Potted Histories

The Australind Settlement

By G. E. Clarke, 1946

Much has been written on the ill-fated Australind Settlement Scheme, the information being obtained chiefly from the Clifton journals. Had the Scheme been a success, notwithstanding the avowed intention of the Chief Commissioner to make the city of Australind self-contained as regards shipping facilities, Bunbury would have made more rapid progress than it did.

The history of the Scheme is briefly as follows: – Colonel Latour in 1830 had selected an area of land lying between Australind and Wokalup, extending from the Stirling ranges to a mile or two from the coast, and comprising 100,000 acres. This was known as Wellington Location 1.

For ten years this land had remained undeveloped, although the Colony’s laws provided that improvements should be effected before the freehold title could be obtained. If the improvements were not carried out in a specified time to the satisfaction of the authorities, the land reverted to the Crown. In Latour’s case, it was a question as to whether the term for effecting improvements was ten years or twenty years.

It was Governor Hutt’s brother, and Sir James Stirling, an ex-Governor of the Colony, who induced an English company to acquire Latour’s land for the settlement of immigrants. It was largely due to Stirling’s report on the quality of the soil and the opportunities offering to the right type of colonist, that the English public subscribed the necessary capital and formed the West Australian Land Company. Stirling knew the Bunbury district, for he himself had acquired large areas in the locality, but he was genuine in his recommendations and not prompted by selfish motives.

The W.A. Land Company was duly floated, and the directors appointed Mr. Marshall Waller Clifton as Commissioner to take charge of proposed settlement scheme. A party of surveyors were first engaged and despatched to Port Leschenault in a small vessel named Island Queen. The instructions issued to Mr. Austin, the head surveyor, was to classify the land, and survey a large townsite to be known as Australind.

The scheme appealed to the English public to such an extent, that shortly after launching the company, the directors were forced to refuse further applications for shares, feeling it necessary that the land, which these shares represented would be over applied for, and there would be insufficient to meet the demands of the genuine settler.

Prior to the departure of the Island Queen, a function was held in London, at which many notable men were present. Here enthusiastic speeches were made, and as the company had ample funds, success seemed assured.

Marshall Clifton, with the approval of his directors, immediately chartered the ship Parkfield to convey himself and his large family to Port Leschenault, and to transfer the first party of immigrants, who were anxiously awaiting transport to what was to them a new world.

Unfortunately a week or two before the date fixed for the Parkfield’s departure, a Captain Grey had arrived in London from the Swan River. Without reservation Grey condemned the site selected for settlement, stating Latour’s land was sterile and unfit for cultivation.

Whilst Grey had not inspected the Leschenault land, he was considered an authority, and when he strongly advocated the company to change to Port Grey, which is now Geraldton, the directors were in a quandary. A further problem faced those who were in charge. The statement was made the Western Australian Governor had cancelled Latour’s title for non‑fulfilment of location duties, and the land would revert to the Crown.

Both Grey’s statement and the rumour regarding Latour’s claims created a mild panic. Shareholders considered they had been exploited; the directors were most unpopular. In their anxiety to appease the rising tide of criticism, the directors agreed to return the subscribed capital, with five per centum added. No less than £40,000 of the £60,000 subscribed was returned.

When definite information arrived that Latour still had ten years to complete his improvements, and the company had no fear of cancellation, then Stirling and others did their best to restore confidence. With lessened capital the directors decided to carry on.

Whilst it was decided to still found a settlement in West Australia, the question of site had not been determined. The Parkfield was again chartered, and the Commissioner, Clifton was to receive his final instruction on board.

The immigrants selected for the first ship were advised departure was fixed for December, 1840. On the 9th of that month the vessel left England and after a most favourable voyage, anchored in Koombannah [sic]Bay on the 18th March, 1841.

It appears the instructions received by Clifton were to first visit Port Leschenault and there pick up the surveyors who had been in the Colony for a few months and occupied in surveying Latour’s land. He was then to proceed to Port Grey and found a settlement there.

On arrival at Port Leschenault, Clifton immediately contacted his surveyors. From their reports and a hurried inspection of the land, he gained a very favourable impression. It was his duty to visit Perth and interview Governor Hutt, which he did. The proposal to transfer to Port Grey had little support from His Excellency. He pointed out that he had appointed a Government Resident at Bunbury; every arrangement had been made for military protection for the settlers, and Latour’s land was all the vendors claimed.

