Australia in the 1810s


Food supply


Indigenous people had access to rich sources of food and to technology to capture game and birds efficiently. Where the colonists had arrived, there is evidence of Indigenous and non-Indigenous people sharing food resources: Europeans ate game meat, wild birds, eggs, fruit, nuts and seafood. Indigenous people ate sheep and cattle and used flour occasionally.

The Government Agricultural farm at Emu Plains was established by Governor Lachlan Macquarie in response to a food shortage that the colony was experiencing. The influx of male convicts was a result of the end of the Napoleonic wars in 1815 where many demobilised men were unemployed and turned to crime. Once caught and sentenced, these men were transported to the colony of New South Wales. Between 1814 and 1820, the number of convicts sent to the colony more than doubled. More grain and livestock were needed to feed the colony and work had to be found for the surplus convicts.

In September 1819, the Emu Plains Government Agricultural Farm was established with 270 convicts and 11 overseers. Wheat, maize and tobacco were cultivated as these crops could be planted throughout the year. Robert Fitzgerald (1772–1840), an ex-convict, proved himself as an excellent administrator of public farms, and was appointed the first superintendent. The farm quickly became productive and economically viable. It played an important role in the Nepean district as an economic source for the sale and movement of stock and goods. It was also essential in the control of convicts and their work assignment to free settlers in the area.


A snapshot of 1818

  • January
    • Celebrations were held on the 30th anniversary of the establishment of the colony.

  • March
    • Samuel Marsden resigned from the magistracy, and in the Gazette of 28 March 1818 it was announced that his services had been dispensed with.

  • May
    • A regular mail service started operating between Hobart Town and Launceston.

  • June
    • The Benevolent Society of New South Wales was formed under Government Macquarie's patronage.

  • November
    • A lantern was lit for the first time at the Macquarie Tower lighthouse at South Head.
    • John Oxley names Castlereagh, the Liverpool Plains and the Peel River, and crossed the Great Dividing Range to reach Port Macquarie.
    • The legendary Aboriginal tracker Bundle and another Aboriginal man, Broughton, accompanied Charles Throsby on an expedition south.

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