Sydney in 1836

In 1836 Sydney was a busy administrative and mercantile city, the hub of the colony of New South Wales. The colony had been established in 1788, and in 1836 it covered, on paper, about half the continent, including  what are today Queensland, Victoria and the Northern Territory. In practice it included the ‘settled’ coastal and inland area in an arc of about 250 kilometres from Sydney, from about Port Macquarie in the north to Queanbeyan in the south and inland as far as the Wellington Valley. New South Wales also included the fledgling settlements of Melbourne and Geelong  and the convict settlements of Moreton Bay and Norfolk Island.

The pastoral industry had overtaken whaling as the most lucrative industry in the Australian colonies, and the economy of New South Wales was centred on the production of wool for the British market – and underpinned by convict labour. Demand for wool was also driving the expansion of colonization, including into ‘Australia Felix’ (western Victoria).

In 1836 New South Wales had a non-Indigenous population of about  77,000 people. Van Diemen’s Land, established as a penal colony in 1803 and separated from New South Wales in 1824, had by the late 1830s a non-Indigenous population of about 40,000 people. The Swan River Colony, established in 1829, had almost 2,000 non-Indigenous inhabitants in 1836.

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