Archive for 'Australia'

Ekwall's The Emigrants (date unknown), the art...

Ekwall’s The Emigrants (date unknown), the artist’s vision of 19th-century transatlantic emigration. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

The National Emigration Aid Society was conceived and founded for the express purpose of assisted emigration. It was founded by a substantial number of influential gentlemen, and was focused on moving the excess labour force to foreign states. They believed that their efforts were vital to a sound economy at home and productive, cultivated colonies abroad.

The Society devoted serious efforts to pressing Parliament into adopting their proposed “National Policy of Colonial Emigration.” They insisted that “Emigration is eminently good for, and available to all, in every class of society whose subsistence depends on the exercise of skill and labour, but who, unable at home to obtain employment, are reduced to want, and too frequently to a life of destitution and wretchedness.”

To that effect, the Society promoted the formation of “Emigration Clubs” in each city and township. The clubs would be chaired by committees of influential gentlemen, and each club would recruit members and solicit donations.

Any working man who wanted to become a member would be required to make a small payment for himself and each member of his family. The payment would go toward that family’s passage, and would be subsidized by donations. Each local club would in turn pay fees to the National Emigration Aid Society, who would arrange passage and outfit emigrants before travel.

The Society also offered a few free passages to select groups. Single women “of good character who are capable and willing to work as Domestic Servants” were granted free passage to certain cities in Australia and New Zealand. The cities of Victoria and Queensland also offered free passage to a few married farm labourers who met their specifications.

Eventually, the National Emigration Aid Society found itself in a gradually weakened state financially. In order to secure continued State aid, the Society’s committee decided to merge efforts with the Working Men’s Emigration Society.

 

 

English: Emigrants on a ship en route to Austr...

Emigrants on a ship en route to Australia, 1900-1910 Man and a young girl on board a ship travelling to Australia in the early 1900s. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

The Working Men’s Emigration Society

The Working Men’s Emigration Society was focused on essentially the same goals; however, it worked almost exclusively with labourers connected to trade unions. Throughout the 1850s, the Society entered applicants into a monthly lottery. The winners of each drawing would be awarded a subsidized fare to Australia in return for a £20 loan.

In addition, the Working Men’s Emigration Society offered “working tickets”. Fare to Australia could be purchased for £15, and the prospective emigrant would make up the difference by working as a steward on the ship for the duration of the voyage.

Unfortunately, the Society was often poorly managed. Some emigrants were indeed sent abroad; however, many were let down.  Some folks who purchased working tickets would turn up dockside, only to be told that there was no record of the ticket purchase. A number of hopeful emigrants even took the cases to court, hoping to get their money back.

The National Emigration League

Once the two Societies joined efforts under the united title of the “National Emigration League”, they represented a combined 800,000+ souls. The League was led by the Duke of Manchester, and the members continued to actively promote the subject of emigration throughout the following years.

 

English: A map of the British Empire in 1921 w...

A map of the British Empire in 1921 when it was at its height. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Emigration had sharply declined over the course of the First World War. Capitalizing on the potential of Britons wanting to emigrate from post-war England, both Canada and Australia began concerted efforts to encourage renewed immigration. Owing to these efforts, migration gradually increased between 1919 and 1920.

During this time, the British government began implementing schemes of its own – though often in collaboration with the various colonies. A couple of programs were instituted to not only encourage emigration to Australia and Canada, but also to New Zealand, and South Africa as well.

The Overseas Settlement Scheme

The 1919 Overseas Settlement Scheme was passed to assist discharged soldiers returning home from the Great War. The scheme offered free passage to ex-service men and women and their dependents.  This scheme lasted until the end of 1922, and over its duration, over 86,000 migrants were provided assistance. Of this 86,000, 26,560 went to Canada, 34,750 went to Australia, 12,890 went to New Zealand, 5,890 to South Africa, and nearly 3000 ended up in other parts of the Empire.

In Australia, just over 24 million acres was allocated to the settlement scheme. Approximately 23,000 farms were established across the country, and by June of 1924, 23,367 soldiers and sailors had emigrated and settled on the farms. This scheme enabled greater development of land that had been previously uninhabited in territories throughout Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland, and South Australia.

