of all, and the colonial parliaments made it free, compulsory, and secular. Various Protestant denominations agreed on secular education to protect them from Anglicanism. In 1866 Henry Parkes got a public education act passed, establishing a council of education. When he nominated five laymen, Archbishop Polding decided that Catholics must have their own schools. Bathurst bishop Matthew Quinn announced he would withhold the sacrament from parents who sent their children to public schools. In 1870 church attendance in Australia reached a peak of 38%.

In 1871 Western Australia provided for elementary schools but insisted on no denominational religious doctrines. Supported by a prominent Anglican, James Wilberforce Stephens, Victoria passed free and compulsory education the next year, and its aid to denominational schools ended in 1873. Victoria and others adopted Robert Lowe’s revised code that rewarded teachers based on inspections and public examinations. The classrooms were segregated by sex, and in many schools the rich had their children separated. The primary reading textbooks used in New South Wales were from Ireland and were very Christian in content. School holidays were Good Friday, Easter Monday, and the birthdays of the Queen and the Prince of Wales. Albert Bythesea Weigall was headmaster of Sydney Grammar School and was influenced by the ideas of Thomas Arnold. Weigall founded a cadet corps in 1870, and in 1875 he introduced school uniforms and organized sports. South Australia passed public education that was free, compulsory, and secular in 1875.

Australia Reforms 1875-87

In 1874 the Amalgamated Miners’ Association (AMA) was organized at Bendigo in Victoria. William Guthrie Spence was secretary for a similar group in Creswick which joined the AMA in 1878. In 1877 a meeting at Brisbane complained that 18,000 Chinese outnumbered 1,500 Europeans in the gold fields, and in August the Chinese Immigration Regulation Act imposed a poll-tax of £10 on each Chinese coming into the colony. An 1876 act had banned Chinese from the gold fields, but the Crown vetoed it for violating Britain’s treaties with China. At that time Australia had about 50,000 Chinese, but the number decreased to 32,000 by 1901. Different Chinese groups came into conflict, and in 1878 the Cantonese armed themselves and slaughtered fifty unarmed men from the Beijing area.

Charles Henry Pearson emphasized the new roles of women. In 1875 he taught at the Ladies’ College and published The Higher Culture of Women. The next year he proposed a progressive land tax on large estates in Victoria. In 1877 he joined the National Reform League and lectured with Graham Berry at the Princess Theatre. Conservatives reacted by making Pearson resign. Berry in Melbourne advocated democracy and homesteads, and in May 1877 he became chief secretary. As a liberal he did not want the Legislative Council limiting the power of the Legislative Assembly. The Council had approved payment of members in 1870, but it was due to expire at the end of 1877. On January 9, 1878 Berry removed many officials, including judges, police magistrates, wardsmen, coroners, prosecutors, and heads of departments; conservatives declared it “Black Wednesday.” Berry wanted constitutional reforms, and in December 1878 he left for London with Pearson to present his proposals to Parliament. The secretary of state for the colonies, Michael Hicks-Beach, explained why the British government would not do anything. In 1879 Berry proposed another bill to reform the Council, but the bill caused his government to be defeated by one vote. Berry became premier again and formed a coalition with James Service. Pearson became a history professor at the new University of Adelaide.

Archbishop Roger Bede Vaughan brought a bill for New South Wales to provide more money for public education in November 1879, and provision was to be made for a religious teacher for one hour per week. The 1880 Public Education Act of New South Wales required Church schools receiving public funds to use the same textbooks and have the same standards for teachers as the public schools. These reforms were also adopted by Tasmania in 1885 and by Western Australia in 1895.

Men in the Kelly family were bushrangers at Greta, where they were notorious for stealing cattle and horses. On April 15, 1878 constable Fitzpatrick came to arrest Dan Kelly for horse stealing. His brother Ned Kelly shot Fitzpatrick in the wrist, and Ellen Kelly was arrested and sentenced to three years. Four constables tried to capture the Kelly gang on October 26 at Stringybark Creek, but Ned killed three of them. The Victoria government offered a reward of £500 dead or alive for any of the gang. On December 15 the Kellys robbed the National Bank in Euroa. On February 8, 1879 the gang crossed the Murray River into New South Wales and captured three policemen in Jerilderie and held the men of the town in a hotel parlor. The police began to use Aborigines to track the Kellys. On June 27, 1880 Joe Byrne killed Aaron Sheritt for betraying their hiding place. The gang tore up a railway track to sabotage a train of policemen; but while they were holding thirty people in Glenrowan, the teacher Thomas Curnow warned the train to stop. The police surrounded the hotel and wounded and captured Ned Kelly, who was wearing armor. Then they burned down the hotel, killing Dan Kelly, Byrne, and Stephen Hart. Ned Kelly was hanged on November 11, and his last words were “Such is life.”

In the 1880s the stump-jump plow and the harvester helped the farming of wheat. To revive declining yields J. D. Custance experimented using superphosphate as a fertilizer, and William Farrer worked on breeding a rust-resistant wheat and wheat that could grow in dry areas. Wheat acreage in the Murrumbidgee region increased nine-fold from 1882 to 1888. Alfred Deakin got Victoria to pass the Irrigation Act in 1886, and that year the Government made an agreement with the Chaffey brothers for 50,000 acres at Mildura and 200,000 more acres so that they could develop irrigation and subdivide the land into small blocks. The area under cultivation in Australia nearly doubled between 1880 and 1900. By 1890 most of the agricultural land in southeastern Australia had been occupied. Machinery was introduced to sugar cultivation, and that reduced the number of Polynesians that had been hired for slave wages. The new technology also caused many small-holders to lose their land.

Two dozen wild European rabbits had been introduced in Victoria for hunting in 1859. They proliferated rapidly, and within a decade two million a year were being killed. They crossed the Murray River in 1880, reaching Queensland by 1886. One station could kill nearly a million rabbits in a year. In 1885 a government fence was erected on the 36th parallel to keep them out of the southern farming areas. In 1887 New South Wales alone exterminated ten million rabbits.

James Smith discovered tin in Tasmania, and his Mount Bischoff Tin Mining Company began in 1873 and made a fortune in the next quarter century. Australia was the world’s largest tin producer 1873-82. Lead and zinc mines started producing at Mt. Zeehaen in 1888. Charles Rasp had found silver and lead in 1883. After his company announced they had made £100,000 by November 1886, Broken Hill attracted 20,000 people by 1889. The population of Melbourne increased to a half million by 1891, and real estate was booming. Speculation in land banks reached a peak in 1888, and in one month people agreed to pay £2,700,000 to new companies.

In 1879 Reverend John Brown Gribble published his pamphlet, “A Plea for the Aborigines of New South Wales.” He noted that drink and the exploitation of the women by lusty Europeans were the Aborigines’ greatest problems. He established a mission station at Carnarvon in Western Australia in 1885 to Christianize the Aborigines, but he found that the Australian labor system enslaved them with harsh punishment. He went to Bishop Henry Hatton Parry and said he had to oppose the injustices of the settlers; but Parry removed Gribble’s license to preach in that district.

In 1882 the Australasian Secular Association formed in Melbourne to campaign for opening the Public Library and Art Gallery on Sundays. They also questioned Christian beliefs. In 1886 social reformers founded the Anarchist Club to promote human freedom. Monty Miller founded the Mental Liberty Club in Melbourne and the Social Democratic Federation in Perth in 1901.

The first Intercolonial Trades Union Congress was held at Sydney in October 1879. Wharf workers formed a union in Sydney in 1882 and in Melbourne in 1885. That year a maritime council united seamen and other workers. The Australian Shearers’ Union (ASU) was founded at Ballarat in 1886. William Guthrie Spence was their leader and persuaded workers that shearing and the waterfront were connected, and by the end of 1887 they had 9,000 members. In 1891 two hundred Queensland shearers were prosecuted for conspiracy, intimidation, and riot, and 82 were imprisoned. Fifty more were imprisoned on similar charges in 1894. That year Spence became president of the Australian Workers’ Union (AWU) that combined the ASU with other bush-workers’ unions. All the colonies legally recognized unions except Western Australia.

