Australia in the 1820s


In New South Wales and Van Diemen's Land a system was established in which convicts were assigned to work for free settlers on farming properties. The free settlers would be responsible for feeding, clothing and housing the convicts. Large landed estates received most of the convicts. The system benefited both government and landowners, as the government saved itself the costs of providing for the convict, and the landed gentry or the settler received free labour. In the 1820s the assignment of convicts to private employers was expanded in order to help the economic development of the colony. Convicts worked in a variety of jobs including as shepherds and in general labouring jobs such as clearing land, digging out tree stumps, planting crops and quarrying sandstone for the building of houses. Under this system the convict's life in terms of food, work, housing and clothing depended on the sort of person and place to which they were assigned.

Convicts could gain a licence for good behaviour known as a' ticket-of-leave', which allowed them to receive wages for their work, live independently and move freely about the colony. This licence could be withdrawn for bad behaviour. The government kept skilled convicts for work on government projects but did allow them to work for the settlers at certain times.


A snapshot of 1828

  • February
    • The Cape Grim massacre took place in Van Diemen's Land.

  • May
    • Thomas Livingstone Mitchell became Surveyor-General following the death of John Oxley.

  • September
    • Australia's first bank robbery took place. The robbers broke into the vault of the Bank of Australia in Sydney.
    • The holey dollar currency was withdrawn from circulation.

  • November
    • Lieutenant-Governor George Arthur declared martial law against Aboriginal peoples in the settled districts of Van Diemen's Land.
    • The first census was held in New South Wales, showing that 24 per cent of the total population was born in the colony. Children under 12 years comprised only 16 per cent of the total European population. The Indigenous population was not included.


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