Labour History: A Journal of Labour and Social History

Figures in the Landscape: The Experience of the Least Visible Workers on a New England Pastoral Station, 1850-1900

Labour History: A Journal of Labour and Social History (2012), 103, (1), 17–38.

Abstract

Until recent decades, the contribution made by women and children, Chinese males and Indigenous people to the development of rural Australia in the colonial period remained largely unacknowledged. This study contributes to the redress by examining the experiences of members of this hitherto ‘hidden’ workforce who lived and worked on Ollera Station, near Guyra in northern NSW, between 1850 and 1900. Careful analysis of the wages paid to their male ‘breadwinners’ reveals the operation of a flourishing ‘family economy’ system on the station, which permitted the wives and children of European shepherds and labourers to make an important financial contribution to their families’ living standards. Though more fragmentary, the wage records of Chinese and Indigenous employees offer additional evidence, particularly regarding the length, duration and nature of the work undertaken by these workers. This evidence, when combined with the wealth of material contained in the almost complete run of station diaries between 1862 and the 1890s, provides valuable insights into the lives of both ‘masters’ and ‘men’ on the still isolated run. In doing so, it confirms the active and very positive contribution these ‘hidden’ workers made to the station’s economic success.

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Endnotes

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52.Mrs Janet Ryder Avery toMr Tom Everett, 12August, 1946, OSR, UNERA, A103, accession no. pending. Google Scholar

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Author details

Rodwell, Margaret