Australia in the 1830s


There is some evidence that, prior to European arrival, Aboriginal groups in New South Wales used coal as a fuel. The first coalmines were established in Newcastle and the Hunter region. The colonial government granted the Australian Agricultural Company a lease of 2,000 acres of land at Newcastle to develop coalmines.

In 1830 the government handed over possession of the Newcastle Coal Works and the company retained a monopoly on the mining of coal in Newcastle until 1847. At the end of 1831, there was an official opening with crowds of people cheering as the two skips of coal were brought to the surface, travelled down the first inclined-plane railway and were delivered to the wharf, where the steamer Sophia Jane was waiting to transport the coal to Sydney. By 1832 more than 7,000 tonnes of coal was being produced annually.

Initially both convict and non-convict labour was used, but few had experience working in mines and the convicts were found to be unsuitable workers. The company began importing skilled labour from overseas. Between 1838 and 1839, 100 Irish and 40 Welsh miners were brought to work in the mines by the company. 

A snapshot of 1838

  • January
    • John Pascoe Fawkner (1792–1869) founded the Melbourne Advertiser, the first weekly newspaper published in Melbourne. It was originally handwritten on four pages until a press and type arrived from Tasmania.
    • The 50th anniversary of the colony of New South Wales was held.

  • June
    • The Myall Creek massacre of 28 Aboriginal men, women and children occurred.

  • November
    • Pastor Kavel brought about 200 German dissenters escaping religious persecution in their own country to South Australia.
    • The Melbourne Cricket Club was founded.

  • December
    • Melbourne's first school opened at Batman's Hill.
    • The Jenolan Caves were discovered.


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