Australia in the 1860s

The Acclimatisation Society of Victoria

Edward Wilson (18131878), a former editor of The Argus newspaper, formed the Acclimatisation Society of Victoria (ASV) in 1861 with the aim of introducing into Australia large numbers of animals from England, as these were familiar to the settlers. The average English migrant soon developed a desire for the familiarities of their home country, including English plants and animals. It was widely believed that the Australian plants weren't worthy of cultivation, and that no animals were 'decent' game, let alone suitable for domestic use. Therefore the wealthy settler was willing to spend much time and effort in introducing exotic plants and animals. Cashmere goats, alpacas, pheasants, deer, hare, sparrows and thrushes were all imported over a four-year period. The society was divided over the importation of song birds, so Wilson imported starlings, blackbirds and canaries that he released into the wild. This introduction of foreign species caused some division in the society. Consequently, it was reported that in 1868 farmers complained thrushes were destroying their fruit crop.

By 1870, the importing of animals had stopped and the society began displaying exotic animals in their gardens. In 1872, the society was renamed the Zoological and Acclimatisation Society of Victoria.

The Acclimatization Society of Victoria

A snapshot of 1868

  • January
    • Transportation of convicts to Western Australia ended.

  • March
    • The Queensland Parliament passed the Polynesian Labourers Act 1868 (Qld) to regulate the employment of Pacific Islanders recruited through 'blackbirding'.
    • The attempted assassination of Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, by Henry James O'Farrell at Clontarf, a suburb of Sydney.

  • May
    • An Indigenous Australian cricket team became the first Australian sports team to tour overseas.

  • September
    • John King, the only surviving member of the Burke and Wills exhibition, was found living with an Aboriginal group.
    • Public Schools Act introduced compulsory schooling in Tasmania.


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