Australia in the 1870s


Indigenous events


Dispossession of Aboriginal communities from their lands by settlers continued throughout the 1870s. There were many reported violent events involving the constabulary, including an 1873 incident on Queensland's Palmer goldfields, the 1874 Barrow Creek Massacre in the Northern Territory and the 1876 Goulbolba Hill Massacre in central Queensland.

By the mid 1870s Coranderrk Mission near Healesville in Victoria had become a productive farm. It grew hops successfully and had its own school, bakery, butcher, church, dairy, hop kiln and houses. In 1874 the Aboriginal Protection Board forced the manager of Coranderrk, John Green, a great supporter of Aboriginal people, to resign. The Board disagreed with Green's policy of giving autonomy to Aboriginal people and wanted to shift the people to a reserve. The Kulin people fought to keep their home. William Barak (18241903) led many deputations to the board and the Victorian Parliament but living conditions were allowed to deteriorate, and sickness led to many Aboriginal deaths from tuberculosis and measles. Yarra Yarra leader Simon Wonga (c18201875) died at Coranderrk. Indigenous corroborees and other Indigenous ceremonies were banned, but William Barak kept his culture alive by painting sacred ceremonies and religious stories.

In 1874, 9,000 New South Wales Aboriginal people were sent to Maloga Mission. In 1876 Truganini, a Palawa woman, died in Hobart. At the time, she was wrongly believed to have been the last Tasmanian Aboriginal person. She had assisted the remaining 300 of her people to relocate to Flinders Island for their own protection.

In 1877 the Finke River Mission, later known as the Hermannsburg Mission, was established in the Northern Territory by the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Australia. Its aim was to provide sanctuary against the settlers, and medical assistance and Christianity for the Aranda people.

Coranderrk Mission


A snapshot of 1878

  • January
    • The construction of the Ghan railway line commenced at Port Augusta in South Australia.

  • February
    • The telephone was used for the first time in Melbourne.

  • April
    • The Stawell Easter Gift, a professional foot-racing competition over 120 metres, was run for the first time on Easter Monday.

  • May
    • One thousand unemployed men marched up Collins Street in Melbourne demanding relief work.

  • November
    • The song 'Advance Australia Fair' was presented for the first time.

  • December
    • Seamen in Sydney went on strike against the employment of low-paid Chinese crews on ships. The strike spread to other ports in New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria. A mass anti-Chinese meeting was held in Hyde Park, Sydney.

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