Timeline: 1800’s


Van Dieman’s Land

Settlers in Van Dieman’s Land (Tasmania) are authorised to shoot Aboriginal people.

Aboriginal missions | School for Aboriginal children established

Aboriginal people begin to be moved onto mission stations where they can be taught European beliefs and used as cheap labour. A policy of absorption of the Aboriginal population is adopted whereby it is hoped that the reproduction of Aboriginal peoples can be controlled.
Governor Macquarie establishes the ‘Native Institution’ – a school for Aboriginal children at Parramatta. The school closes in 1820 when families withdraw their children.


Different religions

Different religious groups start to establish their presence. Jewish convicts found the Chevra Kadisha burial society; the first Russian Orthodox religious services are held; the first officially recognised Catholic priests establish the Catholic church in Australia; the first Methodist Church service is held in Van Dieman’s Land.


Conflict & killing of Aboriginal people, Bathurst

Conflict between European settlers and Aboriginal people escalates. Over 100 Aboriginal people are killed in massacre at Bathurst, New South Wales and martial law is declared.

Assisted migration Chinese, Indian, South Sea Islanders |
Merthyr Tydfil riot leaders arrive in Sydney

Demand for labour cannot be met through convict system so assisted migration begins with ‘Emigration Commissioners’ appointed in England.
Indentured labourers from Asia, mainly Chinese and Indian, as well as South Sea Islanders begin to arrive.Merthyr Tydfil riot leaders from Wales arrive in Sydney.


British law | Pinjarra massacre | ‘Tolpuddle Martyrs’ arrive in Australia

Colonies are established based on British law and practices. No treaties are made with the original owners of the land. Aboriginal people in Tasmania are forcibly removed and settled on Flinders Island. The living conditions lead to many deaths. Later the community is moved to Cape Barren Island.
Pinjarra massacre, Western Australia. Governor Stirling leads mounted police against Aboriginal people and a large number are killed.
‘Tolpuddle Martyrs’, transported for organising an agricultural workers’ union in Dorsetshire, arrive in Australia.

German settlers

British migrants arrive to settle in other mainland locations, including Kangaroo Island, South Australia. German refugee settlers make up 10% of South Australian colony’s population within three years of its founding.


Protector of Aborigines | Aboriginal massacre, Gravesend

In London, a Parliamentary Select Committee examines the treatment of Indigenous peoples in all British colonies and reports that genocide is occurring in the Antipodes. It recommends the appointment of a Protector of Aborigines.
The policy of protection for Aboriginal people marks the beginning of involvement of the Catholic Church in missionary work and the establishment of schools for Aboriginal children.
Massacre of Aboriginal people occurs at Gravesend, New South Wales with over 200 killed.

Indigenous assimilation | Indigenous segregation | Aboriginal massacre, Gravesend

First Commonwealth and State conference on ‘native welfare’ adopts ‘assimilation’ as the national policy. In practice, assimilation policies lead to the destruction of Aboriginal identity and culture, justification of dispossession and the removal of Aboriginal children.
At the same time, segregationist practices continue until 1960s with separate sections in theatres, hospitals with separate wards, hotels refusing drinks and schools that can refuse enrolment to Aboriginal children.
Massacre of Aboriginal people occurs at Gravesend, New South Wales with over 200 killed.


Myall Creek massacre | Punitive expedition, NSW | German settlers arrive in SA

Myall Creek massacre in New South Wales – near Inverell, 28 Aboriginal people are killed by settlers, 7 of whom are later hanged. It is the first massacre of Aboriginal people in Australian history where the offenders are punished by law.
Punitive expedition is led against Aboriginal people in Namoi, Gwydir and Big Rivers areas of New South Wales.
German settlers, members of Old Lutheran church fleeing religious persecution in Prussia, begin to arrive in South Australia.

Canadian exiles | First full-time ethnic schools established

Canadian exiles are transported to New South Wales and Van Dieman’s Land (Tasmania) for their part in rebellions of 1837 – 1838.
First full-time ethnic schools in Australia are established by German settlers in South Australia.