Whilst Clifton was in Perth, the settlers were allowed to make an inspection of the land around Bunbury, and they too formed a favourable impression. Few of them wished to go north and all were much relieved when Clifton returned and immediately transferred them to the site of the proposed city of Australind.

At this stage we might imagine Clifton’s quandary. He had his directors’ instructions, against which was the advice and almost counter instructions from Hutt. It would seem the settlers after their long voyage were anxious to make a start; however at that stage the Australind decision was not final. They might still be transferred north.

Marshall Clifton at this stage had a duty that he could not ignore. Already a month had elapsed since the immigrants landed and winter was rapidly approaching. Scott, Little, Coffin and Ommanney who were in the locality, could tell him what a winter in the South West meant. His first duty was to provide temporary shelter at Australind, which was done to the best of his ability. The story of the privations and sufferings of those first settlers there has been retold. Clifton, to his credit had to share these, but during those winter months the stores brought out were sadly depleted. Many of the personal effects of the settlers had been short shipped on the ‘Parkfield’ which added to their discomfort. It is small wonder that many of the first settlers were dispirited and were losing confidence in the management.

At the end of the winter, Clifton decided to himself inspect the Port Grey country. Here again the settlers wondered what was to be the outcome. Some had already left with the idea of starting in other portions of the Colony.

On Clifton’s return, he reported the country seen at Port Grey in no way compared with that at Leschenault. This was good news for the settlers, and when later Clifton received information that his directors had approved of the change of sites, and a further shipment of immigrants had been despatched to Koombannah Bay, he was well pleased.

Reading Clifton’s despatches to his directors, one is struck by the optimistic view presented. Not only the land is extolled but the spirit and contentment of the settlers is stated to be excellent. Evidently he had not sensed the discontent and criticism levelled at the management. The arrival of the Diadem early in 1842, in no way improved matters. These new arrivals were not heartened by the experiences of the first contingent. Some left immediately for other parts.

In the majority of writings on the Australind Settlement, possibly too much attention is paid to the part played by Commissioner Marshall Waller Clifton, and too little to the part played by those who were induced to leave England and settle under the proposed scheme. Clifton was secure with a salary of £800 per annum, the settlers were exhausting their resources with every months delay. It seems pertinent to ask what were Clifton’s responsibilities. Was it to build up a city at Australind, or to foster the men and women who had been attracted to the Colony, by an overdrawn picture of its possibilities? We read of the efforts put forth by Mr. Clifton to relieve the distress. “Six months after arrival the first sod is turned by oxen. Vegetables were sown in front of his quarters. Sites were chosen for piers, markets and public gardens. Mr. Clifton and his sons worked day after day, and some fruit trees were planted”. One cannot but smile at the attempt to successfully settle a large party of immigrants. It would seem, when one reads of piers and markets, that Clifton was a town planner first, and his dream of a magnificent city, with himself as founder, had a more important place in his programme than the welfare of those he was responsible for.

It is doubtful if Marshall Waller Clifton had any knowledge of agriculture, and was thus unable to advise his settlers as to the best methods to adopt to produce sufficient for themselves. He certainly had no knowledge of local conditions. It has been stated the settlers themselves were inefficient, but this is contrary to fact. Many of those who broke away from the Scheme were successful; many of those who after remaining for three years under Clifton’s control, made good. The soil and the limited areas allotted to the settlers have been blamed for non‑success. It is admitted the areas were somewhat small for extensive grazing, but not too small for the growth of produce that would have relieved the food shortage. Such an exaggerated statement “that it takes a hundred years to develop a farm in the South West”, is contradicted by the flourishing farms our older settlers built. It is contradicted by the success of such men as Scott and Little who took up land three years before the Australind Scheme. Clifton, according to Wollaston was class-­conscious, and probably would not seek advice from those men.