Australia had less than a thousand miles of railways in 1870, but the mileage increased to 3,675 in 1880, to 9,757 in 1890, and reached 12,955 miles by 1900. Unfortunately the lack of cohesion resulted in New South Wales adopting the standard railway gauge while Victoria opted for the larger five feet three inches, and Queensland, South Australia, and Western Australia chose the cheaper gauge of three feet six inches. In 1883 Samuel Griffith replaced Queensland’s Premier Thomas McIlwraith after accusing him of favoring his brother’s shipping firm in the purchase of steel rails. Concerned about German colonialism, in 1883 Queensland annexed the southeastern coast of Papua New Guinea.

After the Suez Canal opened in 1869, transport to Europe was faster. The use of refrigerated ships enabled Australians to send frozen meat to England from 1880 on. By 1877 all the provinces of Australia were connected by telegraph, and the next year Melbourne installed the first telephone exchange. In 1885 the Otis elevator was put in Australian buildings, which began to rise more than three stories. News in February that General Charles Gordon had been killed in Khartoum aroused British patriotism, and 750 volunteer troops departed for Sudan a month later. In 1883 Victoria began spending £500,000 a year for a five-year defense plan. In 1888 the British celebrated their centenary since they began colonizing Australia. While the European population had increased from one thousand to nearly three million, the Aborigines were reduced from about 251,000 to 67,000.

Catherine Spence was the first woman in Australia to publish a major novel with Clara Morison in 1854, and she wrote five more novels. In 1878 she became a regular contributor to two newspapers, the daily South Australian Register and the weekly Adelaide Observer. She had published the pamphlet A Plea for Pure Democracy. The Woman’s Suffrage League formed in 1886 and Working Woman’s Trade Union in 1890. In 1892 Spence began a public-speaking tour, and the next year she went to the United States. During the elections for delegates to the constitutional convention in 1897 she came in second among 33 candidates. She advocated proportional representation and joined Vida Goldstein’s Women’s Non-party Political Association.

Three women who wrote outstanding novels about how women are exploited by men, especially their husbands, were Rosa Campbell Praed, Ada Cambridge, and Jessie Catherine Couvreur, who wrote under the pen name Tasma. Rosa Praed moved to England in 1876, but several of her novels were about Australia. She became interested in spiritualism and also collaborated on three novels with Justin McCarthy. Ada Cambridge began as a devout Anglican, and she wrote 21 novels and three volumes of poetry. In Uncle Piper of Piper’s Hill (1888) and other novels Tasma portrayed how women became prostitutes to their husbands.

Australian Unions and Federation 1887-1900

The monthly Republican began in Sydney on July 4, 1887 under the banner “Liberty, Fraternity, Equality” with the goal of national independence. William Lane founded and began editing Boomerang in Brisbane in November. He advocated temperance and socialism, a society without monarchy, aristocracy, militarism, or oppression. In April 1888 young Henry Lawson noted that schoolchildren were not learning any Australian history, and he asked if they are to be always colonials.

Henry’s mother Louisa Lawson had left her husband in the bush and moved to the suburbs of Sydney in 1883 to become a feminist. She began publishing Dawn in May 1888 to help elevate women and raise humanity to a wiser level. In the first issue she wrote, “Men legislate on divorce, on hours of labor, and many another question intimately affecting women, but neither ask nor know the wishes of those whose lives and happiness are most concerned.”4 Dawn intended to express “audibly the whispers, pleadings, and demands of the sisterhood.” She wanted women to help themselves and be strong. Louisa Lawson supported the Divorce Extension Bill and female suffrage. One year later she offered her plan to enfranchise women, and she appealed to Henry Parkes. She was supported by the radical press. Boomerang urged female education so that intelligent women could be equal companions to intelligent men. The Republican took up the feminist cause, and in 1890 the University of Sydney began a college for women. Dawn proposed women’s shelters for those who had been abused, and they complained that there were no women warders for women in the jails and prisons. In 1891 Dawn adopted the Transcendentalists’ motto “Plain Living and High Thinking.” They discussed vegetarianism and women’s health issues. Dawn continued to educate on women’s issues until its last issue in July 1905.

The economic ideas of Henry George were studied, and in 1887 a land nationalization league was formed in Sydney. By 1889 New South Wales had fifteen branches of the single-tax league, and the next year all the colonies had branches. Henry George visited Australia in 1890 to promote his idea of having those using the land pay the taxes. Edward Bellamy’s socialist novel, Looking Backward, was also popular, and his disciple William Lane serialized it in the Brisbane Worker, starting in March 1890. William Winspear began publishing the Radical in March 1887, and in August the Australian Socialist League formed in Sydney and accepted it as their medium, renaming it the Australian Radical in March 1888; but in August 1889 Winspear separated it from the League because he wanted a truly socialist party.

Thomas Alexander Browne was a squatter and mining warden. He wrote novels under the name Rolf Boldrewood, and his 3-volume Robbery Under Arms published in 1888 described bushrangers. That year W. W. Collins was convicted of selling Annie Besant’s Law of Population, which had information on birth control; but Justice W. C. Windeyer for the Supreme Court declared the pamphlet legal. A. B. “Banjo” Paterson opposed cheap labor and published the pamphlet “Australia for the Australians” in 1889. His bush ballad, “The Man from Snowy River” (1895), was Australia’s first best-seller. Paterson also wrote “Waltzing Matilda,” and he reported on the Boer War from South Africa.

The Victorian Women’s Suffrage Society began in 1884, and the tall Brettena Smyth became one of their speakers. In 1888 she and Dr. William Mahoney organized the Australian Women’s Suffrage Society. Smyth wrote several pamphlets, and the most controversial was The Limitation of Offspring. In this and in lectures she explained how women could avoid getting pregnant; these lectures were not advertised in general papers. She published the book Diseases of Women in 1890.

Melbourne was the first Australian city to install electric street lighting in 1890. Expanded employment in factories increased the populations of Sydney and Melbourne, and by 1891 Melbourne had 56,319 factory workers. By then about two-thirds of Australia’s population lived in cities or towns, and manufacturing employed 17% of Australia’s workers. Women used sewing machines at home, working as much as sixteen hours a day for low pay. Crude larrikins formed gangs in the urban areas such as the Rocks district in Sydney, and they used gang violence to impose their will on others. A drought, overinvestment, and the declining price of wool caused the Commercial Bank of South Australia to be suspended in 1886. Employers reduced wages, and unions became more active. From 1886 to 1889 there were about 3,000 strikes. In February 1890 the Premier Permanent Building Association suspended payment; but public panic was relieved when they learned it was because of mismanagement. People in Victoria did not know that debts were over £5 million because bankruptcies were kept secret. However, stories appeared in the press about bankrupt businessmen who had committed suicide. The flow of capital from Britain began to slow, and the Bank of Van Diemen’s Land failed in 1891. That year the land banks in Sydney and Melbourne also began to fail. Fourteen banks had suspended payments by 1893, and land became practically unsaleable at any price. The government of New South Wales helped reconstruct the suspended banks by September, but depositors could not get their money for five years.

The Salvation Army set up soup kitchens and distributed fuel, and other charities also helped the homeless. Conservatives blocked governments from helping, arguing that dispensing charity is not a governmental function. On Sunday, November 19, 1892 three hundred people marched in Sydney behind a cross bearing an effigy of a man in rags. Experimental village settlements were tried in various places. In July 1893 Lane even led 220 Australians on a ship to Paraguay. Gold was found at Kalgoorlie in June 1893, and the revival of mining helped the economy recover. A drought began in 1895 and lasted eight years. The number of sheep had reached a high of 106 million in 1891 but then declined to 54 million by 1902. Fencing with barbed wire reduced the need for shepherds, and machine shearing replaced shearing by hand.

