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Other visions

The colonies of Western Australia, Victoria, South Australia and Queensland were the products of different visions from those which had led to the creation ofthe earlier penal settlements. They were Puritan and dissenting counters to, rather than spin-offs from, the convict colonies of New South Wales and Van Diemen's Land (renamed Tasmania in 1853). In Western Australia, the Swan River Colony was designed to be a duplication of rural England, replete with landlords and tenants. Major Frederick Chidley Irwin, in charge of the 13th Regiment, commissioned in 1828 to provide military protection to the new settlement at Swan River, conducted church services in his own home and built a church near the present site of the Anglican cathedral in Perth.

Victoria and South Australia were populated by Nonconformist and evangelical middle-class migrants displaced from Britain by the grim recession of the 1830s. Victoria was settled in 1834, and religious observance came with the settlers. Melbourne quickly became more observably 'holy' than Sydney, and Victoria the most enterprising of the colonies, a conspicuous example of the Protestant ethic.

South Australia was settled in 1838, the product of a dissenting vision. George Fife Angas, a devout Baptist and prosperous ship-owner, injected capital and pious young settlers, with a good gender balance, into the new colony. Among those Angas enticed to South Australia were German Lutherans who established the tradition of evangelical Lutheranism in Australia. The colony won self-government as early as 1856, and gave women the right to vote in council elections in 1861 and the right to vote and stand for parliament in 1894. Douglas Pike aptly described South Australia as a 'Paradise of Dissent'.1 In the strange dialectic of religious history, the Anglicans, under Bishop Augustus Short, were dragged, kicking and often screaming, into Anglo-Catholicism, and the Catholic bishop, Patrick Geoghegan, initiated a Catholic education system which was to be emulated in all the other colonies.

Queensland had convict settlements before its creation as a separate colony in 1859, but, thanks to the efforts of John Dunmore Lang, was able to boast many staunch Protestant settlers among its pioneers, including evangelical Lutherans and Baptists. They established a robustly anti-Catholic society. That soon met with an equally stout response from the newly appointed Catholic bishop, James Quinn. In 1862 he established the Queensland Immigration Society. Many Catholic immigrants poured into Queensland, driven out of Ireland by famine and denied entry to the USA because of the Civil War.

1 Pike, Paradise of dissent.

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