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Her Majesty's Colonial Land and Immigration Scheme which was launched in 1841 was the result of a great deal of national discontent about the manner in which emigration was developing, particularly with regard to Australia. It was all very well to send out convicted criminals by the ship-load but was this really the way to populate such a promising colony? And all those paupers, elderly and handicapped folk and orphaned children the Workhouses were sending? Was that doing good to anyone? What was needed were law-abiding, hard-working families who would build homes, cultivate land and develop trade between the new colonies and the UK so that the old and new worlds could build a happy and prosperous future together

A serious campaign was set in motion to attract the "right" kind of people. Posters, adverts in newspapers, articles about colonial life all played a part in attracting applications from hard-working married couples under 40 and single people under 30 with trades or skills which would benefit the new country. The Government set up health checks to weed out the sick and disabled; they instituted a new set of rules which actually barred certain categories of persons from entering Australia such as widows with children, drifters who just wanted to get to the goldfields, anyone who had ever been on parish relief or those who had not been vaccinated against smallpox.

By 1854, The Emigration Commission was granting passages to New South Wales, Victoria. South Australia and Van Diemen's Land (Tasmania). A married couple under 40 could travel to Victoria in Australia for as little as 1 each and children under 14 for 10 shillings. 

The Commission provided bedding and an allowance of food and water for the voyage. Medicine was also provided and the better ships carried a surgeon. A Government subsidy to cover the remaining costs was paid to the owners of vessels on top of the passengers' contributions. For example, each adult passenger to Victoria was eligible for  a subsidy of 18 2s. 6p  - there was a half fare payment for children aged between 1 and 14 and babies travelled free. 

Entrepreneurs like Torquay's John Crossman, a wealthy timber merchant who had already begun to take passengers to Canada, set about acting as agents, making arrangements to split the Government subsidies with other owners if their own vessels were full or if they covered different destinations.  It worked out quite well for passengers from Torquay for, even if sailing from London or Gravesend, ships always put in at Plymouth to pick up fresh food and water and could easily be joined by making a short journey along the coast in a local vessel. 

There was one small snag in that passengers to the most popular destinations, where life would be comparatively easy, could be asked to repay their subsidies over time , but this did not apply to those prepared to travel to areas the Government wanted to open up. So for some, safe arrival on the other side of the world marked the end of their journey - but for others, it was just the start as they used further assisted passage schemes as a means of moving on from one colony to another. It meant spending months travelling on top of the original journey but it also made a 1 go a long way.


Immigrants landing at Queen's Wharf, Melbourne - 1863

Immigrants landing at Queen's Wharf, Melbourne - 1863

Courtesy of the Government of Victoria, AU


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