Australia in the 1810s


In the 1810s, the land ownership of Indigenous peoples was not recognised by colonists. Each of the 250 Indigenous language groups belong to a particular country that they own and that they are responsible for, with obligations and rights attached. An important Indigenous lore is for groups to ask permission before entering another group's country, and to acknowledge their ownership and history.

For the colonists, free settlers and former military men were granted tracts of land to encourage them to farm, to raise crops that could make the colony self-sufficient. Land was granted only if the settler could prove that they had sufficient funds to invest in the land's development. After receiving the land the settler would be allocated an assignment of convicts to work for them. The initial task involved clearing the land and then fencing the boundaries of the property. The popular method of fencing was the 'post and (split) rail' method, which was the traditional fencing method used in England. Logs were cut into 1.8-metre lengths for the posts and 2.7-metre lengths for the rails. The rails were then split using steel wedges and then required some shaping and trimming to fit the posts, which were morticed (holes cut through them) to support the rails.

The wealthier settlers looked to England and France for their styles and customs. In the early 19th century, even those children who had not visited England spoke with an inherited English accent. The clothes they wore reflected their class and wealth. The colonists of the remote penal settlement that became Sydney wanted to maintain a fashionable appearance, and hand-coloured fashion plates inserted in monthly periodicals provided them with details of the latest silhouettes, hairstyles and accessories. The colonial elite eagerly awaited irregular shipments of goods from Europe, India and China. At first the lack of local stores, dressmakers, tailors and supplies meant they frequently relied on friends and family 'at home' to purchase and ship the latest styles.

In the colonies the laws of inheritance sometimes followed the English tradition, especially the law associated with 'entailing' a property. If a property was entailed, the current possessor of the property had no say over who inherited the property after they died. A property that was entailed usually meant that the eldest son would inherit the land and the income from it. Other sons might receive some money but would have to enter the church or the armed services to make an independent living. Boys who became a minister looked for a parish that offered a stipend, or they joined the armed services where they could be appointed to a government position.

The children of the colonial elite were assigned free servants and were educated by tutors or governesses. Many children from wealthier families were sent back to England for their schooling. By the 1820s, there were sufficient private schools in Sydney for this practice to be less common.

A snapshot of 1818

  • January
    • Celebrations were held on the 30th anniversary of the establishment of the colony.

  • March
    • Samuel Marsden resigned from the magistracy, and in the Gazette of 28 March 1818 it was announced that his services had been dispensed with.

  • May
    • A regular mail service started operating between Hobart Town and Launceston.

  • June
    • The Benevolent Society of New South Wales was formed under Government Macquarie's patronage.

  • November
    • A lantern was lit for the first time at the Macquarie Tower lighthouse at South Head.
    • John Oxley names Castlereagh, the Liverpool Plains and the Peel River, and crossed the Great Dividing Range to reach Port Macquarie.
    • The legendary Aboriginal tracker Bundle and another Aboriginal man, Broughton, accompanied Charles Throsby on an expedition south.


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