When employers objected to the Marine Officers’ Association affiliating with other labor unions, the workers walked off the ships in August 1890. A month later 50,000 workers were on strike. Officials read the Riot Act in Sydney, and police charged with batons; the shipping strike was defeated after three months. Also that year the shearers protested the squatters’ attempt to negotiate with non-union shearers by forming a Pastoralists’ Union. When the pastoralists hired scab labor, the wharf workers in Sydney and Melbourne refused to handle their wool. Some burned the grass and woolsheds of squatters who insisted on freedom for contracts. The governments of New South Wales, Victoria, and Queensland sent in troops to control strikers and arrest union leaders for conspiracy in 1891 and 1892. That year miners at Broken Hill went on strike, but capital used troops to defeat the union by October. In November the marine stewards, wharf workers, seamen, stewards, and cooks gave up their strikes too. In 1893 the employers began to work for the political federation of the six colonies.

Labor influenced government, and in 1889 the New South Wales parliament began paying its members, enabling unionists to serve. By 1900 all the colonies were paying their legislators. Labor began forming electoral leagues in 1891, and they ran 48 candidates and won 36 seats in the New South Wales legislature. That year Labor began supporting the Protectionists and George Dibbs. In 1892 the Progressive Political Labor League won ten seats in Victoria. In 1893 the Australian Labor Federation gained fifteen seats in Queensland, and the United Labor Party in South Australia won eight seats. The two main political parties were Free Traders and Protectionists, but as a third party Labor could often determine which side prevailed in the legislature. George Black called it “support in return for concessions.” They developed a pledge that all Labor members would vote according to the majority of the caucus, and most members signed by 1893. That year New South Wales abolished plural voting for the legislature, and in 1894 South Australia gave the vote to women. They also introduced voluntary arbitration. In the 1894 elections Labor candidates either belonged to the Solidarity group or were Anti-pledge. Free-trader George Reid promised to balance the budget and was elected premier in New South Wales.

Between 1894 and 1900 all the colonies passed considerable social legislation for adequate ventilation, sanitation, safety with machinery, apprenticeship controls, prohibition of child labor, and limited working hours for women and juveniles. In 1896 the Victorian Factories and Shops Act empowered Minimum Wages Boards to fix minimum wages in various industries. Taxes on land and income were passed. Most colonies banned immigration of Asians, Africans, and Polynesians, and in 1897 Queensland provided protectors for Aborigines, prohibiting their drinking alcohol or living outside reserves unless they had an approved job. In November 1899 Andrew Dawson formed the first Labor government in the world in Queensland, but it lasted only one week.

The Kanaka labor acts in the 1880s had raised the price of Polynesian labor by fifty percent in six years. In 1892 Queensland premier Samuel Griffith proposed banning the immigration of Pacific islanders because their gang labor on large estates discouraged small farmers and created a servile underclass. By 1895 machines were used for all field work except cutting cane. Planters still used “black” labor in northern Queensland, and so they opposed federation that would impose regulations.

After the Colonial Conference of July 1887 the British government sent Major-General James Bevan Edwards to Australia in early 1889. He talked with Henry Parkes and persuaded him that only a federated Australia could be defended against a Chinese invasion. Parkes put aside his fiscal policy as a free-trader and proposed the first federal conference that met in Melbourne in February 1890. Thirteen delegates from the six colonies and New Zealand agreed to a constitutional convention in Sydney in March 1891. There Parkes presented a series of resolutions calling for free trade between federated colonies, power of the federal government to impose customs duties, military and naval defense by federal forces under a single command, and a constitution with a senate composed of an equal number of members from each state, a house of representatives based on population, a judiciary with a supreme court, and a governor-general who could be removed by the house. Samuel Griffith noted that the minority in the less populated states would not be dominated by the radicals in Sydney and Melbourne. Deakin wanted a truly popular government that excluded Asians. A majority of the delegates accepted the conservative constitution. George Reid told the New South Wales Assembly that people would not accept a constitution less democratic than their legislature in which the Assembly had power over money bills. Parkes opposed Reid, but New South Wales rejected the constitution drafted. Parkes resigned and was replaced by Reid.

George Reid as premier of New South Wales invited the other five premiers to meet in Hobart in January 1895. They agreed that each colony would elected ten delegates to a convention, which met in Melbourne from January to March 1898. They started over and drafted a new constitution. Powers given to the federal government were over foreign affairs, defense, finance, regulating inter-state trade, customs, immigration, marriage, and arbitration involving two states. The states retained authority over all other issues such as education, agriculture, industry, police, navigation, transportation, and social legislation. The governor-general was to be appointed by the Crown and could veto legislation, appoint the prime minister and cabinet from the majority party, prorogue Parliament, and was to be commander-in-chief. Elections for the House of Representatives were to be held every three years with manhood suffrage. Only the House could initiate tax or appropriation bills, but both houses had to approve all legislation. Each state was to have six senators, and the first High Court tended to favor states’ rights. A referendum on the new Commonwealth was held in June, but Reid proposed an amendment to the Enabling Act so that New South Wales required their yes vote to exceed 80,000. When yes had a majority that was short of that number, they met again in January 1899 to make amendments. The first draft was criticized for being too conservative and for favoring the less populated states.

The United Kingdom declared war on the Boer republics on October 5, 1899, and all six Australian colonies offered to send troops. Most of the country was swept up in a wave of British patriotism, but a few voices such as William Morris Hughes, Henry Lawson, and the Bulletin magazine criticized sacrificing their young man for “Mr. Money Bags.” In November 1,200 volunteers embarked with horses to fight for South Africa.

In the second referendum on June 20, 1900 the new constitution won over 70% of the votes and passed in every colony. The House of Representatives was based on population, and the states were equally represented in the Senate, which could not amend financial measures. Secretary of State Joseph Chamberlain wanted a clause to permit appeals from the High Court to the Privy Council, and this was accepted by the delegates who had been sent to London. John Forrest of Western Australia tried to preserve the rule of the six families; but the mining community of Kalgoorlie overcame his opposition; their referendum held on July 31 easily passed. Queen Victoria signed the Constitution on July 9, and on September 17 she proclaimed that the Commonwealth of Australia would commence on January 1, 1901.

White Australia United 1901-14

By 1900 Australia had 3,773,801 inhabitants. Immigration had slowed down, and between 1898 and 1900 more actually emigrated than immigrated. The birth rate had decreased from 43 per thousand in 1860 to 27 in 1900, and the mortality rate went down from 17 per thousand to 12. In 1901 about 750,000 students were enrolled in primary schools. One in twenty went on to a secondary school, and of those only one in twenty attended one of the four universities in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, or Hobart. Australia’s £200 million debt was possibly the highest in the world per capita; sixty percent of the borrowing was for railroads that often were unproductive. By 1902 the drought had become the worst in a century.

Governor-General Hopetoun chose New South Wales premier William Lyne as the first prime minister; but Lyne opposed federalism and could not get along with the other premiers, and so he was soon replaced by Edmond Barton, a Liberal Protectionist. All three parties favored a “white” Australia. The Labor Party also stood for nationalizing monopolies, old-age pensions, a referendum on import tariffs, progressive taxes on land, restricted public borrowing, navigation laws, a citizen defense force, and changing the arbitration system. In the 1901 election the Liberal Protectionists won the most seats in the House, and the Conservative Free-Traders had the most Senators; but Labor gave the Liberals a majority in both houses. Alfred Deakin introduced a bill to restrict immigration by requiring knowledge of a European language. The Pacific Islanders Labor Act required all those immigrants in Queensland to be deported by 1905. Another 1901 act required employees in the mail service to be white. The Australian Workers’ Union excluded Asians, Aborigines, and half-castes.

History professor George Arnold Wood criticized the militarism that led to the Boer War. In January 1902 Henry Bournes Higgins exposed atrocities of the war in the House of Representatives, and the Anti-War League was organized. Prime Minister Barton agreed in March to send 2,000 more unmarried men to the war in South Africa. All together 16,175 Australian volunteers were sent; 251 were killed in battle, and 267 died from disease.