Chinese, Italian, Greek, German migration | Aboriginal massacre | Convict transportation | Assisted migration

Chinese, Italian and Greek migration begins. German missionaries arrive in South Australia.
Massacre of Aboriginal people occurs at Long Lagoon where the entire community is killed.
Transportation of convicts to New South Wales ends. The last convict transport, The Eden, arrives in Sydney.
Depression in Australian colonies leads to a halt in assisted migration.

Aboriginal massacre, Rufus River | Caroline Chisholm

Massacre of Aboriginal people occurs at Rufus River with 30 dead.
Caroline Chisholm founds Female Immigrants’ Home in Sydney.


‘Anti-Coolie’ petition organised | Assisted migration reintroduced |
Chartists arrive in Hobart

‘Anti-Coolie’ petition is organised, protesting against the proposal by business to introduce labourers (‘coolies’) from India.
Assisted migration is reintroduced.
73 Chartists arrive in Hobart, transported for their part in ‘Plug Plot’ riots.

Spanish missionaries

Spanish Benedictines found New Norcia Mission in Western Australia.


Pacific Islanders

Pacific Islanders are brought to New South Wales to work mainly as shepherds.

Aboriginals killed | European refugees | First foreign language newspaper |
First Young Ireland transportees

New South Wales native police troopers are brought to Queensland to kill Aboriginal people and open up the land for settlement..
Political upheaval in Europe leads to refugees coming to Australia, including some from Germany and Hungary.
Poor Law commissioners in Britain approve scheme to send female orphans from English workhouses to Australia.
First foreign language newspaper in Australia, Die Deutsche Post fur die Australischen Kolonien is published in Adelaide.
First Young Ireland transportees arrive in Van Dieman’s Land (Tasmania).


Chinese labourers

Chinese, Italian and Greek migration begins. German missionaries arrive in South Australia.


Gold Rushes – migrants from many countries | First convicts arrive in Western Australia

Gold rushes in Victoria and New South Wales lead to large population increases with people coming from many countries, particularly China.
Migrants from many parts of Europe and Asia also begin to arrive as labourers. There is large scale Irish immigration in response to potato famine in Ireland.
Chinese people begin to migrate within Australia, not only to work in the gold fields but also to look for work in Queensland and the Northern Territory.First convicts arrive in Western Australia.

Pastoral leases, SA

The development of a system of pastoral leases in South Australia begins. Governor Young insists that all pastoral leases should include reservations in favour of Aboriginal people, allowing them access to pastoral lands.


Immigration restriction & racial violence

Victoria passes the first anti-Chinese restriction legislation, imposing a 10 pound poll tax on Chinese arriving in Victoria.

Aboriginal people attack, Dawsons Creek | Anti-Chinese Restriction Bill & taxes, SA

Aboriginal people attack settlers on Dawson River, Queensland, leading to reprisals by local squatters and police.
South Australia passes an anti-Chinese Restriction Bill and anti-Chinese taxes. Incidents of racist attacks and violence are reported in Victoria, South Australia and New South Wales.


Non-Aboriginal population, 1 million

Non-Aboriginal population reaches 1 million.


European & Asian migration | ‘Afghan’ cameleers | South Sea Islanders |
Protection & Anti-Immigration League

Migrants from many parts of Europe and Asia, including Poland, India, Iran, Egypt and Turkey continue to arrive as labourers. Large scale Irish immigration continues.
First ‘Afghans’ come to South Australia to handle camels on the Burke and Wills expedition. ‘Afghan’ cameleers originate from India, Iran, Egypt and Turkey and help to open up the outback.
South Sea Islanders, mostly from the islands of New Guinea and New Britain, are recruited to work in Queensland cane fields – many are kidnapped in a practice called ‘blackbirding’. Disputes between South Sea Islanders and their employers are a feature of life in the sugar fields. Riots take place on Thursday Island and at Mackay, Ingham, Townsville, Rockhampton and Port Douglas.
Protection and Anti-Immigration League is established in Melbourne.

Anti-Chinese riot | Anti-Chinese legislation | Chinese population size | Pearling industry | Aboriginal people kill 19

Anti-Chinese riot takes place at Lambing Flat on New South Wales goldfields.
New South Wales Parliament passes Chinese Immigrants Regulation and Restriction Act, imposing a poll tax on Chinese entering the colony.
The Chinese constitute the third largest group in Australia, after the British (including the Irish) and Germans.
The pearling industry in Western Australia begins with Aboriginal divers. After the employment of Aboriginal people is banned, Javanese, Timorese and later Japanese divers are used.
Aboriginal people kill 19 settlers near Emerald, Queensland. Later some 170 Aboriginal people are killed in reprisal.


