Remembering the Past Australia

Information for Persons about to Emigrate to Australia 1862

First published in the Illustrated Australian Mail February 22, 1862, giving a detailed guide to people who wish to emigrate to Australia. The information provided is from Melbourne, however, would pertain to most of the colony during this period and includes costs for food, clothing, and rates of wages.


(At the request of many subscribers who are in the habit of forwarding the Illustrated Mail to friends and relations in the mother country, we have prepared the following paper, which we have endeavoured to make as concise in statement and as simple in phraseology as possible.- Ed. I. A.M.)

Having made up your mind to emigrate, lose no time in carrying your purpose into effect. Convert your furniture, and other property into money, and do not cumber yourself with more luggage than is absolutely needful. You cannot tell how far you may have to travel into the interior when you reach the colony, nor what may be the nature of the employment you may follow. Therefore avoid buying tools to bring with you, and remember that you can purchase everything you want after arriving in Australia, at a moderate advance on English prices. Obtain a copy of the register of your birth, and (if married) a marriage certificate, before leaving England, together with a testimonial as to character from your last employer, and a similar document from the parish Clergyman, Priest, or other Minister of Religion.


The months between May and August are the best, for setting sail in, and the chief ports of departure are London, Liverpool, Glasgow, Cork and Bristol. In making your choice, you will most likely be guided by your present place of residence and its distance from the seaport. Fifteen pounds will be the cost of a steerage passage to Melbourne. Select a clean vessel, commanded by a good captain, and guard against taking a berth in a ship which professes to carry passengers very cheaply. You had better pay a little more to travel in a vessel belonging to a firm of high standing, as you will be more secure of the ship sailing punctually on the day named, and of being well treated on the voyage. Do not allow yourself to be persuaded into bringing articles which you do not actually want.


You will require light clothing during the greater part of the voyage, and you will not have occasion for warm garments except for two or three weeks after the vessel has rounded the Cape of Good Hope. The temptations to indolence, gambling and dissipation, presented by a tedious sea voyage are numerous, and should be resisted; a methodical division of your time will enable you to apply so many hours to reading useful books, and so many to the preparation of your meals, the cleaning out of your berth, &c.; while you may find opportunities, perhaps, for practising any mechanical employment of which you may happen to be master. Refrain from the use of bad language and intoxicating liquors. Do not form intimacies with those fellow passengers with whom you were not previously acquainted, unless you have some satisfactory assurance that they are persons of reputable character, and avoid communicating your plans and expectations to strangers. Exhibit a prudent reserve as regards your means and intentions, and do not pry into those of others. Rise early. Keep yourself clean and tidy, and take plenty of exercise, and by these means you will maintain your health during the voyage, and will be less liable to experience any ill effects from the change of climate when you land. Where there are so many passengers with so much time hanging on their hands, there will be a disposition to magnify small grievances, and to express great dissatisfaction at the trifling hardships and inconveniences inseparable from life on shipboard, but you will find it conduce to your comfort and cheerfulness to obey the old maxim which enjoins us to ‘bear and forbear,’ as by the spirit of mutual accommodation most of the hardships and difficulties can be smoothed over.


Most of the vessels trading between England and Melbourne, land passengers and cargo at one of the two piers at Sandridge, which is rather less than two miles from Melbourne. You will find it economical to join with two or three of your shipmates in hiring a dray for the conveyance of your luggage to town. A table of the rates legally chargeable by the draymen will be found on the pier at which you land. If you arrive in Australia during the summer months, which are November, December, January, and February, you must be careful not to eat too much fruit, and vegetables on first landing, and accustom yourself by degrees to the change of diet, as by neglecting these precautions you will ran the risk of suffering from dysentery or some similar form of the same disease.

The novelty of the place, the strangeness of the faces you meet, the absence of many little comforts which you have been accustomed to at home, and the disappointment you may experience in not immediately obtaining the employment you want, may at first occasion feelings of loneliness, vexation, and regret, but you must bear in mind that all newcomers have undergone the same trials, that they are only temporary, and that by the exercise of patience, hopefulness, and perseverance, you will soon get rid of your homesickness, and adapt yourself cheerfully to your new mode of life.

If you are a single man, you will be able to obtain board and lodging, in Melbourne and suburbs, at rates, varying from 15s. to 25s. per week; but if you are badly off you can obtain admission to the Immigrants Home, where you will be lodged and fed gratuitously, and get work for a short time at a reasonable rate.


Registry or Labour offices for servants are to be found in the principal thoroughfares of Melbourne — Collins and Bourke-streets— where you can apply for information as to employers in want of men. The persons who keep these offices find masters for servants and servants for masters. If you get employment through the agencies of one of them, you will have to pay him for his trouble 2s. 6d. or 5s.