After a court martial “Breaker” Morant and Peter Handcock were executed on February 22, 1902 for having shot a German missionary; they had also ordered eight Boer prisoners shot. Journalist Frank Fox published Bushman and Buccaneer under the name Frank Renar in 1902, portraying Morant as a daring hero. In 1903 Banjo Paterson published in the Bulletin extracts from Breaker Morant’s last letters. Eventually it was revealed that Field Marshal Kitchener had given Morant covert orders to kill Boer commandos who were dressed in khaki; yet this evidence was not presented in the trial, and Kitchener signed their death warrants. Lt. George Witton, who was sentenced to life imprisonment, was pardoned by Deakin and told his side of the story in the 1907 Scapegoats of the Empire. A 1929 letter by Witton was kept secret until 1970 and explained that Handcock had confessed under duress. Witton argued that the British made the Australians scapegoats in order to negotiate a peace treaty with the Boers.

Women were given the vote in 1902, but Aborigines, Pacific islanders, Asians, and Africans were still restricted. The Catholic press urged people to support the Labor party. The Judiciary Act was passed in 1903, and Samuel Griffith was appointed chief justice. Barton was also appointed as a judge, and Deakin became prime minister. In October the Defence Act authorized the military training of all males between the ages of eighteen and sixty; but they could not be sent overseas unless they volunteered. In the December election the Protectionists won 26 House seats, the Free Traders 25, and Labor 23, but Labor won ten of the nineteen Senate elections. Compulsory arbitration was enacted in 1904. Yet the Constitution and the High Court only allowed it in cases involving people in two states. When Prime Minister Deakin tried to exclude government employees, he lost and chose to resign rather than turn to George Reid. Labor’s John Christian Watson became prime minister, but the arbitration bill caused his resignation also four months later. Then Reid became prime minister again for ten months, but Deakin moved closer to Labor and replaced him.

In 1905 an Aborigines Department was created with an annual budget of £10,000 for the needs of Aborigines in Western Australia. The Governor appointed a Chief Protector of Aborigines to be the legal guardian of Aborigine and half-caste children, to monitor who enters Aboriginal reserves, and to prevent Asian employers from exploiting them.

The former attorney general Henry Higgins was chosen as president of the Court of Conciliation and Arbitration in 1906. The next year in the Sunshine Harvester case he set the minimum wage at seven shillings a day for a six-day week as an amount that could support a family of five. For skilled labor it was three shillings higher, and these amounted to a 25% increase. In 1905 increases in wool, wheat, dairy, mining, and manufacturing helped the Australian economy begin recovering, and by 1914 the gross national product had nearly doubled. In 1906 there were 300 unions with about 150,000 members, but in 1914 there were 712 unions with 523,000 members. In 1906 the British ceded their portion of New Guinea to Australia, and Hubert Murray became its governor for the next 32 years. When America’s “Great White Fleet” of sixteen navy ships visited Australia in 1908, the Bulletin changed its slogan to “Australia for the White Man.” Moralistic persons who demanded that other people renounce their pleasures were called wowsers. The Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) had New South Wales vote on referenda in 1907, 1910, 1913, but the vote to end liquor licensing never got more than 39%. Wowsers did get the Obscene and Indecent Publications Act, the Juvenile Smoking Suppression Act, the Gaming and Betting Act, and regulations against mixed bathing.

In 1906 Deakin proposed the “New Protection” the Liberals had already implemented in Victoria since 1895. These tariffs would mandate employers to provide “fair and reasonable” wages and working conditions for employees. Deakin wanted to protect the people and the employees as well as the employers. Labor helped pass it, but the High Court declared it unconstitutional. In 1908 Deakin tried to implement New Protection by amending the Constitution; but the Labor caucus withdrew its support in November, and Reid resigned his leadership of the Free-Trader party. Labor gained the leadership again for seven months until Deakin joined his followers with those of Joseph Cook and John Forrest. For eight years the Liberals and Labor had governed as the Lib-Lab coalition; but after declining polls by his Protectionist party, in May 1909 Deakin negotiated with the Conservative Free Traders, and they merged into a Fusion party. When Deakin walked into the House, Lyne and some Labor members called him “Judas.” That year Australia began compulsory military training for males between the ages of twelve and twenty but only for service inside Australia and with exemptions for the disabled, conscientious objectors, and those of “notoriously bad character.”

After the April 1910 election Labor had 43 seats in the House to 31 for the Fusion, and Labor won all 18 Senate seats to outnumber them 22-14. Andrew Fisher became prime minister of Australia. Labor chose Canberra, which is located between Sydney and Melbourne, to be the new capital, and a questionnaire on the choice was sent to 802 newspapers in Australia. In 1910 Australian paper currency replaced bank notes quickly because of a ten-percent tax on bank notes, and the next year the Commonwealth Bank was established. South Australia ceded the sparsely populated northern territory to the federal government.

Also in 1910 the Victorian Socialist Party joined with other socialist parties to form the Australian Socialist Party, and in May 1911 the Socialist Federation of Australia founded branches of the International Workers of the World (IWW). Labor passed a progressive Land Tax on the value of estates over £5,000, but in the next three years most of their social legislation was blocked by the High Court as unconstitutional. In 1911 and 1913 Labor tried to amend the Constitution to give the federal government power over commerce, finances, wages, monopolies, and conditions of labor, but both referenda failed with just under forty percent of the votes. On February 9, 1912 Brisbane faced a general strike by 20,000 workers from 43 unions, and 3,000 constables were recruited from the countryside and attacked a march of women on “Black Friday.” The workers gave in after five weeks.

Labor was able to create a national army and navy. In 1912 the Defence Act required military or police service, and 27,749 socialists, pacifists, and others were prosecuted for refusing by the middle of 1914; many paid fines, and 5,732 were imprisoned. In May 1913 the Liberals won the House by one vote, and Joseph Cook led the government for a year. Labor still dominated the Senate 29-7, but Cook engineered a double dissolution of both houses over preference for unionists. States had begun assisting immigrants financially in 1906, and between 1911 and 1915 they assisted 150,000. From 1911 to 1914 Australia took in 207,000 immigrants, and its population was approaching five million. In 1913 a Queensland electoral law disenfranchised seasonal workers by requiring a permanent home for two months before the election. In November 1914 Queensland passed a law fining registered voters up to £2 for not voting. Queensland elected its first Labor government in May 1915.

Vida Goldstein edited the newspaper Australian Woman’s Sphere, which began in 1900 and advocated woman suffrage. Stella Miles Franklin, before she was twenty, wrote her novel My Brilliant Career about a young feminist who rejects marriage. Henry Lawson helped get it published in Edinburgh in 1901. Franklin was influenced by Goldstein and knew Joseph Furphy, who published his novel Such Is Life under the pen name Tom Collins in 1903. Set in the 1880s, it describes squatters and itinerant workers. Franklin’s first novel was not well received, and she wrote My Career Goes Bung in 1904, but it was not published until 1946. She went to the United States and England and did not return to Australia until 1927.

Ethel Richardson Robertson wrote under the name Henry Handel Richardson. Her 1908 novel Maurice Guest is about an Australian girl who studies music in Germany, and in her 1910 novel Getting Wisdom she describes a girls’ school in Melbourne. Richardson became acclaimed for her trilogy of three novels called The Fortunes of Richard Mahony, which were published in 1917, 1925, and 1929. Her father had lived in the gold fields and practiced medicine in Melbourne. He was interested in spiritualism but died when Ethel was a teenager. In the trilogy Polly marries the physician Richard Mahony, who tries digging for gold; but he does not like it, and they move to his native Ireland. Snubbed by the English, they return to Australia and make a fortune in mining stock. Richard builds his dream house but then turns more to spiritualism. Gradually his mind deteriorates as they suffer poverty. Polly cares for him while he becomes insane. Polly has sacrificed her life caring for her brother’s children, her own children, and her ill husband. Richardson’s last novel, The Young Cosima (1939), fictionalizes the life of Franz Liszt’s illegitimate daughter and her husband Richard Wagner.

