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Australia's Early Immigration Schemes

The London lights are far abeam
Behind a bank of cloud,
Along the shore the gas lights gleam,
The gale is piping loud;
And down the Channel, groping blind,
We drive her through the haze
Towards the land we left behind -
The good old land of "never mind",
And old Australian ways.

"The Old Australian Ways"
~A B (Banjo) Paterson

Immigration during the first 65 Years of Australia's settlement was less spectacular than that of the Gold Rush era which started in 1851 and eventually led to the development of our manufacturing industries and our political system of democracy as well as our social structure. But in the years before the Gold Rush there developed a strong pastoral climate which created an effective economic organisation and enabled Australia to cope with the disruptions caused by the influx of gold seekers and to absorb the changes and to use them. The different kinds of early immigration schemes were:


Why did the Bounty Immigrants come? The voyage to Australia sometimes took 17 weeks and was very uncomfortable and dangerous. Why did so many come?

The American War of Independence had ended in 1783 but the cost to the U.K. was enormous. Then came the French Revolution and the War with France 1793-1815 which continued the drain on resources. The government opposed emigration at those times as men were needed for the Army and the Navy and to produce war supplies.

However, after these wars the government was broke and unemployment was high as those ex-servicemen needed jobs and the population began increasing.

Industrialisation increased so that prosperity passed the ordinary labourer by. Bad harvests led to an agricultural depression. The Corn Laws were passed so that

Relief for the poor became urgent. In 1834 new Poor Laws led to the rise of Workhouses. The condition of village labourers continued to deteriorate until many reached such a state of despair that they were ready to revolt.

One factor contributing to the economic distress in the counties of southern England, was the decline in the demand for English Southdown wool. This was being ousted from the market by wool from German sheep crossed with Spanish merinos.

This period became so distressing for agricultural labourers and tradesmen that the Parish officials began encouraging them to emigrate to N.S.W.

Standard foodstuffs on migrant ships were:- salt beef, pork1 flour, peas, tea, sugar, rice, raising and oatmeal. The migrants themselves had to provide clothing, bedding, personal articles and they were advised to bring some tools.

The Bounty Immigration Scheme was first suggested by Edward Gibbon Wakefield. He suggested that:

This scheme was gradually adopted. The first set of Bounty Regulations was gazetted by Governor Bourke in October 1835:

At first, before 1835, the passage money was advanced to emigrants by the Government, to be paid back out of their salary, but many refused to pay it back, so the Government converted this Loan into a Free Bounty.

Settlers in N.S.W. were allowed to recruit their own workers in the U.K. Most employed agents to do so. The Government also had an Agent-General in London after 1837, and Agents in other embarkation ports.

Under the Bounty Scheme the settler who wanted workers paid the Emigrants' passages. On arrival these workers were examined by a Board appointed by the Governor and, if the Board were satisfied, the settler would be issued with a Certificate entitling him to claim the Bounty money back from the Government.

Complaints from the settlers before 1841 were uncommon. The Bounty was refused on only about 1% of applications, mostly on grounds of age.

The costs were:


There were several faults in the Bounty Scheme:

reprinted from Tulle,
vol 17, number 2