New Zealand saw a dramatic shortage of farm labourers after the loss of 17,000 men in the war. In addition to aiding ex-service men, various private sectors in New Zealand also instituted juvenile immigration schemes. The Flock House Scheme, for example, was initiated in honour of the British Navy and Mercantile Marines, and provided homes for the children of sailors who had been killed during the war. Boys received instruction in agriculture, while the girls were trained in domestic and industrial occupations. Through this scheme and others, approximately 2600 children were brought to New Zealand.

The Empire Settlement Act

King George V with the British and Dominion pr...

King George V with the British and Dominion prime ministers at the 1926 Imperial Conference (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In 1922, the Overseas Settlement Scheme was expanded to provide assistance to any “suitable persons” from the general public who might want to emigrate. This scheme was dubbed the Empire Settlement Act.

This act allowed the British government to collaborate with its Dominion governments, as well as with private organizations and public authorities, to develop emigration schemes. Under this act, married couples, single farm laborers and teenagers between the ages of 14 and 17 were given free passage, and occasionally, training opportunities. In exchange for passage, the emigrants were expected to settle and remain on the land.

A variety of public and private schemes were instituted under this act, including the “3000 Families Scheme” and the “Dominion-Provincial Land Settlement Scheme” in Canada, and various Australian settlement schemes initiated by Dr. Barnardo’s, the Big Brother movement, and others.

Over its duration, the Empire Settlement Act provided assistance to 212,000 immigrants to Australia, and another 130,000 immigrants to Canada.

Few things spark the adventurer’s spirit like the promise of gold. People are willing to leave the security of home for the dream of striking it rich on the gold fields. Time after time, gold rush fever has struck the general population, spurring massive migration to the latest gold find. Few truly find a fortune, yet this rarely stops folks from trying.

Britain has not been immune to gold fever. There are always those who are beguiled by the potential for instant wealth, and each new strike has spurred heavy migration as fortune hunters flock to the find.

English: Sailing to California for the Califor...

Sailing to California for the California Gold Rush (originally published in 1850s). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

America: The California Gold Rush (1848)

When James Marshall struck gold at John Sutter’s mill on January 24th, 1848, it went largely unnoticed. News of the find moved slowly and it wasn’t until late in the year that gold fever really caught on in El Dorado County. Sam Brannan was a store owner at Sutter’s Fort, and he immediately saw the potential for gain. He began advertising the strike in San Francisco and from there, the word spread like wildfire.

By June, nearly 5000 miners were working in the gold district. When news of the strike was legitimized by a statement from President James Polk, news began to spread across the country. Stories of gold, free for the taking, could hardly be contained and by 1849 immigrants were pouring into the country from the UK, China, Europe, Australia, and South America. According to the census in 1850, there were some 3,010 Britons living in California.

English: Australian 'Gold Rush' house The vill...

Australian ‘Gold Rush’ house ‘The Adelong’ was built by a local who made his fortune in the Australian Gold Rush! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Australia: The Victoria & NSW Gold Rush (1851)

Bathurst in New South Wales was little more than a backwater penal settlement when Edward Hargraves discovered gold there in 1851. Within weeks, however, thousands of settlers had flocked to Australia and were digging frantically for a fortune. The governor of Victoria saw potential in the new settlers and offered a reward for anyone who struck gold within 200 miles of Melbourne. Diggers took up the challenge and soon found gold in even greater abundance.

By the end of 1851, the Australian gold rush was at full steam. Tens of thousands of settlers arrived, tripling Victoria’s population to 237,000 in 1861, and doubling it again to 540,000 by 1861. New South Wales also saw a significant population increase, reaching 357,000 by 1861. Of these immigrants, 290,000 came from the British Isles and quickly became the dominant nationality in the region. In fact, by 1861, 60% of the population was from the UK.

South Africa: The Kimberly Gold Rush (1886)

The initial riches of South Africa were found in diamonds; however, in 1886, George Harrison discovered an enormous amount of gold-bearing conglomerate along the reefs of the Witwatersrand Basin. Unlike previous strikes, there were no nuggets to be found. Instead, there were miles of low-grade ore covered in thousands of feet of hard rock.

