Assisted immigration was a scheme where the Australian colony of Victoria sent agents to the United Kingdom, drumming up interest in the wide open spaces, sunshine, and opportunities offered in this new land. The colony paid for the passage of families and individuals, aiming to boost Victoria’s population relative to New South Wales, and eventually, economic growth.
By 1851 assisted immigrants were arriving from British ports mainly on side-paddle steamers, the journey averaging some five months. Each immigrant cost the colony £14 17s 4d.
Some statistics for the year 1852, when gold had been recently discovered, tell an interesting story.
15 477 assisted immigrants arrived on forty-two ships, landed at Melbourne, Portland and Geelong. The ships averaged 827 tons.
849 people died on the voyage.
270 living children were born on the voyage.
5319 were from England. 7127 were from Scotland. 3001 were from Ireland.
Just 11.3% of these immigrants were able to read and write. By far the lowest literacy rates were amongst the Roman Catholic Irish.
The majority of men listed their occupation as “agricultural labourer.”
Most would take up land and help forge the strong farming communities of Victoria; generally hard workers fully committed to their families and their new country.
In the same year, 1852, the astonishing number of 79 187 unassisted immigrants arrived in Victoria, the majority of them men heading for the goldfields. Only 9072 of these were female. A large but unknown proportion would leave within a few years.
(Researched and Written by GJ Barron Image: Postcard of sidepaddle steamer RMS Caledonia, public domain. Sources: gregbarron.com/resources/sources)