Henry Lawson wrote realistic short stories and much poetry, and for a long time he was Australia’s most prominent literary figure. Later in life he became more pessimistic and alcoholic, and he died in 1922. His essay on “Mateship” was published in Triangles of Life and Other Stories in 1913. Australians use the word “mate” very often, and it usually means a friend, but the deeper meaning is a buddy or very good friend. Below are a few quotations from Lawson’s “Mateship.” Lawson was influenced by Charles Dickens and Bret Harte, and Tennessee is one of Harte’s characters.

Tennessee forgave his partner the greatest wrong
that one man can do another;
and that’s the one thing that mateship can do.
The man who hasn’t a male mate is a lonely man indeed,
or a strange man, though he have a wife and family.
I believe there are few such men.
If the mate isn’t here, he is somewhere else in the world,
or perhaps he may be dead….
True mateship looks for no limelight.
They say that self-preservation
is the strongest instinct of mankind;
it may come with the last gasp,
but I think the preservation of the life or liberty of a mate—
man or woman—is the first and strongest.
It is the instinct that irresistibly impels a thirsty,
parched man, out on the burning sands,
to pour the last drop of water
down the throat of a dying mate,
where none save the sun or moon or stars may see….
The creed of mateship embraces an old mate’s wife,
sons and daughters.
“Yes, I’ll lend you the money, Jack;
don’t mention it—your father an’ me was mates
on the diggings long before you was thought of, my boy.”
Or, simply: “I’m an old mate of your father’s.”
 Mateship extends to an old absent mate’s
new mates and friends;
as with the present generation of Bush mates….
A mate will more often reform because of
a good or heroic deed he has done,
and has not been rewarded for,
than because of a foolish or bad one
he has done and been punished for.
Punishment does not reform men.
 Mateship is jealous at times;
and, if any jealousy can be unselfish,
free from vindictiveness, and even noble, this can be….
The faith of men is as strong
as the sympathy between them,
and perhaps the hardest thing on earth for a woman to kill.5

Early films became a popular form of entertainment, and from 1910 to 1913 Raymond Hollis Longford educated Australians about their history. His Australia Calls prophesied a future Japanese invasion that could be stopped by using airplanes to keep their navy away from the coast. After 1913 the American films overwhelmed the Australian film industry.

Australia in the Great War 1914-19

When Great Britain declared war on Germany on August 4, 1914, Australian crowds cheered; a mob in Melbourne raided the Chinese quarter. The Labor Party won the election in September with 42 seats in the House and 31 in the Senate. Fisher became prime minister again and appointed W. M. Hughes attorney general. Australia and New Zealand sent a small force to take over and occupy the German colonies of New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, and Samoa. In October the Australian Peace Alliance was founded and demanded a peace without annexations or indemnities based on national self-determination and the arbitration of international conflicts. The larger expeditionary force of 20,000 volunteers embarked in November and trained in Egypt. Hughes had the War Precautions Act amended in April 1915 so that he could intern and deport German residents. That month the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) attacked the Turks at the heights of Gallipoli. The battle became a stalemate; they finally were withdrawn in December after the Australians had 7,594 killed and 19,500 wounded.

In October 1915 Fisher became high commissioner in London, and Hughes took over as prime minister. The Imperial General Staff wanted 16,500 Australian recruits per month, but they were getting less than 7,000 volunteers each month. When Hughes presented a referendum on conscription, he was expelled by the Sydney Political Labor League. The Anglican synod supported the war, but Catholic Archbishop Daniel Mannix opposed conscription. Many Catholics in Australia were Irish and did not like England. Most of ANZAC was transferred to France in March 1916, and they fought near Armentieres; others fought in Palestine. Coal miners went on strike to reduce working hours, and shearers demanded wage increases. In 1916 about 170,000 workers participated in more than 500 industrial conflicts. Labor organizations also demanded that the allies negotiate peace. Shipping was not available to export Australia’s excellent wheat crops. Australia began collecting a federal income tax.

The International Workers of the World opposed the war, and twelve leaders in Sydney’s IWW headquarters were arrested and charged with treason in September 1916. They were convicted and sentenced to between five and fifteen years in prison. Monty Miller, who had been at Eureka in 1854, and seven other IWW leaders were tried in Perth in November for conspiracy. The 77-year-old Miller defended himself and spoke for more than three hours to the jury in what the West Australian called “a wonderful flow of language.” The paper reported, “He and his fellow workers were suffering from the attacks of a ferocious Government, and he asked the jury in the interests of humanity not to convict men who had merely labored for humanity.”6 The judge declined to send the old man to jail. In July 1917 the Unlawful Associations Act declared the IWW illegal so that individual members could be punished with six months in jail. About a hundred people defied the act, and Miller was tried again in Sydney. He was sentenced to hard labor, but an outraged public caused his being sent back to Western Australia. The War Precautions Act had made the red flag illegal too, but in March 1919 trade unionists and socialists marched carrying red flags in Brisbane; police attacked them and arrested thirteen.

On October 28, 1916 over two million Australians were required to vote, but conscription lost by 72,480 votes. On November 14 Labor’s 64 members of Parliament met and voted to remove Hughes as their leader. He walked out with 23 members, and the same day the Governor-General commissioned him to form a new government with the Nationalists; but he was not able to do so until February 19, 1917. In the May election the Nationalists won 53 seats in the House and all 18 Senate seats contested. In August railway craftsmen went on strike to protest the new card system that speeded up work, and the strike spread to the coal mines and ports. About 100,000 workers were on strike for eleven weeks, but the Sydney government broke their resistance by deregistering their unions, arresting leaders under the War Precautions Act, bringing in special constables, recruiting volunteer labor, and billeting rural strike-breakers in Sydney. The Labor Council blacklisted activists and refused to restore workers. In October those who could get their old jobs back accepted defeat. In 1917 about five million working days were lost because of strikes compared to only 581,000 in 1918.

Winspear had difficulty providing for his family, and in the 1890s he had been imprisoned for stealing from the rich. After being released he began contributing to the International Socialist in 1910. He satirized religion by rewriting the beatitudes of Jesus and the ten commandments to expose the cruelty of capitalism. He worked full-time for the Australian Socialist Party from 1912 to 1916. During the Great War he opposed conscription, and his poem “The Blood Vote” was used as a poster to urge a no vote. Adela Pankhurst led the women’s anti-conscription organizations, and she complained about the food and clothing wasted in storehouses while people were hungry and needed clothes. The Prime Minister refused to talk with them about the high food prices, and the Women’s Peace Army demonstrated outside the parliament in Melbourne. Pankhurst and others were arrested and released on bail. A massive torchlight march on September 19 resulted in smashed windows and £5,000 worth of damage to shops and offices. Hughes announced another referendum on conscription, and on December 20 this one lost by 166,588 votes.

During the war 331,781 Australians went overseas; 59,342 were killed, and 152,171 were wounded. Among the British allies Australia had by far the highest percentage of fighting troops and also the highest percentage of losses among its troops. By 1919 the war had cost Australia £364 million, and related expenses for pensions, care of the wounded, repatriation, and interest on the debt would add another £270 million by 1939. Hughes attended the Peace Conference in France and was not afraid to oppose US President Wilson. Australia was given a loose mandate over the territory of New Guinea, but Germany’s northern Pacific islands went to Japan. Hughes wanted Germany to pay all of Australia’s war expenses and was told the most he could get was an indemnity of £100,000,000, but Australia ended up with only £5,571,720 in 1932. The Australian Parliament ratified the Versailles Treaty in September 1919. That year labor disputes reached a record level, and 6,300,000 days of work were lost because of strikes and lockouts. The mining strike at Broken Hill lasted eighteen months, and eventually the company agreed to increase wages, shorten hours, and compensate those with mining diseases. The Returned Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Imperial League of Australia (RSSILA) had formed in 1916 and by 1919 had 150,000 members. They were associated with the Nationalist party, and their first president became a senator.