News of the strike spread quickly and men came flocking, but only those with capital could get in on the action. A number of men who had made a fortune off of Kimberly diamonds quickly grabbed control of the gold fields. Claims were soon staked along the fringe of Johannesburg, and new techniques were being developed for extracting gold from the ore.

Not many were able to capitalize on this gold rush; however, Cornish hard rock miners had just the skills that were needed to extract diamonds and gold from the mines.  Over 2500 Cornishmen migrated to South Africa and soon made up a large percentage of the white workforce in the South African mines.

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Throughout much of the early 19th century, emigration assistance for women was directed almost entirely toward women working in domestic service. Domestic working women were in high demand throughout the colonies, thus, emigration societies and organizations largely focused their efforts on “matrimonial colonization”, helping women who fit this domestic profile.

English: The Last of England by Ford Madox Bro...

The Last of England by Ford Madox Brown, 1855.(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There were, however, a substantial number of women in England who had a decent education and were suited for more than basic domestic labour. Unfortunately, these educated women were finding employment opportunities scarce at home. In the colonies, however, there was a dire need for such women.  By the middle of the 19th century, emigration societies began to realize that this neglected group of women was in need of help.

The need came to the foreground when a Miss Maria S. Rye published a paper entitled “The Colonies and their Requirements.” She drew attention to the serious plight of young, educated women who were consigned to English workhouses for want of more appropriate employment. She posed the poignant question, “Are women to perish simply because they are women?” Her viewpoints were soon republished by The English Woman’s Journal, and then printed in pamphlet form by Emily Faithful.

With the help and support of friends, Maria Rye began to act on her convictions. She sent her first group of educated women to Melbourne, Sydney and Natal, where they were met by local supporters and settled in posts of employment. These early emigrants were soon publishing letters of their own in The English Woman’s Journal, pointing to the great success of Maria Rye’s initial venture.

The small success so bolstered Miss Rye’s convictions that she began to appeal to the general public for funds to establish a larger permanent emigration scheme. An appeal was published in The Times, and soon Miss Rye had received over £500 in public support. With the funds raised, Maria Rye launched “The Female Middle Class Emigration Society” in May of 1862.

The Society opened its first and only office at  12 Portugal Street, sharing a building with the offices of The English Woman’s Journal. To approved applicants, the Society offered interest-free loans that could be repaid over a period of 28 months. Correspondents were set up in the various colonial ports where young women might choose to travel, so that wherever the women went, there would be someone there to greet them.

Maria Rye joined the first party which set out for New Zealand in late 1862. She dedicated the next couple of years to studying the conditions in greater depth, leaving her friend, Jane E. Lewin in charge of the Society. By the time Miss Rye returned to England in 1865, she had set her sights on the emigration of children; thus, Miss Lewin ended up running the Society for the duration of its existence.

While the FMCES never became a large or wealthy organization, it did assist quite a number of middle class women in their emigration efforts. In 1886, the FMCES was officially absorbed into the Colonial Emigration Society.

 

Orient Liner

Orient Liner (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Shortly after World War II, one of the largest planned mass migrations of the 20th century began. Britain was a fairly depressing place at the time, plagued by housing shortages and post-war rationing. Australia, on the other hand, had more land than they could handle, and a burgeoning economy to boot.

Australia was desperate for new immigrants to populate its shores; however its racist “White Australia Policy” kept blacks and Asians from applying. The British government was only too happy to help populate the Commonwealth, and thus, the assisted migration scheme came into being.

By the end of 1944, the British and Australian governments had begun negotiations for the planned assisted migration scheme. The government began to promote Australia as a land of glorious opportunity – a place where Britons could escape the difficulties of England and live a new, modern British lifestyle in sunny Australia.

The proposed scheme seemed nearly too good to be true to many in England. Hundreds of thousands of Britons were seduced by a fare of only £10 per adult and free passage for children. The government offered housing and great employment opportunities for all participants. In the first year alone, 400,000 Britons applied for the migration plan.