If you bring a larger sum of money with you than you may require, it will be prudent to deposit it in the Government Savings Bank, near the Custom House, Melbourne, or in Geelong, Belfast, or Portland, if you land at either of these ports, or in the nearest country town. In these Banks, interest at the rate of four per cent will be allowed on the amount deposited.


Supposing you are a small capitalist, and having been accustomed to farming, wish to farm here, apply at the Crown Lands Office, Latrobe-street west, you will be told here what land is open to selection, and where it is situtated. By the Act of Parliament called “The Waste Land Sales Act,” you can select any quantity not exceeding three hundred and twenty acres, in certain districts proclaimed for that purpose, at the upset price of one pound per acre, with the option of renting as much land as you buy at one shilling per acre, on a seven years’ lease, during the currency of which you will be at liberty to purchase the land you rent at the upset price. But if another person should select the allotment you have chosen, it will be put up to limited auction, that is to say, the competition for it will be restricted to yourself and the selector or selectors. In all cases, however, where the immigrant brings a small capital with him, the most prudent course he can take is to lodge it in the Savings Bank for six or twelve months, and in the meantime engage himself to some employer of labour in his own line of business. By so doing, the immigrant will gain that sort, of experience which will be invaluable to him; and without which he ought not to risk his money in any description of enterprise in a new country. Pocket your pride, put your shoulder to the wheel, prepare to “rough it” for a time, and you will find yourself a wiser and a richer man at the year’s end, than if you had rushed headlong into farming or trading on your own account.


The seasons in Victoria come at different times of the year from those in England, thus, as already mentioned, the winter mouths of England are summer months in Victoria. But the climate is very different. It is hotter in summer, so that grapes, olives, oranges, lemon, and fruits which will not grow out of doors in England but are brought from France, Spain, Portugal, and Italy, ripen freely in the open air. It is not so cold in winter, as frost is seldom so hard as to produce ice, and snow is rarely seen, and then only on the mountains. In this respect, an immigrant is much better off in Victoria than in many of the British colonies. The extremes of heat and cold bear no comparison to those in Canada or the (Dis) United States of America, and consequently the number of days on which he can labour is greater, and his expenses in clothing, bedding, and fuel are less than in those countries. A man may work out of doors in his shirt sleeves for 300 days out of the 365. Owing to the dryness of the atmosphere the summer heat is not oppressive, and the hot winds which are trying to the newly arrived immigrant do not average more than nine in the year; fortunately, they never last more than three days in succession, after which cool weather follows, and lasts for some time. The winters are extremely mild; the mean temperature of the month of July, the coldest month in the year, being 47 4. Roses and violets blow in the open air throughout the winter. The climate is an extremely healthy one and the rate of mortality very low, considering the careless habits of a portion of the population, the intemperance which formerly prevailed, and the obstinate refusal of persons to conform their mode of life to the circumstances of the country they inhabit.


With regard to the price of food, clothing, house-rent, &c., in Melbourne, the following particulars will enable you to form a correct notion of the cost of living: — Bread is 7d the four-pound loaf; meat, from 2d to 5d per lb.; fresh butter, 1s per lb.; and potatoes, 5s per cwt. All kinds of groceries are cheaper than in England. Tea, coffee, sugar, clothes, moleskin trousers, are about the same price as in England; house-rent and fuel are dearer; coal is £2 10s per ton; firewood, 12s a load of about 40 cubic feet, but the consumption is small, as a fire is not required except for cooking during more than four months out of the twelve, and even then, the cold out of doors is never inclement.

The rates of wages current at this time are as follows; it may be added, that they are lower now than at any period for the last ten years: —

Married couples, with families, £55 to £60 per annum; without children, £60 to £65 do.; gardeners, £50 to £60 do.; grooms, 15s to 20s per week; shepherds, £30 per year; hutkeepers, £20 to £25 do.; general farm servants, 20s per week; ploughmen, 20s do.; mowers, 4s per acre; reapers, 16s to 18s do.; haymakers, 20s to 25s per week; bullock drivers on road, 90s do.; do. on farms and stations, 15s to 17s 6d do.; men cooks, for farm and stations, 20s to 25s do.; cooks for hotels, from £1 10s to £2 do.; waiters, 20s to 30s do.; female cooks, from £35 to £50 per year; general servants, £25 to £30 do.; nurse-maids, £16 to £25 do.; laundresses, £30 to £35 do.; housemaids, £25 to £30 do.; parlourmaids, £25 to £30 do.; carpenters, 8s to 10s a-day; masons, bricklayers, blacksmiths, 8s to 10s do.; pick and shovel men, 5s to 6s do.; carters and store laborers, 36s to 45s a-week; quarrymen, 8s to 9s per day; fencers, 2s 3d to 2s 6d a rod; splitting posts and rails, 20s to 30s per 100.