Frank Anstey warned against “money power” and was elected to Parliament in 1910. He published The Kingdom of Shylock in 1915, arguing that war was enslaving workers and that the “financial oligarchy” was defeating democracy. He was accused of anti-Semitism, and the book was suppressed. When he expanded and republished it as Money Power in 1921, he removed the anti-Semitic references. He spoke for the Australian Peace Alliance and became a leader against conscription. His 1919 Red Europe on the Russian Revolution was banned in New Zealand, but it became a best-seller in Canada and America. Anstey envisioned the common people moving toward a more just world, and he became minister of Health and Repatriation in 1929.

Australia Between Wars 1920-39

In the December 1919 election the Nationalists won 35 seats, Labor 26, and the new Country party 10, and the Nationalists had all but one seat in the Senate. Hughes promised to work for tariff protection, a white Australia, a good standard of living, and suppression of the Communists. Returning soldiers were sold land at low prices with fair mortgages. Hughes got laws passed against advocating the overthrow of the government so that Communists could be imprisoned. Radicals left the Labor party and formed the Australian Communist Party in October 1920. A year later the Labor party voted to socialize industry, production, distribution, and exchange, but they wanted to do so by evolutionary rather than by revolutionary methods.

In December 1922 Labor won 30 seats to 28 for the Nationalists and 14 for the Country party. Many in rural areas believed they were being exploited by the cities. The physician Earle Page supported the farmers and had become the leader of the Country party in 1921, but he refused to work with Hughes, who resigned. The Anglophile Stanley Melbourne Bruce then formed a coalition government with Page. Their three main policies were also a white Australia, improving the standard of living, and anti-Communism. In the next five years they fixed the price of sugar to protect it from foreign competition and provided subsidies for Australian fruit. Dairy farmers were helped so their butter could compete better with New Zealand, Europe, and America. Between 1922 and 1926 Australia borrowed £100 million from London bankers and an additional £15 million from New York. Between 1921 and 1930 about eighty percent of the 260,927 British immigrants were assisted financially. A quota system allowed a few thousand others from Europe. In the 1920s the automobile industry expanded rapidly in Australia. They applied the American ideas of scientific management, and Henry Ford’s My Life and Work sold 47,000 copies.

Page arranged for grants to state governments so that they could build roads. The prickly pear cactus had been brought from America as an exotic plant, and by 1924 the plants had spread to 65 million acres. Chemical poisoning cost twice what the land was worth, but in 1925 the Cactoblastis cactorum caterpillar eggs were brought from Buenos Aires to Brisbane. The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) was established in 1926, and the next year they distributed nine million eggs. Within six years most of the prickly pears were gone.

Dock workers began a series of strikes in 1925, and Bruce passed laws to deport their leaders; but the High Court blocked his attempt to deport the union leaders Tom Walsh and Jacob Johnson because they had been in Australia for 32 and 15 years respectively. The new capital at Canberra opened on May 9, 1927. That year the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) formed to represent most of the unions. In the 1920s about three-quarters of all strikes were in mining.

Meanwhile Labor still had power in state governments. Queensland abolished the legislative council in 1922 and owned sheep stations, butcher shops, a fishery and a cannery, a hotel, cokeworks, smelters, and mines. John T. Lang in 1923 launched a campaign to remove Communists from the Labor party, and he led the Labor government of New South Wales from 1925 to 1927. The Government took over shipyards, brickworks, metal quarries, pipe and concrete works, and coal mines. They allowed the state to compete with private enterprises to increase the quality and quantity of goods while keeping prices low. Lang introduced widows’ pensions, employer-paid insurance for employees, family endowment, a maximum 44-hour work week, better working conditions for rural laborers, abolition of state secondary school fees, improved public transportation, and relief for those sick and in need. Communists met at Vladivostok in 1929 and persuaded the Australian delegates to repudiate their concept of a white Australia as a false doctrine perpetrated by imperialists.

In November 1928 the coalition of Nationalists and the Country party won 42 seats; Labor had won 31 in the House but had only 7 in the Senate. The Government had 54 ships that were losing money, and Bruce wanted to liquidate this shipping line that Hughes had started in 1916. In August 1929 Bruce tried to push through the Maritime Industries Bill, which would let states regulate industries, but Hughes defeated him by one vote. Bruce had to resign, and in the election Labor won 51 seats and made James Scullin prime minister on the day the New York stock market began to crash in late October. Scullin nominated the High Court judge Isaac Isaacs, a Jew, as governor-general, and King George V accepted him. Early in 1929 prices had begun falling, and exports decreased. Australian unemployment gradually went up to thirty percent by 1932. Treasurer Edward Theodore increased the tax on personal incomes over £450, and he prohibited the export of gold. Japan’s share of Australia’s exports rose from 8.3% in 1929 to 12.1% in 1932, and Australia provided nine-tenths of their wool. Australia abolished compulsory military service in 1929, and the army was reduced to three thousand men.

In 1930 Scullin invited Otto Niemeyer from the Bank of England to visit Australia. He persuaded the state premiers to balance their budgets and not use borrowed money for unnecessary purposes lest loans be cut off altogether. J. T. Lang became premier of New South Wales again in 1930 and accused Niemeyer of being a tool of the bondholders for squeezing hard-working Australians. The Lang faction of the Labor party resigned from Scullin’s government in March 1931. That month Theodore provided £12 million to relieve the unemployed and £6 million for wheat farmers. Scullin persuaded the state premiers to accept his plan in June. They lowered wages by ten percent and imposed a tax on interest, and a 25% devaluation was intended to increase exports. Wages would not return to their previous level until 1937. In November 1931 the unpopular Treasurer Theodore proposed Christmas relief for the unemployed. Joseph A. Lyons resigned from Scullin’s government and joined with the Nationalists to form the United Australia party.

In December 1931 the United Australia party won 37 seats to 17 for the Country party and 16 for Labor, and the United Australia party had 22 seats in the Senate. Lyons became prime minister and treasurer. Lang defaulted on NSW’s payments to London bondholders in January 1932, and in May he barricaded the state treasury building from Commonwealth officers. Lyons had passed laws to make Lang obey the premiers’ plan, and the New South Wales governor Phillip Game dismissed Lang. The new bridge across Sydney harbor had opened in March, but during the ceremony Captain Francis de Groot of the New Guards had embarrassed Lang by riding his horse and cutting the ribbon with his sword. In the next five years Lyons improved financial stability, and the economy gradually recovered. Budgets were balanced, and mining and industry led the recovery.

Communists were persecuted by the six acts against civil liberty. Extraordinary efforts were used to keep out undesirable foreigners. The All-Australian Congress against War and Fascism invited the Czech radical Egon Kisch to speak in November 1934. He knew so many European languages that they tested him on Gaelic; he failed and was sentenced to six months in prison and deportation. The next day a New Zealander was kept out because he could not speak Dutch. Kisch jumped from the ship to the wharf and broke his leg, but he was allowed to speak. After a long legal battle the government paid his court costs, and Kisch agreed to leave in March 1935. Physicians joined the British Medical Association to prevent government health benefits from being implemented. In 1935 Lyons used the Transport Workers Act to license 6,977 volunteers to take jobs from 2,300 striking workers.

During this era several Australian women wrote outstanding novels. Katherine Prichard won a prize for The Pioneers in 1915. Her Black Opal (1921) is about an opal-mining community. Working Bullocks (1926) shows workers in the country and celebrates sexuality. Prichard’s Coonardoo (1929) describes how a black woman is destroyed by white men. Intimate Strangers (1937) reflected the difficulties of her marriage and explored a more political orientation. Nettie Higgins wrote poetry, short stories, literary criticism, and a biography of her uncle Henry Bournes Higgins. She married the novelist Vance Palmer, who was in the Pioneer Players and wrote political plays. He wrote the novels Men Are Human (1930) about a white man who falls in love with an Aborigine woman, The Passage (1930) which won first prize, The Swayne Family (1934) about city life, and the ghost story Legend for Sanderson (1937). Eleanor Dark was a friend of Nettie Palmer, and between 1932 and 1938 she wrote five novels about women in Australia. Miles Franklin published the romantic novel All That Swagger in 1936 and included radical political content. Dymphna Cusack’s Jungfrau (1936) is about three unmarried women. Marjorie Barnard and Flora Eldershaw wrote several novels using the pen name Barnard Eldershaw. A House is Built (1929) is about a family and its business; Green Memory (1931) portrays a disgraced family and the elder daughter’s sacrifice; and Plaque with Laurel (1937) describes authors on a literary pilgrimage.

