Friday, 20 July 2007

Exotic landscapes

An overseas friend wrote that the landscape here is like nothing she has ever seen and wondered how it would appear to German migrants and what would entice them to make the momentous decision to migrate. For most migrants, the appeal of Queensland was the land and the inducements offered by the Queensland colonial agent. Many of the provinces in Germany had individual agents and the provincial governments were represented in Australia as well.

The colonial government decided at a very early stage to try to attract German migrants for their work ethic and family cohesion that arose out of their cultural and religious background. Agents were sent to Germany to publicise promises of free or subsidised passage and the land selection scheme on their arrival. Of course, there was something in it for the agents. The current official residence of Queensland’s governor, was built by Johann Heussler.

Heussler was a German migrant himself before becoming a successful businessman in Melbourne and late Brisbane. He was at various times through the 1860s to 1880s, the Hamburg agent for the colony of Queensland, Consul for the Netherlands and Consul for the Imperial German Empire.

As far as I can tell, he not only publicised the colony and the range of migration and land “packages” offered by the government but also arranged sponsored migration, that is, migration paid for by someone in Queensland looking for labourers for a set period of time. After the period of indenture was served, these migrants were free to take up other labour contracts or buy land. Obviously, a percentage was charged for such commissions and judging by the house built by Heussler, business was brisk.

According to a website on German-Australia migration, there was a wealth of information available to migrants from pamphlets(including Heussler’s own Kurze Beschreibung der Kolonie Queensland, to migration newspapers such as the Deutsche Auswanderer-Zeitung (1852-1875), to emigration associations such as Raphaels-werk. Raphaels-werk is a Catholic agency established in Hamburg in 1871 to assist migrants and ensure their wellbeing. After temporary closure by the Nazis, it continues its work today under the banner of Caritas. And of course, migrants wrote home describing life in Queensland.

Freidrich Müller, he of good advice about spouses, wrote to an editor: “During the second and third years I was able to save enough for cattle and good horses. Today I have ten horses and fifty cows, as well as pigs, hens, geese etc. Dear Editor, where in Germany could we acquire all that?”

Reading endorsements such as these, who would not be tempted to migrate?

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