Australia in the 1840s

Caroline Chisholm

Caroline Chisholm (1808–1877), known as 'the immigrant's friend', worked to achieve a more humane colonial migration policy, and founded a home for unemployed and homeless women in Sydney. The women she helped had come looking for a better life but on arrival discovered that there were no jobs or places to live. Chisholm established the Immigrants' Home, where about 96 women lived until they found employment, and she assisted many more to find positions. In 1842, Chisholm organised to take single women and family groups into the country where there was more likelihood of obtaining work.

In 1846, Chisholm and her husband left for England to promote her family migration reforms whereby she argued for free passage for emancipists' wives and children. In 1849, she established a Family Colonisation Loan Society that sponsored migrating families and had branches throughout the British Isles. When the families were established in the colonies, they repaid the loan over time in small amounts. Until her death, Caroline Chisholm worked to improve the conditions of migrants both before they emigrated and on their arrival in the colonies. She published many reports and pamphlets in support of her ideas and reforms.

Caroline Chisholm_1840

A snapshot of 1848

  • March
    • The Melbourne Hospital, the first public hospital, opened. It was renamed a century later as The Royal Melbourne Hospital.

  • April
    • An expedition headed by Ludwig Leichhardt (1813–48) set out from the Darling Downs to cross the continent of Australia travelling through its centre, but he and his expedition died en route, never to be found.
    • The first detachment of Native Police was transferred from New South Wales to Queensland under the command of Lieutenant Frederick Walker.

  • June
    • 120 Chinese migrants arrived from Amoy under an indenture system to work as shepherds in New South Wales.

  • August
    • The Cape Otway Lighthouse in Victoria was lit for the first time.
    • The Native Police Force in Queensland (sometimes called the Native Mounted Police) was formed.

  • December
    • John Roe (1797–1878) and Augustus Charles Gregory (1819–1905) explored the north-eastern areas of Western Australia.
    • German and Hungarian refugees arrived in the colony having fled political upheaval in Europe. They were known as the 'forty-eighters' as they supported the 1848 revolutions.


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