Australia in the 1890s

The 'Federation drought'

During the late 1880s and early 1890s, the outback areas of New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria and South Australia were heavily overstocked. Large numbers of settlers had arrived in the previous 30 years. Their methods of farming led to a loss of vegetative cover and erosion, and many native edible plant species vanished with devastating consequences. Between 1895 and 1903 there was a major drought that affected most of the country, and became known as the 'Federation drought'.

Sketches of drought-affected areas in New South Wales are depicted in 'On the road from Hay to Booligal', 1889

A snapshot of 1898

  • April
    • The Eighth Intercolonial Trades Union Congress is held in Adelaide.

  • June
    • A referendum is held in New South Wales, South Australia, Tasmania and Victoria to approve the draft Constitution of Australia.
    • The constitution is accepted by the required majority in South Australia, Tasmania and Victoria, but not in New South Wales.

  • October
    • The Perth Zoo opens with two lions and a tiger in its collection.
    • The Queen Victoria Building in Sydney is completed.
    • Hobart is lit by electricity.


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