Australia in the 1830s


Resistance and conflict


Each year, new sites were established for farming land. Indigenous peoples had established environmental practices over thousands of years that allowed them to ecologically sustain their food sources. The introduction of European agricultural practices drastically impeded the food support system Indigenous people needed to survive. As a result many were unable to rely on basic resources. This led to much resistance and conflict.

In the Swan River settlement, resistance came from Yagan (d. 1833), a son of the respected Elder Midgigoroo of the Noongar people south of Perth. He and other warriors fought back by spearing animals and stealing supplies. In 1833 his brother was killed and in retaliation Yagan, Midgigoroo and others followed some carts taking provisions to settlers on the Canning River, and speared the drivers to death. Yagan, Midgigoroo and another, Munday, were then proclaimed outlaws. After a few months of evading capture, Yagan was killed by William Keates, who wanted the £30 reward offered for his capture or killing. Yagan's head was preserved and sent to England. In 1997, Yagan's remains were returned to Australia for burial according to Noongar custom.

In Van Diemen's Land, the 'Black Wars' took place. These were a series of aggressive attempts to drive the Aboriginal people from eastern Tasmania. In February 1830, the government legitimised the massacre of Indigenous people by offering a bounty of £5 per Aboriginal adult and £2 per Aboriginalchild. This bounty ended in 1832, but not before causing the deaths of hundreds of Aboriginal people. Lieutenant-Governor George Arthur (1784–1854) ordered the removal of the Oyster Bay and Big River peoples from the colonised areas and called upon all males, convicts and free settlers, to form a human chain across Van Diemen's Land, known as the Black Line. The 5,000 men were to sweep across the south and east of the island to contain Aboriginal peoples to the Tasman Peninsula. Arthur had intended to have the Aboriginal people live on the peninsula with the aim of protecting and maintaining their culture and language. In 1835, the remaining Aboriginal people of Van Diemen's Land were forced by George Robinson (1791–1866) to move to Flinders Island, where they lived in impoverished conditions and the population declined rapidly.

As a result of the Myall Creek massacre in New South Wales, non-Indigenous people were tried in a court and punished for murdering Aboriginal people for the first time. On 10 June 1838, 12 stockmen rode onto Henry Dangar's property and rounded up and killed 28 women, children and elderly men who were relatives of Aboriginal men working at the station. It took almost three weeks for the crime to be reported to the police. In December 1838, seven stockmen were hanged for the crime. The verdict caused outrage among many British colonisers.

In 1837, a UK Select Committee on Aborigines (British Settlements) investigated the treatment of Indigenous peoples and in their report criticised the Australian colonies. The committee affirmed the 'plain and sacred right 'of Indigenous peoples to their land and recommended that 'Protectors of Aborigines' be appointed. With the appointments came laws that put restrictions on almost every aspect of Indigenous people's lives. People were restricted to living in particular areas; they needed to ask permission to marry and had no control of their finances. The protectors also appointed missionaries to convert Indigenous people to Christianity.


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.

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