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Settler’s guides and emigrant publications
A popular form of literature for new settlers to Australia was the emigrant guide. These cheap publications began to appear in great numbers in around the 1830s - about the time when pastoral land was opened up for selection, rather than being allocated in grants. This led to an upsurge in immigration, primarily from the UK.
The emigrant guides were aimed both at those people thinking about emigrating to Australia from Britain, as well as those who were newly arrived in the colonies. They covered topics such as the climate, history and politics of Australia, travel narratives and personal experiences of life in the colony. They also included advice on agriculture, pastoralism and land and stock prices. Until about the 1870s, most of the guides advocated pastoralism as the best way to make a living on the land in New South Wales. Sheep and cattle were viewed as safe bets, and it was considered unnecessary to plant more crops than were necessary for personal use. Other colonies such as South Australia and New Zealand were considered primarily agricultural, and those emigrants who wished to pursue crop-growing were advised to consider alternatives to New South Wales.
The greatest opportunities for emigrants to New South Wales exist in the expansion of the great primary industries of the country, pastoral, agricultural and dairying. - Agricultural map of New South Wales, NSW Immigration & Tourist Bureau, 1909
An early publication to go against this trend and promote the importance of the work of the farmer over the pastoralist is the first (and only) issue of the Australian settlers guide, or monthly journal, from 1835.
By the early 20th century, the NSW Immigration and Tourist Bureau took on the role of providing information to intending settlers in New South Wales. In the 1920s, the Country Promotion League was founded in association with the Commonwealth Immigration Office, in a campaign to promote the resources of rural New South Wales and attract British migrants to settle and farm the land.
Publications in the second half of the 19th and early 20th centuries were often full of advertising material, including where to buy farming equipment, stock and station agents, clothing outfitters and feed and manure suppliers. Businesses were keen to advertise in publications aimed at farmers as competition in the market could be fierce. Many larger operators, such as Anthony Hordern & Sons, also offered a thriving mail order service.
How to go on the land
By the early 20th century, providing information to intending settlers in New South Wales had become part of the role of the NSW Immigration and Tourist Bureau. A 1909 Bureau publication, How to go on the land in New South Wales, acknowledged the change which occurred in land use practices in the 1890s from pastoralism to agriculture. It stated:
‘Until 1898, New South Wales…did not grow enough wheat to provide for the wants of her own population…between 1896 and 1906 the area under cultivation more than doubled… Every effort is now being made by the State Government to encourage the development of its agricultural territories.’
The Country Promotion League was formed in 1920, in association with the Commonwealth Immigration Bureau, to promote our primary industries and resources, and to increase the declining population of country districts. In a series of publications during the 1920s, they advertised the opportunites of rural Australia to an overseas audience.
'Where golden grain is golden gain ... There is a welcome for you.'
This story has been developed with the support of the State Library of NSW Foundation.
We would like to acknowledge the generosity of the Vincent Fairfax Family Foundation.