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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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Farmers Take The Initiative: 1851-1888

Setting the scene for change

Although the earliest settlers had little or no farming expertise and many of the later immigrants were characterised more by their optimism than by their technical training, farming experience or possession of capital, there nevertheless arrived in the new Australian colonies an increasing flow of educated young men from farming backgrounds in the United Kingdom. These individuals, often younger sons or experienced employees from the larger farms or estates who had few prospects of inheriting land, came in large enough numbers to provide a much needed injection of sound farming leadership. Having seen the effects on British agriculture of the innovations introduced by the great improvers of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, and having experienced at first hand, or through their families, the early testing and advocacy of new farming practices by organizations like the Royal Agricultural Society of England and the Royal Highland and Agricultural Society in Scotland, these migrants came prepared to adapt, to innovate and to share their knowledge.

Their first inclination, of course, was to rely on the technologies and farming systems that they brought with them. They quickly learned, however, that the soils, climates and vegetation of their new environment demanded new methods of husbandry and, although many found the task insuperable and were defeated by those forces of nature (flood, fire and drought) which still make Australian farming hazardous, others, during the hundred years that ended with the First World War, were responsible for the series of developments that made farming in Australia viable and, on the whole, profitable.

By the early 1820s farmers in the first colonies of New South Wales and Van Diemen's Land (Tasmania) had formed Agricultural Societies for the purpose of developing and extending the use of improved methods of husbandry. Such societies were to proliferate as settlement extended into the other colonies. For example, following the first permanent settlement on the southern coast of Australia, by Edward Henty in 1834, and Major Mitchell's exploration of the western and central districts of Victoria in 1836, squatters rapidly occupied the region and, by 1859, they had formed the Western District Pastoral and Agricultural Society. This Society was to amalgamate in 1873 with the neighbouring Ballarat Pastoral and Agricultural Society.

The lives of those pioneers who ventured into the new lands were extremely hard and 'apart from the often paralysing loneliness, the main discomforts of life were the bushrangers, destruction of stock by Aborigines, the delinquencies of assigned servants'[16] and, later, of employees. Their problems were exacerbated by the changing policies and conditions governing land occupation. It was not until the 1846 Waste Lands Occupation Act was passed that the government was able to improve its control over the squatters by issuing various types of leases while, at the same time, enabling the squatters to improve their control over the land. From the 1860s onwards opportunities arose in the various colonies to purchase the freehold of large areas of land under the various land settlement acts, even although the intention of these Acts was that land should only be purchased in small areas.[17]

If, in fact, 'necessity is the mother of invention' Australian farming in the middle of the nineteenth century represented a combination of environmental, technological, economic and social circumstances which were ideal for experimentation, innovation and discovery. Critical to the successful development of successive inventions and their widespread adoption was the circumstance that many of the settlers were literate and a sufficient number of them were well educated. Some, moreover, were well supplied with a variety of technical publications (books, journals and newspapers) from overseas and increasingly from Australia. Collectively they were politically influential and generally well supported by government policies and programs, and they nicely combined the independent individualism of the pioneer with the interdependence of a 'mateship' culture.

Organisations in Australian Science at Work - Ballarat Pastoral and Agricultural Society; Western District Pastoral and Agricultural Society

People in Bright Sparcs - Henty, Edward

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© 1988 Print Edition pages 7 - 8, Online Edition 2000
Published by Australian Science and Technology Heritage Centre, using the Web Academic Resource Publisher