It must be observed that these rates are paid in addition to abundant rations, found by the employer. Carpenters, bricklayers, blacksmiths, pick and shovel men, carters, and store laborers, quarry men, fencers, and persons employed in splitting posts and rails find rations for themselves: so that you will be able to compare the wages earned in Victoria with those obtained in Great Britain, and judge for yourselves as to which country holds out the greater inducements to the honest and industrious working man. The hours of labour to artisans are eight hours daily, for farm labourers and others the same as in England.

The chief towns in the country, their population, and their respective distances from Melbourne, are as follows : —

 Miles from
Pleasant Creek
Fryer’s Creek

Besides these, which are all situated in mining districts, there is the seaport town of Geelong, with a population of 23,000, the agricultural townships of Kyneton, Kilmore, Sale, Hamilton, and Gisborne, the seaports of Portland, Belfast, Port Albert, and Warrnambool, and upwards of 250 small towns, villages, and hamlets, at which post-offices have been established. Railway communication will be completed in the course of the present year between Melbourne and Ballaarat (sic), Melbourne, and Castlemaine and Sandhurst.

Should you not succeed in obtaining employment at a labour office in Melbourne, lose no time in going into the country, where the chances are more in your favour. Too many immigrants loiter in the towns, either from ignorance or from want of spirit and courage to face what they imagine to be the dangers of the Bush. But there is really no such danger; the forests are not thick and close with underwood as in many parts of the world where travelling through them is almost impossible. The few natives that inhabit Victoria are peaceable and inoffensive if treated with common humanity. Owing to the tendency of newly-arrived immigrants to linger about the seaports, it often happens that while the employers of labour in the country district are short handed, there is a surplus of labourers in Melbourne. Do not be too particular at first as to the nature of the employment you select, or the amount of wages you receive. If you are sober, active, industrious, and willing, those qualities will soon meet with an adequate reward, or if they fail to do so, you will have an opportunity of looking round you, and bettering your position in a very short time. Abstain altogether from ardent spirits, the effects of which are peculiarly prejudicial in a warm climate; and with temperance, diligence, prudence, and good health, you may confidently look forward to obtaining a competence after a few years’ patient industry.


That you and your children will not be without the means of moral and religious instruction, may be inferred from the fact that the sum of £50,000 is annually appropriated by the Legislature to the purposes of public worship, all denominations being entitled to participate in the Grant. The number of churches, chapels, school-houses, and private dwellings used for public worship in Victoria is 8,741; and these are estimated to contain 150,000.

The State annually expends upwards of £100,000 in supporting schools; to this sum is added over £60,000 raised by voluntary contributions. There are 160 national, and 505 denominational schools thus supported, and the total number of boys and girls attending them is 46,687. There are also 221 private schools, at which 5000 boys and girls are receiving their education.

The Colony contains sixteen free libraries, and most towns of importance possess a Mechanics’ Institute. Eighteen Hospitals, nine Benevolent, and four Orphan Asylums, have been established, and are maintained at a total cost of £120,000; of which amount the Government pays two-thirds.

There are 94 flour mills, and 475 manufactories in the colony, employing 271 steam engines and upwards of 5,000 hands; besides which, there are 711 steam engines, and 4,000 horse puddling machines employed in the various processes connected with gold mining.

It may serve to indicate the prosperity of a community, numbering little less than half a million of souls, to state that on the 30th of June, 1861, there were 12,000 depositors in the Government Savings Banks, whose deposits amounted to £582,795 14s. 3d., being an increase of £98,294 14s. ,4d. on the previous year.  The average balance of each depositor on the first-named date was £48 11s. 3d.

The deposits in the various Banks on 30th September, 1861, amounted to £7,118,840.

In offering the foregoing advice, and in presenting you with the facts and figures detailed above, no attempt has been made to influence your judgment in deciding upon the propriety of emigrating or otherwise. All that is aimed at is to give you such information as, it is conceived, may be of service to you, in the event of your determining to take that step. This information is either founded upon experience, or derived from authentic and trust-worthy sources, and it is furnished with a sincere desire, to diminish the difficulties and remove, as far as possible, the doubts and uncertainties with which you may be perplexed, when you are about to venture on a new career in a strange country.

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