Starting in 1947, the migration began in earnest. Most migrants traveled aboard refitted troop ships, though a lucky few were able to make the voyage on luxury P&O liners that provided comfortable cabins, good food and even swimming pools.

The £10 plan didn’t come without a catch, however. As great as the deal seemed, the contract stated that migrants were required to stay in Australia for a minimum of two years or else they would be required to pay back the full fare. The risks were disregarded by most. Migrants were blinded by government propaganda films, and seduced by the idea of a stunning new life.

In reality, most had no idea what they were in for. Most Australian cities seemed little more than backwater towns to the incoming Brits. Many arrived without savings, thus, they were housed in former army barracks. The conditions seemed appalling to the immigrants, and many complained of being misled. Some didn’t even bother to get jobs, deciding instead to simply sit tight for the required two years until they could go home. The Australian media retaliated by labeling the British migrants “whinging Poms”.

Others truly did see Australia as a chance for a fresh start. Opportunity was everywhere – both for men and women – and those who tried were quickly able to find gainful employment. Some saved carefully and were able to buy their own land within the first year.

Over 1.5 million Britons took up the offer and relocated to Australia on the £10 fare. However, it’s estimated that about 250,000 of the “Ten Pound Poms” returned to England after the first few years. Oddly enough, half of the returnees eventually decided that returning had been a mistake and ended up going back to Australia after all. These became known as the “Boomerang Poms”.

English: Prime Minister of Australia Julia Gil...

Prime Minister of Australia Julia Gillard (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

A number of well-known personalities actually participated in this scheme. The Australian Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, is in fact one of the most famous Ten Pound Poms. She migrated with her family from Wales in 1966 in the hopes that the warmer climate would aid in the healing of her lung infection.

The Gibbs brothers – better known as the Bee Gees – moved from Manchester, England to Queensland, Australia in the late 1950s. They kicked off their music career in Australia in 1958.

Other famous Ten Pound Poms include actor Hugh Jackman, singer and actress Kylie Minogue, and English cricketers Frank Tyson and Harold Larwood.

 

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The £10 Ticket to another life

 

English: Arthur Phillip.

Arthur Phillip. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Australia had proved a valuable dumping ground for England’s overflow of convicts. In 1778, the First Fleet had launched under the command of Governor Phillip, transporting 1480 people to the Australian continent. Approximately 759 of these “First Fleeters” were convicts, including 586 males, 192 females, and 13 children. The remainder of the fleet was made up of seamen, marines, officials, and merchants.

Despite being provided with livestock and seed, the new colony struggled from the word go. Disease took its toll and food supplies dwindled. The convicts were poor farmers with little to no experience, so most crops failed and much of the livestock died off. Morale was low, the colonists were distraught, and many vented their anger on the local Aborigines.

The British Home Under-Secretary Even Nepean concluded that a colony could not be built on a population of mostly men. He decided that for the colony to succeed, it would need more than provisions – it would also need the stability of women, children and family living.

This was accomplished by rounding up a shipment of female convicts to be sent off to Australia. At first, the British government had a difficult time finding sufficient women, so they quickly resorted to imposing much harsher punishments on women convicted of crimes. While only the most hardened male offenders were sentenced to the Colonies, women could be sent for even fairly minor crimes, provided they were under 45 years of age and in good health.

English: The Lady Juliana in tow of the Pallas...

The Lady Juliana in tow of the Pallas Frigate. The Sailors Fishing the main Mast which was shatter’d by Lightning (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Thus, the Second Fleet set out for Sydney, the first ship being the Lady Juliana, carrying 225 female prostitutes, thieves and con artists. The Lady Juliana set sail from England in July 1789, and charted a leisurely course through the Canary Islands, on to Cape Verde, Rio de Janeiro and Cape Town before finally arriving at Sydney Cove. Though the Lady Juliana left England months before the rest of the fleet, its voyage lasted ten months, and the ship only arrived a few weeks before the rest of the fleet.