Torres Strait Islands – European settlement | Pacific Islanders

Government station is established at Somerset, on tip of Cape York peninsula, marking beginning of the impact of European settlement on Torres Strait Islands. Missionary settlement follows, bringing disease and disruption to traditional lifestyles.
Labourers from Pacific Islands are brought to Queensland to work on cotton plantations, marking the beginning of large-scale immigration of South Sea Islanders.

Anti-Chinese legislation lifted | Anti-Chinese riot | Chinese immigration restrictions | Aboriginal cricket team

Anti-Chinese legislation in Victoria is lifted and later reintroduced.
Anti-Chinese riot occurs on Crocodile Creek goldfields in Queensland.
New South Wales repeals restrictions on Chinese immigration.
All Aboriginal cricket team tours England – the first overseas cricket tour by an Australian team.


Aboriginal people killed | Polynesian Labourers Act | Last convicts arrive

150 Aboriginal people are killed resisting arrest in the Kimberley.
Queensland Polynesian Labourers Act is passed to regulate the indenture of workers from the Pacific Islands.
Last convicts to be transported to Australia arrive in Western Australia – they include 60 Irish political prisoners, Fenians. In all, over 160,000 convicts have been transported since 1788.

Aborigines Protection Boards | Captain Daggett is tried for kidnapping

Victorian Board for the Protection of Aborigines is established. The Governor can order the removal of any child to a reformatory or industrial school. The Protection Board can remove children from station families to be housed in dormitories. Later similar legislation is passed in other colonies: New South Wales (1883), Queensland (1897), Western Australia (1905) and South Australia (1911). The Northern Territory Aboriginals Ordinance makes the Chief Protector the legal guardian of every Aboriginal and ‘half caste’ person under 18. Boards are progressively empowered to remove children from their families.
Captain Daggett is tried for kidnapping Pacific Islanders for sugar and cotton plantations of Queensland but no conviction is recorded.


Irish immigrants

Arrivals from Ireland peak at 200,000. Up to World War 1 the Irish, after the English, form the second largest component of immigrant community. They have a minority status as Catholics in a predominantly Protestant society.

Rioting in Victoria

Rioting occurs at Clunes, Victoria when Chinese are used to break a miners’ strike.


Truganini dies

Truganini, believed to be the last surviving tribal Tasmanian Aborigine, dies in Hobart.

Anti-Chinese legislation – Qld | Anti-Chinese riot | Aboriginal people kill Daintree settlers

Queensland Chinese Immigrants Regulation Act and Gold Fields Act Amendment Act impose restrictions on Chinese immigration and on their access to the goldfields.
Anti-Chinese riot occurs on the Palmer River goldfields in Northern Queensland where Chinese diggers outnumber the Europeans.
Settlers in the Daintree River Area of Queensland are killed by Aboriginal people.


Seamen strike about chinese crews | Anti-Chinese meeting | Synagogue erected, Sydney

Seamen in Sydney go on strike against employment of low-paid Chinese crews on ships. The strike spreads to other ports in New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria.
A mass anti-Chinese meeting is held in Hyde Park, Sydney.
The Great Synagogue is erected in Sydney.

Chinese immigration opposed

First Intercolonial Trades Union Congress unanimously opposes Chinese Immigration.


Restrictions on Chinese & Irish immigration

First Inter-Colonial Conference agrees on the need for uniform legislation to restrict Chinese immigration.
New South Wales Premier Sir Henry Parkes proposes restrictions on Irish immigration to maintain the British character of the population.

Chinese immigration restrictions | Settlement at New Italy |
Assisted immigration regulations

South Australia is the first colony to introduce restrictions on Chinese immigration in line with recommendations from the Intercolonial Conference; New South Wales and Victoria pass similar legislation.
A group of Italian immigrants form a settlement known as New Italy in the Richmond River area of northern New South Wales.
Regulations are introduced in New South Wales to control the level of assisted immigration and the old system of nomination is discontinued, in part to restrict Irish immigration.