For the failure of the Australind Settlement Scheme the whole of the blame is not attributable to Clifton. The company was floated, not with the idea of placing England’s surplus population on the land, not with the idea of establishing new outposts of Empire. The British Government considered the Colony of West Australia should be self-supporting, the Scheme may have had its blessing, but it had no financial support as later schemes had. The company seems to have been primarily floated with a view to making money for the promoters. They had entered into a three years contract with the immigrants, stating in that time they could establish themselves. When that three year term expired, the Chief Commissioner’s services were dispensed with. His son W. P. Clifton was then appointed as agent with instructions to dispose of the land at 2/‑ per acre

This decision to sell the land, gave settlers an opportunity to take up homesteads on easy terms. Marshall Clifton was establishing himself at Wokalup; Robert Clifton at Brunswick; W. P. Clifton at Leschenault. Dr. Ferguson had for a time farmed at Wedderburn, whilst the Piggotts, Clarkes, Cramptons and others favoured the coastal areas. Rosamill [sic Rosamel] and Parkfield had been selected, Thomas Little had established himself at Belvedere [sic Belvidere]. Henty had placed his large area on the market, and the Prinseps of Calcutta purchased a portion of this estate near Dardanup.

On the Ferguson River the Houghs, Gardiners and Fowlers settled. At Boyanup the Paynes and Hursts; whilst at Capel, W. K. Child, in association with W. C. Ramsay, farmed at Minninup. In the same district the Sam Roses, W. C. F. Roberts, C. Properjohn, Delaportes and others had their holdings. The Lockes, Harris and Reynolds went further south. John Allnutt, after farming for a time at Australind, E. G. Hester and the Gibbletts opened up the Bridgetown district. M. B. Smith first started at Lake Preston, but later transferred to Uduc near Harvey.

The names mentioned are only a few of those gallant pioneers, who notwithstanding the disappointments of Australind, spread themselves over the then South West. Their success on the land is a testimony to the class of immigrant brought out for the Australind Scheme.

Whilst extolling the efforts of the men who arrived under Clifton’s scheme, the writer is of opinion, that the women who accompanied them also played a heroic part. Coming, as many of them did from sheltered homes in England, enjoying the amenities of the times, they braved the perils and hardships of this unknown land. Mothers of large families in most cases, they had courage. Often unprotected in the home, whilst the husband was in the field or forest these women faced the native danger. Uncomplainingly they worked and inspired their husbands. It is to those women we owe so much. They too, had the pioneering spirit, realising whilst they themselves had to suffer, they were building up a heritage for their children. We honour their memory.

Today Australind is merely a name on the map. True it is there are a few buildings to mark the site of the proposed city. The old Clifton homestead dominates the smaller structures, whilst the smallest Church in the State, built a hundred years ago, hides in a mass of tall tuart and peppermint. Almost opposite on the banks of the estuary a monument has been erected to the memory of Marshall Clifton, and that gallant band of pioneers who were largely responsible for developing the South West. The Australind Scheme has been described as a ‘Glorious Failure’. Fail it did, but it was responsible for bringing to the State some six or seven hundred of England’s sons and daughters who enriched the Colony, whose descendants have played a major part in its development, and they feel proud of their forefathers’ association with the pioneering days.

Names of Passengers who arrived in the following vessels[1]

Island Queen arrived at Port Leschenault early in 1841.

Austin, Mr. and Mrs; Austin, Robert; Durlacher, Mr.; Gaudin, Mr.; Greensell, Mr.; Harrison, Mr.; Johnston, R H.; Smith, Sir John; Treen, Mr.

Parkfield arrived at Port Leschenault, March, 1841.

Absolon, W. H.; Ashford, Thos.; Barclay, Mr. and Mrs. H. R.; Beddingfield, Chas.; Beddingfield, Eldred; Birch, Mr. and Mrs. L. with 6 sons and 1 daughter; Brown, W.; Clifton, Marshall Waller, Mr. and Mrs, with 6 daughters and 3 sons; Clifton, Mr. and Mrs. R. W.; Carpenter, Dr. A. F.; Clifton, Pearce; Clewlow, Chas.; Clarke, Mr. and Mrs. Ephraim with 2 sons and 1 daughter; Gibson, John; Gaudin, Mrs. A.; Hamilton, Gordon; Hough, Jas.; Hoskins, John; Hooper, Robert, 19 years of age; Hooper, Robert, 23 years of age; Hooper, W.; Hough, Sam; Hozier, Sam; Hough, Mr. and Mrs. Jos., with one son and one daughter; Hawkins, Fred; Letts, Jas.; Lilly, Mr. and Mrs G.; Miller, Chas.; Mawson, John; Morgan, John; Plowes, George; Paradise, W.; Payne, Robert; Penny, Chas. Beach; Properjohn, Mr. and Mrs. C., 1 son and 1 daughter; Payne, Mr. and Mrs. George; Rose, Mr. and Mrs. Sam, 1 son; Rand, John; Reynolds, Thos.; Spencer, Miss E.; Smith, George; Smith, Valentine; Shinnick, Wm.; Stallard, Mr. and Mrs. John; Usher, Wm.; Westwood, Jas; Whitley, Mr. and Mrs. J,

Diadem arrived at Port Leschenault, April 10th, 1842.

