Australia in the 1860s


Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, fourth child of Queen Victoria and second in line to the throne, received a rapturous welcome when he visited the Australian colonies in 1867. He was the first member of the British Royal Family to visit Australia. For most Australians in the 1860s, Great Britain was still regarded as 'home', even though many of them had been born in the colonies. Many people identified with English society. During this time, Australians were only just developing a sense of their own identity. Each colony held celebratory events for the prince's visit by decorating buildings, holding parades and society balls. Different religious groups competed to welcome the prince, particularly in Melbourne. At the opening of the Protestant Hall, a facade showing a large portrait of protestant hero Prince William of Orange smiting the Catholic armies was displayed. Outside the hall, Irish Catholics rioted and a boy was killed. This incident raised questions about sectarian sentiment.

In March 1868, the prince was at a fund-raising event at Clontarf, a suburb of Sydney, when he was shot by an Irish-Australian named Henry James O'Farrell (18331868), who had been recently released from a mental asylum. The prince survived and O'Farrell was captured by the crowd, which tried to lynch him. He was eventually removed by the police, tried and sentenced to death.


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.


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