Australia in the 1860s

Indigenous Australians

The New South Wales Native Police Force was formed in 1848 to patrol the northern regions of the colony under the command of Lieutenant Frederick Walker (18201866). The aim of the force was to protect pastoralists, settlers and travellers from conflict with Aboriginal people and to suppress Aboriginal resistance to colonial occupation. It was renamed the Native Mounted Police when responsibility for it was transferred to Brisbane. The force operated as a separate mobile police unit until it was disbanded in the first decade of the 20th century. By 1864 the force had grown to 137 men, reaching 208 by 1878. The force patrolled areas of up to 80,000 square kilometres. In 1861, a report to the Select Committee on the Native Police stated that the force was greatly feared by other Aboriginal people who knew that, unlike the non-Indigenous police, it would be able to track them in the bush.

In 1863, an Aboriginal station called Coranderrk was established near Healesville in Victoria by John Green, a Presbyterian lay preacher, in collaboration with people from clans of the Kulin nation. These Aboriginal communities had been pushed off the land they had previously been granted on the Acheron River. Their leaders were Simon Wonga (c18201875) and William Barak (18241903). During the 1860s, the community cleared and cultivated the land and erected dwellings and community buildings. As the development of Coranderrk progressed, it became a popular place for tourists, including churchmen, ethnologists, artists and journalists who wanted to see the Aboriginal people there. The Kulin people saw this as an opportunity to explain their culture to the Europeans and to sell artefacts made especially for trade.

In Victoria, the Board for the Protection of the Aborigines was established in 1860 and later was given statuary authority by The Aborigines Protection Act 1869 (Vic). Under the legislation that established the board, the governor had the power to decide where any Aboriginal person or any group of Aboriginal people should live. The board had wide-ranging control over the lives of Aboriginal people, including the power to remove children from families.


A snapshot of 1868

  • January
    • Transportation of convicts to Western Australia ended.

  • March
    • The Queensland Parliament passed the Polynesian Labourers Act 1868 (Qld) to regulate the employment of Pacific Islanders recruited through 'blackbirding'.
    • The attempted assassination of Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, by Henry James O'Farrell at Clontarf, a suburb of Sydney.

  • May
    • An Indigenous Australian cricket team became the first Australian sports team to tour overseas.

  • September
    • John King, the only surviving member of the Burke and Wills exhibition, was found living with an Aboriginal group.
    • Public Schools Act introduced compulsory schooling in Tasmania.


{tpl region name=footerbottom}