The Lady Juliana became something of a “floating brothel,” with both the crew and the ladies profiting from a bustling sex trade at each port of call. The women sold themselves for money or alcohol to the sailors from their own ship, as well as to men from other ships as they met at the various ports. This resulted in several women giving birth on the ship, and others soon after arriving in Australia. Some women chose instead to become “wives” of the crew members, as attaching themselves to one man would often provide them with better accommodations and rations.

When the women finally arrived, they didn’t receive quite the warm welcome they might have expected. Instead of a ship full of supplies, the colony received over 200 “damned whores” – and the colonists made their disappointment clear to the new arrivals. Fortunately, the supply ships arrived in Sydney Cove just three weeks later.

parramatta river

Cliffs on the Parramatta River, New South Wales, circa 1875 (photo credit: Museum of Victoria)

Unfortunately, the women were largely unable to escape enforced whoredom. For the first twenty years or so, all convict women were considered whores. While some certainly were depraved, others formed attachments with single men, and even marrying in some cases. The stereotype was strong though, as seen in sentiments voiced by magistrate Thomas McQueen who described the women as “the most disgusting objects that ever graced the female form.”

Nonetheless, these women became the founding mothers of Australia. Many rose above their humble beginnings and went on to achieve great things.  Ann Marsh, for example, founded the Parramatta River Boat Service which is still in use today. Mary Wade became Australia’s greatest matriarch, leaving a legacy of more than 300 descendants. Though the women of the Second Fleet were initially the dregs of Australian society, many now look on them with pride as the ones who helped lay the foundation for today’s prosperity.

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Toward the end of the 19th century, Britain was facing significant social and economic trouble. Deprivation, homelessness and neglect were endemic throughout Britain’s overcrowded cities, and child migration emerged as a solution.

1950 Child Migrants

1950 Child Migrants (Photo credit: theirhistory)

Britain was in the midst of empire building and the colonies not only provided enormous wealth and resources – they also provided alternative homelands for the unwanted peoples of Britain. Many Britons emigrated throughout this period of history; yet few know of the many thousands of children who were rounded up and sent abroad. Child migrants became the brick and mortar force on which the Empire could continue to expand.

Children as young as three were routinely shipped abroad – primarily to Australia and Canada – through government-sanctioned child migration schemes. Charities were even established to support the emigration efforts, as children were gathered from across the UK. They were brought to major British ports such as London, Glasgow, Liverpool, and Southampton where they were given a trunk of clothing and shipped off to their new homes. The vast majority never returned to their homeland.

Approximately 100,000 children were sent to Canada, over 7,000 to Australia, and several hundred were shipped to New Zealand and Southern Rhodesia. Prior to 1900, the majority of the children were collected from workhouses, city streets and declining rural areas where they were often found destitute and homeless. After the turn of the century the children were sent from orphanages and children’s homes. In some cases, parents were unable to provide for their children and chose to send them abroad with the migration schemes.

Australian Child Migrants leaving Alverstoke 1950

Australian Child Migrants leaving Alverstoke 1950 (Photo credit: theirhistory)

Many of the children hardly knew what to expect. They faced the future with fear, but also with excitement as in many cases they were simply leaving behind a life of neglect, hunger and hardship. They were promised new sights, new places and the excitement of exploration. They were treated to tea parties and visited by popular entertainers, powerful benefactors, and even by royalty. Each departure was highly publicized to promote the work of the various charities.

The children were actually treated very well in Britain and all throughout the voyages. They enjoyed the luxury of passenger liners, sleeping in comfortable cabins, eating hearty meals, and even enjoying games, swimming and schooling on board the ships.

Unfortunately, upon arrival in their new homes the children were faced with lands completely foreign and often harsh. In Canada, the children were distributed to rural homes where they lived and worked with farming families. Some fared better than others; however the majority faced hard physical labour in a harsh climate, compounded by the loneliness of being with a family but not being considered part of the family.

In Australia the children fared no better. Their smart wardrobes were stripped from them and exchanged for khaki work clothes and bare feet. The children were placed in religious institutions or farming schools where they were subjected to harsh discipline and backbreaking labour. The children were expected to continue in agriculture, and thus received little to no education.

At the height of the child migration scheme, as many as 300 children would travel aboard a single ship, chaperoned by staff from their designated charity. The numbers dropped lower and lower as the 20th century progressed; however, the schemes weren’t officially ended until 1967.

