Australia in the 1830s


Summary of the decade

By 1838, colonisation was still restricted largely to the coastal areas on the east coast. The majority of Indigenous Australians were still living in their own countries with full rights and possession of their lands. During the decade there were increasing examples of resistance by Indigenous peoples. Many of their efforts have not been recorded; however, some stories such as that of the resistance leader, Yagan, a member of the Noongar nation of Western Australia, have been documented.

In 1830 a smallpox epidemic spread among Aboriginal groups in the interior. When the British arrived in 1788, Indigenous Australians had no resistance to diseases such as smallpox, measles, influenza and tuberculosis. These diseases were passed from contact with people using the trade routes between towns and ports. Additionally, shootings, poisoning, reduced fertility and increased mortality all had an increasingly devastating effect on the Indigenous Australian population.

During the decade, Sydney was financially prosperous through its wool exports. In 1838, a regatta took place on Sydney Harbour to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the New South Wales colony. Steamships, one of which was the new steamer Australia, offered trips around the harbour for those wishing to view the regatta. The gaily decorated steamships were crowded with people cheering and raising the British ensign. There was a salute of 50 guns at noon and fireworks at night. The four sister colonies were toasted at an anniversary dinner, but the celebrations remained mainly a Sydney affair. Van Diemen's Land, Swan River and South Australia were already separated and celebrated their anniversaries as free colonies.

Increasingly, British policy encouraged free migration to Australia and established schemes to encourage young women to emigrate. As men constituted a large percentage of the population there was a great need for women. Thousands of women migrated to the Australian colonies from Great Britain and Ireland during the 19th century. Between 1833 and 1837, the London Emigration Committee dispatched 14 ships to the Australian colonies. Of the 4,000 people who travelled in these ships, about 2,700 were young single women who were carefully selected by the London Emigration Committee.

During the 1830s, questions were raised in England about the brutality of the penal system. The harsh treatment handed out to the convicts often forced them to escape into the bush and become bushrangers. One such gang was the Ribbon Gang, led by the convict Ralph Entwistle. By 1830, bushrangers had become so troublesome that the New South Wales government introduced an Act allowing anyone to stop a person they suspected to be a bushranger.

A snapshot of 1838

  • January
    • John Pascoe Fawkner (1792–1869) founded the Melbourne Advertiser, the first weekly newspaper published in Melbourne. It was originally handwritten on four pages until a press and type arrived from Tasmania.
    • The 50th anniversary of the colony of New South Wales was held.

  • June
    • The Myall Creek massacre of 28 Aboriginal men, women and children occurred.

  • November
    • Pastor Kavel brought about 200 German dissenters escaping religious persecution in their own country to South Australia.
    • The Melbourne Cricket Club was founded.

  • December
    • Melbourne's first school opened at Batman's Hill.
    • The Jenolan Caves were discovered.


{tpl region name=footerbottom}