Radio broadcasts had begun in 1923, and in 1932 the Australian Broadcasting Commission created national stations “in the interests of the community.” They were forbidden to use any form of advertising. They put on professional orchestras, experts on literary, artistic, scientific, and historical subjects, live sports, and theater from the classics to new radio plays. Charges of bias came mostly from conservatives whose commercial stations competed with them. American films were still popular, and theater was dominated by American musical comedies. By 1936 the wowsers had excluded the importation of five thousand books including titles by D. H. Lawrence, James Joyce, Ernest Hemingway, George Orwell, Aldous Huxley, and even classics by Rabelais, Boccaccio, Defoe, and Balzac. In the mid-1930s political censorship banned books by Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin, and other Communists. In 1932 the New Theatre was formed to produce more purposeful plays, and they performed in their club the anti-Nazi play Till the Day I Die by Clifford Odets after the Government banned it in 1936.

When the Italian Fascists invaded Ethiopia in 1935, Australia imposed trade sanctions against Italy. They also began discriminating against Japanese products. The Labor party proposed building a strong air force in 1937 to defend against warships. That year the federal government stopped selling iron ore to Japan, and in 1938 the maritime unions imposed an embargo to protest the Japanese invasion of China. Yet Attorney General Robert Gordon Menzies invoked the Transport Workers Act to give volunteers licenses, though none applied. The workers held out for two months, and they called Menzies “Pig-Iron Bob.” Menzies visited Germany in 1938 and admired the devotion of young Germans to the state. Refugees from Germany and Italy had to pay a landing fee of £200, but for Jews it was £1,000 for the ludicrous reason of guarding against anti-Semitism. Radio stations had to submit the scripts of their talks on international affairs before they were broadcast. Brian Fitzpatrick wrote two volumes on the history of British imperialism in Australia, and they were published in 1939 and 1941. His popular Short History of the Australian Labor Movement appeared in 1940.

Menzies was elected leader of the United Australian party in March 1939, and Lyons died the next month. Page made a personal attack on Menzies in the House on April 20; but he only hurt himself, and Menzies became prime minister six days later. John Joseph Curtin had been a leader against conscription, and he had overcome his alcoholism and was elected leader of the Labor party in 1935.

Australia and World War II 1939-50

Menzies announced that Australia was at war against Germany on September 3, 1939. Australia’s population had reached seven million, and 47% lived in the seven capital cities. The birth-rate was down to 18.5 per thousand, and immigration slowed down to practically none during the war. Compulsory military service was re-instituted in November, but only volunteers went outside Australian territory. The army was already up to 80,000, and by 1940 Menzies claimed they had 230,000 men in arms. Australia sent supplies and food to England while suppressing Communists and anyone who might sabotage the war effort. They began training the Army, and the Sixth Division went to Palestine at the end of the year for more training. The Seventh Division left in April 1940. The German invasion of France caused Australian enlistments to multiply from 8,000 in May to 48,500 in June. Australia opened a diplomatic legation in Tokyo that August. Starting in September the Australian forces fought against the Italians and later the Germans in North Africa.

In March 1941 the United States included Australia in its Lend-Lease program. In April the Australian forces were unable to stop the German invasion of Greece or on Crete the next month. The Germans took 1,600 Australian lives and 5,000 prisoners. The Seventh Division fought more successfully in Syria in June and July. Menzies was criticized for his arrogance and resigned on August 28. Arthur Fadden led the Country party; but the budget with his increased tax on lower incomes caused independents to leave his coalition, and Labor’s John Curtin became prime minister in October. Australia gave the United States permission to use its airfields.

The Japanese invaded Malaya and other places on December 8, and the next day Curtin declared war on Japan. On December 10 off the Malayan coast the Japanese Navy sank the Prince of Wales and Repulse, the only two British capital ships in the Pacific. Curtin announced that Australia stood with the United States and Britain in the war against Japan. On January 4, 1942 the Japanese attacked the port of Rabaul in New Britain, and they captured it from the Australians on the 23rd. On February 3, the Japanese bombed Port Moresby on the southern coast of Papua on New Guinea. On February 15 British forces in Singapore surrendered to Japan; 15,384 Australian troops became prisoners of war while 1,789 Australians had been killed with 1,306 wounded. Two days later the Australian war cabinet rejected a request by the Pacific War Council to direct to Burma the two Australian divisions being transferred from the Mideast. Curtin denied pleas by Winston Churchill and President Roosevelt, and Churchill reluctantly ordered a convoy to take them to Australia.

On February 19 Japanese planes bombed Darwin in the northern territory, killing 243 people, sinking 8 ships, and destroying 23 planes. On March 3 they killed 70 people at Broome in Western Australia. Five days later Japanese troops landed at Lae and Salamaua on the northern coast of New Guinea and began marching toward Port Moresby. On March 12 Java fell, and 5,000 Australians were captured. Five days later General Douglas MacArthur arrived in Australia from the Philippines, and in April he was appointed Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in the Southwest Pacific. After the indecisive battle in the Coral Sea on May 7 the Japanese Navy retreated to their bases. On May 31 four Japanese midget submarines snuck into Sydney Harbor and killed 19 sailors. In July some Australian forces attacked the Japanese based at Lae and Salamaua, and in August they defeated the Japanese at Milne Bay, east of Port Moresby. By January 1943 the Australians had regained Lae and Salamaua.

Meanwhile the Australian soldiers with the British in North Africa were having a tough time against Rommel’s tank battalions and the Italians. In the fall of 1942 the Australians there had 4,863 casualties and 946 men captured. After the victory at El Alamein in November, Australia’s last division in North Africa was transferred back to Australia and arrived in February 1943. After a rest they were sent to New Guinea, where Australians had liberated Papua from the Japanese in January. The American victory at Guadalcanal gave the Allies control of the South Pacific, and Australians breathed easier. In 1942 a half million Australians had gone to work producing munitions, aircraft, and other war supplies, leaving half the usual number for other manufacturing. Even Aborigines were given more employment opportunities, especially in remote northern Australia where armed forces gathered.

Australia’s conscript army could not be sent outside Australia, but a compromise was reached that allowed them to go to the Southwest Pacific Zone south of the equator and between the 110th and 159th meridians. In March 1943 MacArthur gave the impression that he had over-ruled the Australian strategy of retreating into the southwest corner of Australia behind the “Brisbane Line” that ran to Adelaide even though it was not true. In the last two years of the war MacArthur let the American forces get the glory of leading the island-hopping toward Japan while he assigned Australian troops to the dangerous “mopping up” operations in New Guinea, Bougainville, New Britain, and Borneo.

During the war Australia interned 6,780 people as dangerous aliens; more than half were of Italian descent. The Australia First movement, led by P. R. “Inky” Stephensen, opposed any obligation to the British empire, and twenty of them were arrested in March 1942. The pacifist Jehovah’s Witnesses had been banned in January 1941, but the High Court overturned that in March 1943. The Communist Party had also been outlawed in 1940. After the Soviet Union became an ally, Communist labor leaders supported the war effort, leading to the party being legalized again in December 1942. Some conflicts broke out between Australian soldiers and the Americans, who had better uniforms and more spending money. In November 1942 a mob of three thousand Australians attacked an American PX store at Brisbane, and one Australian was killed. In February 1943 more than two thousand brawling soldiers stopped traffic for twenty minutes in Melbourne. After the war more than 10,000 Australian brides applied to immigrate into the United States.