When the Child Welfare Act was passed in 1948, the child migration schemes came under scrutiny. Investigations were carried out and several of the participating institutions received strong condemnation. The schemes continued, however, for another decade. The last group of child migrants was sent to Australia by air in 1967, and the institutions began to close in the 1970s.

Throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, the British correctional system became severely overburdened. The population of England rose dramatically, and London soon became overcrowded. Poverty and social injustice were rife, child labour and long working hours were widespread, and living conditions were squalid and filthy. Many were unemployed, and crime was rampant.

English: Black-eyed Sue and Sweet Poll of Plym...

Black-eyed Sue and Sweet Poll of Plymouth taking leave of their lovers who are going to Botany Bay (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Britain’s police and penitentiary system were practically non-existent. In fact, many government officials saw the concept of a circular prison as a very American concept, so for years, the “Bloody Code” dictated the death penalty for hundreds of crimes – many as insignificant as petty theft or minor property damage.

Fortunately, the Bloody Code was put to rest when lawmakers and judges felt that the death penalty was too harsh for many crimes. The few existing gaols of the day were so overcrowded, however, that the government converted old war ships into floating prisons moored in coastal waters. The prison hulks were horrible floating dungeons, infested with vermin and disease, poorly lit and with little ventilation.

Even by the standards of that day, the prison system soon was considered unacceptable treatment of convicts. With nowhere else to turn, the British government conceived the idea of transportation as a humane alternative to the death penalty and a practical solution to overcrowded prisons.

Initially, convicts were transported to America; however, with the onset of the American Revolution, Britain had to look elsewhere. They found a viable solution in Australia, and the first convict fleet set sail in 1787

On January 18, 1788, the fleet of ships arrived at Botany Bay, a spot that had been selected as appropriate for a penal colony. Upon arrival, however, the fleet found that the harbour was unsafe and lacked a fresh water supply, so they quickly moved on. Several days later, Captain Arthur Philip, the fleet commander, raised the British flag at Sydney Cove. A group of 751 convicts and 252 marines, along with their families, disembarked and there established the colony of New South Wales. This colony eventually became the modern city of Sydney.

Two more fleets followed quickly in 1790 and 1791. Captain Phillip, who became Governor of the colony, put convicts to work according to their particular skills and regardless of their previous crimes. Men laboured as carpenters and brick makers, farmers, shepherds, and cattlemen. Educated convicts were put to work in record-keeping.

Women, on the other hand, were considered best fit to being wives and mothers. When a female convict got married, she was freed from her servitude and released to care for her husband and subsequent children.

If convicts were well-behaved and productive, they could earn a ticket of leave, giving them greater freedom. Once a convict completed his sentence (usually seven years), he was issued a Certificate of Freedom, with which he could either return to England or settle in Australia.

New penal colonies were eventually established in Port Arthur, Tasmania and Norfolk Island. These communities were considered to be places of secondary punishment where convicts suffered harsher labor and solitary confinement.

In 1803, 300 convicts arrived in Sullivan Bay near modern-day Sorrento, Victoria. While this settlement was quickly abandoned due to poor environmental conditions, others were established and between 1844 and 1849, around 1,750 convicts arrived in the region from England.

In 1850, new convicts were beginning to arrive in Western Australia. Between 1850 and 1868, 9,668 convicts were transported to the new colony on 43 convict ships. The initial convicts were sent from the New South Wales colony in 1826 with the mission of establishing a settlement there.

By the 1830’s, opposition was growing toward the transportation of convicts to the colonies. Members of the Independent Congregation Church in England were especially outspoken and influential in ending the transportation of convicts.

By 1840, convict transportation to the New South Wales colony had ceased, and Brisbane had stopped receiving convicts the previous year. For some years Van Diemen’s Land continued to receive prisoners; however, the practice was under steady attack by the anti-transportation movement.

The last convict ship to arrive in Australia arrived on January 10, 1868. Approximately 164,000 convicts on 806 ships were relocated to Australia throughout the 80 years of convict transportation.

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