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Technology in Australia 1788-1988Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering
Table of Contents

Chapter 1

I Groping In A Strange Environment: 1788-1851

II Farmers Take The Initiative: 1851-1888
i Setting the scene for change
ii A transplanted community; a transplanted technology
iii The development of appropriate technology
iv Importation, adaptation and innovation in cropping
v Introduction and innovation in livestock husbandry

III Enter Education And Science: 1888-1927

IV Agricultural Science Pays Dividends: 1927-1987

V Examples Of Research And Development 1928-1988

VI International Aspects Of Agricultural Research

VII Future Prospects

VIII Acknowledgements



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A transplanted community; a transplanted technology

By their presence these people had created a new market and many now hoped to make their living by producing goods for this market. Because most of them had come to the Australian colonies with no knowledge of farming, they tended to view their new enterprises more in sociological than in economic terms. A strong sentiment developed in favour of the small cropping farm on which a man could be independent and raise the staff of life: wheat. Sheep and cattle grazing were seen as transitory occupations through which land was used until it was required for the more serious purpose of wheat production. It was a theme taken up strongly by urban politicians and it was to influence land legislation thereafter. The small yeoman farms of England would be recreated in the colonies, except that the livestock, the pastures, the fodder crops and the careful attention to the maintenance of soil fertility would be forgotten in the transplantation.

Some legislators went further and, observing the nature of the local climate, concluded that the industrious peasant farmers of southern Europe might provide a better model. With this in mind legislation was passed which provided for land to be made available for the growth of vines, olives, mulberries for silkworms, Mediterranean fruits and similar types of crops. The growth of these crops, it was hoped, would lead to the development of new industries and also prove to be 'highly beneficial in training the young of both sexes in the habits of frugality and care, which so essentially mark the rural population of those countries where such industries exist'.[19]

The contrasts between the experienced and inexperienced in agriculture were reflected in the activities of the committee which controlled the Experimental Farm established in Melbourne in 1857 with the help of a government grant. Initially this committee was composed mainly of practical farmers but they were gradually replaced

by others entertaining totally different views concerning it; -the experiments on cropping, draining, and sub-soiling, were condemned in unmeasured terms, and peremptorily suspended, while instructions were at the same time issued, that the growth of mulberries, olives, tea, and coffee plants, was to form the principal feature in future operations . . .[20]

A further influence of this general nature was the world-wide interest in acclimatisation. This was reflected in the Australian colonies during the 1850s and 1860s by the establishment of local acclimatisation societies, and by the Governments of Western Australia, New South Wales and Victoria all providing funds for the introduction and establishment of either alpacas alone or alpacas, llamas and vicugnas in their respective colonies. None of these attempts achieved lasting success despite the expenditure of £21,303 by the New South Wales Government on such imports. The economics of alpaca, llama and vicugna production had been overlooked.[21]

Throughout the 1850s and 1860s and continuing into the 1870s, romantic concepts of rural life strongly influenced opinion in the influential urban centres. This, and a preoccupation with exotic crops and animals, did much to hold back progress in agricultural development. During this period, the real problems of grain, wool and meat production were largely ignored by all except those most directly confronted by them. Yet these products, together with gold, formed the basis of the economy and would continue to do so. Despite the rapid growth of its cities, Australia was still very much a pioneering country dependent upon its agricultural production and there was no place for farming which could not be operated profitably with a ready market for its produce. There was no genuine evidence that subsistence farming was really acceptable to the community as a whole, even if it did, at times, become a reality for some.

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© 1988 Print Edition pages 8 - 9, Online Edition 2000
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