Australia in the 1880s

Rural Australia

The introduction of rabbits to the Australian environment in the 1860s had a devastating impact upon the land. Rabbits had no natural predators in Australia and their numbers exploded as they rapidly spread across the continent. Attempts to curtail the pest did little to solve the problem. In April 1883, the NSW Parliament passed the Rabbit Nuisance Act 1883, which gave 'rabbit inspectors' the right to enter land and order property owners to destroy rabbits. In 1887, construction began on large-scale rabbit-proof fences.

In July 1883, a droving party led by Michael Durack took 7,250 breeding cattle from the Barcoo River in Queensland to the newly discovered Ord River in the East Kimberley region of Western Australia. It was more than two years before Durack arrived in September 1885, with only half the cattle surviving.

A map showing the rabbit-proof fences in Western Australia when completed in 1907.

A snapshot of 1888

  • January
    • Non-Indigenous Australians celebrate 100 years of colonial settlement.

  • May
    • A demonstration against Chinese immigration takes place outside Sydney Town Hall and a month later an Intercolonial Conference on the Chinese question is held.
    • In Queensland, Thomas Glassey becomes the first trade union candidate in any colonial parliament.

  • December
    • The Centennial International Exhibition opens in Melbourne in the newly built Royal Exhibition Building.
    • Henry Lawson's first story, His Father's Mate, is published.
    • The women's magazine, The Dawn, begins publication with editorials by Louisa Lawson, mother of Henry Lawson, and advocates voting rights for women and divorce law reform.
    • It also included household hints, a short story and poetry as well as fashion news. Established by Louisa it was prepared and printed by women.


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