NSW Aborigines Protection Board

New South Wales Government establishes the Protectorate of Aborigines which in 1883 becomes the Aborigines Protection Board.

Aboriginal massacre, NT | Trade union agitation against Chinese

Massacre of Aboriginal people on the McKinlay River, Northern Territory. The perpetrators are exonerated by an official inquiry.
There is trade union agitation in Melbourne against Chinese in the furniture trade and in Sydney against Chinese seamen.


Royal Commission investigates South Sea Islander kidnappings

Royal Commission appointed in Queensland to investigate the recruitment of South Sea Islanders for plantation work finds there have been widespread kidnappings. Queensland Parliament prohibits the recruitment of South Sea Islanders from the end of 1890. The Act is later suspended due to the economic depression and outcry from plantation owners.

Anti-Chinese legislation and campaign | Assisted immigration ceases |
Aborigines Protection Board

Chinese population of Cairns is approximately 18%. Chinese become established as market gardeners, developing the banana industry.
Western Australian Parliament passes legislation restricting Chinese immigration and excluding Chinese from the newly discovered goldfields in the Kimberley.
The Bulletin in Sydney launches a full-scale campaign against Chinese immigration.
Assisted immigration to New South Wales ceases.
Victorian Board for the Protection of Aborigines is empowered to apprentice Aboriginal children when they reach 13. Children require permission to visit their families on the stations.
Western Australian Aborigines Protection Board is established.


Enquiry by Chinese Government | Brisbane publication takes anti-Chinese line

Commissioners appointed by Chinese Government arrive to inquire into the living conditions of Chinese in Australia; they report discrimination against Chinese in breach of international treaties.
In Brisbane publication begins of the Boomerang newspaper, which takes a strong anti-Chinese line.

Chinese immigration legislation | Chinese passengers stopped | White Australia Policy |
1st Mosque, Adelaide

1888 Inter-Colonial Conference in Sydney recommends uniform legislation virtually prohibiting Chinese immigration.
Chinese passengers are prevented from disembarking in Victoria and New South Wales.
New South Wales reintroduces restrictions on Chinese immigration. Victoria and South Australia pass similar legislation.
The phrase White Australia Policy first appears in the Boomerang.
‘Afghan’ cameleers establish first Mosque in Australia in Adelaide.


Immigration of South Sea Islanders stopped

Queensland enacts legislation to halt further immigration by South Sea Islanders. The Act is repealed in 1892 and re-enacted in 1901.


Immigration numbers reduced

Depression in eastern colonies reduces immigration to very low numbers.

French language newspaper for Australia

Le Courier Australien first appears. A French language newspaper, it is the oldest continuously published foreign-language newspaper in Australia.


Victorian Factories and Shops Act | Coloured Races Restriction and Regulation Act

Intercolonial Conference resolves to extend the restrictions on Chinese immigration to all non-Europeans; Chinese Restriction Acts in various colonies are extended to all ‘coloured races’. New South Wales passes Coloured Races Restriction and Regulation Act.
Victorian Factories and Shops Act deems that any workplace employing Chinese constitutes a factory and is subject to inspection and that all furniture made by Chinese labour must be so stamped. New South Wales and Queensland introduce similar legislation.

Aboriginal reserves | Dictation test, WA

Queensland Aboriginal Protection and Restriction of the Sale of Opium Act allows the Chief Protector to remove Aboriginal people onto and between reserves and hold children in dormitories. From 1939 until 1971 this power is held by the Director of Native Welfare; the Director is the legal guardian of all Aboriginal children, whether or not their parents are living, until 1965. The legislation is subsequently imitated by South Australia and the Northern Territory.
Under the legislation, Aboriginal people are effectively confined to reserves and banned from towns. Reserves are administered by government agencies or missionaries and every aspect of life is controlled, including the right to marry, guardianship of children, the right to work outside reserves, and management of assets.
Western Australia introduces Dictation Test on the model of the 1897 Natal Immigration Restriction Act used in South Africa as a means of excluding non-European immigration. This is followed by New South Wales (1898), Tasmania (1899) and then by the Commonwealth (1901).


Australia’s 1st Orthodox church

Greeks and Lebanese build Australia’s first Orthodox church in Sydney.