Australia in the 1840s


As the colonial population was mostly from the British Isles, English customs and fashions were popular. By this time in Australia's development there were at least two generations of native-born Australians; they were referred to as 'currency lads and lasses'. Their parents were usually born in Britain and home was still considered to be England. Those who were born in England were called 'sterlings' in a positive contrast to 'currency'.

Fashion imitated English trends and styles, and children's clothing reflected the class to which they belonged. Sons of the wealthy wore similar clothes to adult males of the time; a frock coat, a waistcoat, an upright winged shirt collar, a necktie and in some schools, a top hat. Girls from the wealthy classes wore long two-piece outfits with waisted jackets with a pleat at the back and petticoats under the skirt, their hair in ringlets, and a bonnet with ribbons.

Working-class clothing reflected their role as workers in society; women as domestic servants and men as labourers and children working doing odd jobs such as selling homegrown vegetables and fruits.

Childhood games, nursery rhymes and songs were typical of those used in England such as 'Bye Baby Bunting', 'Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush' and 'He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not'.

A snapshot of 1848

  • March
    • The Melbourne Hospital, the first public hospital, opened. It was renamed a century later as The Royal Melbourne Hospital.

  • April
    • An expedition headed by Ludwig Leichhardt (1813–48) set out from the Darling Downs to cross the continent of Australia travelling through its centre, but he and his expedition died en route, never to be found.
    • The first detachment of Native Police was transferred from New South Wales to Queensland under the command of Lieutenant Frederick Walker.

  • June
    • 120 Chinese migrants arrived from Amoy under an indenture system to work as shepherds in New South Wales.

  • August
    • The Cape Otway Lighthouse in Victoria was lit for the first time.
    • The Native Police Force in Queensland (sometimes called the Native Mounted Police) was formed.

  • December
    • John Roe (1797–1878) and Augustus Charles Gregory (1819–1905) explored the north-eastern areas of Western Australia.
    • German and Hungarian refugees arrived in the colony having fled political upheaval in Europe. They were known as the 'forty-eighters' as they supported the 1848 revolutions.


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