The federal government at Canberra took over the income tax in May 1942 and gave allowances to each state. That year the Labor government tried to implement a national health service, but the High Court and a failed referendum substantially cut it back. In August 1943 the Australian Labor Party (ALP) won 49 of 74 seats in the House of Representatives, and in the Senate the ALP won all 19 seats up for election. These majorities enabled them to pass laws benefiting children, hospitals, maternity, the unemployed, widows, and college students. On January 21, 1944 in Canberra the Labor governments signed the Australia-New Zealand Pact in which they agreed to consult with each other on matters of common concern to achieve maximum unity and coordination. In August 1944 a referendum to give the federal government fourteen more powers was defeated at the polls. In October, Robert Menzies met at Albury with leaders of the United Australia Party, and they formed the Liberal Party of Australia.

In August 1944 more than a thousand Japanese prisoners tried to break out of camp using baseball bats; more than two thousand Japanese and several Australians were killed. Women became nearly 30% of the work force. Until they were blocked by High Court decisions in September 1944, the Women’s Employment Board tried to improve women’s salaries from the 54% of what men were earning by usually asking for 90%. The Government imposed controls on prices, wages, and rents during the war, and food and other items were rationed. The United States shipped £300,000 worth of goods to Australia while receiving even more goods and services in return.

During World War II 540,000 Australians enlisted, and the total in the military counting conscripts was nearly a million; 33,826 were killed in action, including 10,264 in the Royal Australian Air Force. Better medical care enabled 180,864 wounded to survive. The Japanese navy sank 29 Australian merchant ships during the war. In some cases the Japanese killed Australians who had surrendered. Of the 22,000 Australians held in Japanese prison camps 7,964 died, and those returning were emaciated and often ill; but most of the 8,500 Australians taken prisoner by Germany and Italy survived. In 1942-43 Australia spent forty percent of its national income on the war, and the total war expenditure was £2,949,380,000. Curtin’s prudent taxation managed to cover two-thirds of the Government’s expenditures during the war.

Prime Minister Curtin suffered from heart disease and died on July 5, 1945. He was replaced by Treasurer Joseph Benedict Chifley. After the war Australian veterans were given job training or subsidies to study in universities or farming instructions and a block of land. University scholarships were given to other students too, and in 1946 the Government founded the Australian National University in Canberra for research. In 1946 King George VI rejected a petition from Aborigines in the Northern Territory for citizenship rights.

After the 1946 general election Labor still controlled 43 seats; the Liberals had 17 and the Country party 12. J. T Lang was a Labor independent and severely criticized his former colleagues. A referendum confirmed the right to legislate social services in peacetime, and in the next three years the Labor government improved Australia’s welfare system to protect and assist those in need. At its 1945 congress the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) demanded a wage increase, no wage-pegging, and the 40-hour work week. Industrial disputes in 1945-47 caused the loss of nearly 5.5 million working days, but in late 1947 the High Court approved the 40-hour week. Membership in the Australia Communist Party had increased from 5,000 to 24,000 in five years; but as the Cold War set in, anti-Communism increased. In early 1948 a crack-down against the Communists in the Australian Railways Union by the Queensland government resulted in the police injuring F. W. Paterson, the Communist member of parliament, and in 1950 his seat was eliminated by redistribution. The Catholic Social Studies Movement publicized by B. A. Santamaria offered Christian faith and family morality as an alternative to Communism.

H. V. Evatt was Attorney General and minister of External Affairs from 1941 to 1949, and he was an influential voice in forming the United Nations Charter. Evatt failed to limit the power of the veto in the Security Council, but he was successful in removing the veto against discussing any issue in the General Assembly. After Indonesian nationalists declared independence in August 1945, the Waterside Workers’ Federation in Brisbane began a four-year boycott on ships carrying Dutch weapons.

In 1947 Chifley’s Labor government began providing funds to assist immigrants, and nearly 200,000 had arrived by 1950. About half were British, and thousands were Dutch, German, Italian, Austrian, and from Eastern Europe. Immigration minister Arthur Calwell implemented the White Australia Policy that kept out Asians and Africans. He did his best to make sure that all of the 5,473 non-Europeans war refugees were expatriated out of Australia. Even Australian occupation troops were not allowed to bring their Japanese wives back to Australia. The war caused a housing crisis, and in the late 1940s more than 200,000 houses were built in Australia.

In 1947 the High Court disallowed price and rent controls, and a referendum to reinstate them the next year failed. Chifley and Postwar Reconstruction minister John Dedman convinced the Labor party to accept the new financial institutions sponsored by the United States, namely the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the General Agreement of Tariffs and Trade (GATT). Chifley wanted to nationalize the Australian banking system; but in August 1948 the High Court ruled it violated the right of banks to engage in interstate commerce, and Chifley lost his appeal to the Privy Council. Australia maintained its loyalty to the British Commonwealth by increasing its sterling balance from £199 million in 1947 to £452 million in 1949. The Labor government tried again to implement a national health service in 1948; but most doctors were opposed, and in 1949 the High Court agreed with them. Wartime rationing of clothing and meat was ended in 1948, but rationing butter and tea continued to 1950. Petrol rationing had been started in 1940, and it ended in 1949.

In 1948 Australia persuaded the Americans to give up their military base at Manus in the Admiralty Islands northeast of New Guinea. Australians were nearly a third of the 35,000 in the British Commonwealth Occupation Force in Japan, and Australia was the world’s fourth largest contributor to the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration with two-thirds of it going to Nationalist China. In 1948 Chifley and Evatt refused to aid the British in Malaya even though the anti-colonialist movement contained Communist guerrillas. Evatt served as president of the United Nations General Assembly 1948-49.

In 1949 Chifley passed the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Power Act that took $820 million and 25 years to construct. The complex would include sixteen major dams and seven power stations, and it redirected water that had been going into the sea to the Murray and Murrumbidgee Rivers for irrigation and communities in New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia. More than 100,000 people from thirty countries would work on the massive project. Also in 1949 Papua and Australian New Guinea were combined under one administration as Papua New Guinea. In June the coal miners demanded a 35-hour work week with a pay increase and went on strike. Coal was a desperately needed for energy, and closed factories threw a half million people out of work. Eight union leaders were arrested, and fines were collected. Finally Chifley sent troops to cut coal, and the strike was broken after seven weeks; but he was criticized by those on the right and the left. Inflation was running at 10% annually.

In December after much discussion the Labor government decided to delay recognition of Communist China. In the election that month the coalition of the Liberal and Country parties led by Menzies criticized the Labor party’s socialism and bureaucratic restrictions, and they won 74 seats in the enlarged House of Representatives to 47 for the Labor party. The Senate was expanded from 36 seats to 60 with each state choosing ten members by proportional representation, and Labor still held a majority. An increase of £1 weekly in the basic wage was not approved until early in 1950 while the standard female wage was set at 75% of the rate for unskilled men. Menzies kept his promises to end the rationing of petrol and to ban the Communist party.

New Zealand 1800-1950


1. A History of Australia by C. M. H. Clark, Volume 1, p. 3.
2. Quoted in A History of Australia by C. M. H. Clark, Volume 2, p. 134.
3. Ibid., p. 136.
4. Dawn—A Journal for the Household, May 1888 quoted in Rebels and Radicals, p. 148.
5. “Mateship” in Henry Lawson: The Master Story-Teller, p. 794-799.
6. Quoted in Rebels and Radicals, p. 180.

Copyright © 2007 by Sanderson Beck

This chapter has been published in the book SOUTH ASIA 1800-1950.
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British India 1800-1848
British India's Wars 1848-1881
India's Renaissance 1881-1905
India's Freedom Struggle 1905-1918
Gandhi and India 1919-1933
Liberating India and Pakistan 1934-1950
Tibet, Nepal, and Ceylon 1800-1950
Burma, Malaya and the British 1800-1950
Siam, Cambodia, and Laos 1800-1950
Vietnam and the French 1800-1950
Indonesia and the Dutch 1800-1950
Australia to 1950
New Zealand to 1950
Summary and Evaluation


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Chronology of Asia & Africa to 1800
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