Australia in the 1870s

Art and literature

Melbourne's National Gallery School was established in 1870 and was to become an important catalyst in the development of a growing community of Australian-born artists. Eugène von Guérard (18111901), a landscape painter, was appointed as the first Master of Painting and curator of the National Gallery of Victoria. Frederick McCubbin (18551917) and Tom Roberts (18561931) of the Heidelberg School of painting both enrolled at the National Gallery School in the 1870s. McCubbin was later appointed as the school's drawing master.

While many migrant artists brought with them international styles and representations, the younger artists such as English watercolourist WFE Liardet (17991878) and William Forde (18231884) captured the unique characteristics of the Australian landscape, particularly in and around Melbourne.
Aboriginal artists such as Tommy McRae (18351901) and Mickey of Ulladulla (18201891) began drawing and painting aspects of the daily lives of their peoples, particularly hunting, food gathering and ceremonies.

In 1874, Marcus Clarke (18461881) published his novel For the Term of His Natural Life to great acclaim. The novel had first appeared in serial form in the Australian Journal in 1870. The English novelist Ada Cambridge (18441926) published the novel Up the Murray, which had appeared as a serial in the newspaper, the Australasian.

In 1875 two explorers, Peter Warburton and John Forrest, published books about their expeditions. John Forrest published a book entitled Exploration in Australia and Peter Warburton published Journey Across the Western Interior of Australia.


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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