Baker, Miss E.; Bates, Mr. and Mrs. Thos.; Binfield, Miss M.; Brett, Mr. and Mrs. J.; Bagley, Mr. and Mrs. Thos., with son born on board; Crampton, Mr, and Mrs. W., with 5 sons and 4 daughters; Coppin, Mr. and Mrs. with 1 son and 2 daughters; Clout, Chas.; Clarke, Chas.; Elwell, Mr. and Mrs. J. with 2 daughters; Gale, John; Harris, Mr. and Mrs. Chas. with 3 sons and 2 daughters; Hurst, Mr. and Mrs. Abe with 4 daughters and 3 sons; Haley, George; Huggett, John; Hayes, Jas.; Hymus, Mr. and Mrs. F. with 8 children; Herbert, W.; Johnson, Mrs. M. with 3 daughters; Lyons, Mr. and Mrs. M. with 2 sons and 2 daughters; Leonard, Mr, and Mrs. R. and 3 sons; Moore, Mr. and Mrs. John with 2 sons and 2 daughters; McCoy, James; Marriot, Thos.;Millard, Dr. and Mrs. with 1 daughter; McGlew, Mr. and Mrs. H. with infant born on voyage; McCoombe, Mr. and Mrs. G. with infant born on voyage; Milroy, Jas.; Newman, J. D.; Pead, Mr. and Mrs. W. with 2 sons; Perry, Mr. and Mrs. W. with 2 sons; Pomeroy, Misses Mary and Emma; Pomeroy, Chas. and 1 son; Parker, Mr. and Mrs. George with 4 sons; Roberts, W. Jenkin, Mr. and Mrs. with 3 sons and 2 daughters; Rayner, John; Riley, Wm.; Richardson-­Bunbury, W.; Ramsay, W. Cunningham; Salter, Mr. and Mrs. Sam; Storey, Mr. and Mrs. Alf with 1 daughter; Stanton, Joseph with 3 daughters; Springett, Wm.; Turner, John; Thomson, John; Teede, Mr. and Mrs. G. R. with 1 son; Witt, Mr. and Mrs. J. with 7 children; Walker, Mr. and Mrs. T. with 3 daughters and 1 son; Walker, William.

Trusty made two trips, the first in December, 1842. Amongst the passengers are the following:

Allen, Dr. and Mrs.; Allnutt, Mr. and Mrs. and John; Bishop, Mr. and Mrs. John; with 1 son and 4 daughters; Delaporte, Mr. and Mrs. John; Forrest, Mr. and Mrs. Wm. and 1 son; Forrest, Mr. and Mrs. Gavin, with 2 sons and 2 daughters; Ferguson, Dr. and Mrs. with family; Gardiner, Mr. and Mrs. Reuben with 2 sons and 4 daughters; Gardiner, Mr. and Mrs. Jesse with 4 sons; Heritage, Mr. and Mrs. John and family of seven; Jarvis, Mr. and Mrs. James with 1 daughter; Jarvis, Mr. and Mrs. R. with 2 daughters; Locke, Mr. and Mrs. John with 2 sons and 1 daughter; MacKay, Mr. and Mrs. Thos. and 6 daughters; McCourt, Mr. and Mrs. Jos. with 1 son and 1 daughter; Spencer, Mr. and Mrs. T.

Others who came out attached to the Australind Settlement are

Piggott, Ben; Piggott, Jas.; Smith, Maurice Brett; Fouracre, R.

(GE Clarke, Early History of Bunbury, Self-published, Bunbury, WA, 1946, pp. 60-64)

[1]Since 1946 when this booklet was published, further research has been undertaken – see this website for passenger lists. Phyllis Barnes has passenger lists in her book, The Australind Journals of Marshall Waller Clifton 1841-1860.