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(Also known as NEW H OLLAND till about 1817).

Australia is geographically the world's great island-continent. Politically, the mainland, with the adjoining island of Tasmania, forms the Commonwealth of Australia. This is under the British Crown and consists of the following six States, which were federated on 1 Jan., 1901, and are here named in the order in which they became separate colonies of the British Empire: New South Wales (1788); Tasmania (1803); Western Australia (1826); South Australia (1836); Victoria (1851); and Queensland (1859). The Commonwealth covers an area of 2,980,632 square miles. It is, territorially, about one-fourth smaller than Europe, one-sixth larger than the United States (excluding Alaska), over one and a half the size of the Indian Empire, more than fourteen times larger than Germany or France, and about twenty-five times larger than the British Isles. At the census of 1901 the population of the six States was as follows: New South Wales, 1,339,943; Western Australia, 182,553; Victoria, 1,201,341; Queensland, 503,266; South Australia, 362,604; Tasmania, 172,475. This gave the Commonwealth in 1901 a total population of 3,782,182. The official estimate of the total population for December, 1905, was 4,002,893.


The north and west coasts of Australia figure in the maps of Spanish and Portuguese navigators as far back as about the year 1530. But it was the War of American Independence that led to the settling of the white man on the shores of the great lone continent. At that time, and until the nineteenth century was well advanced, the maxim of Paley and of others of his school, that crime is most effectually prevented by a dread of capital punishment, held almost complete control of the legislative mind in Great Britain. "By 1809", says a legal authority in the "National History of England" (IV, 309), "more than six hundred different offences had been made capital-a state of law unexampled in the worst periods of Roman or Oriental despotism". Transportation was the ordinary commutation of, or substitute for, the slip-knot of the hangman. From 1718 to 1776 British convicts had been sent in considerable numbers annually under contractors, into servitude on the American mainland. The traffic was stopped by the War of Independence. At the close of the struggle the British prisons and, later on, the prison-hulks overflowed. The colony of New South Wales (till 1826 synonymous with the whole Australian mainland) was established as a convict settlement by an Order in Council dated 6 December, 1785. On 13 May, 1787, "the first fleet", provisioned for two years, left England, with 1,030 souls on board, of whom 696 were convicts. They reached Botany Bay on 20 January, 1788. They abandoned it after a few days because of its shallow waters, and laid the foundatios of Sydney on the shores of the noble and spacious harbour to which they gave the name of Port Jackson. The men who founded Sydney and the Commonwealth of Australia "may have been convicts", says Davitt, "but they wer not necessarily 'criminals', such as we are familiar with to-day. Some account must be taken of what constituted a crime in those transportation days, and of the hideously unjust sentences which were inflicted for comparatively trivial offences" (Life and Progress in Australasia, 193-194).

Within the next decade, the ranks of the original convict population were swelled by a goodly percentage of the 1,300 unoffending Catholic peasants from the North and West of Ireland who were seized and deported by "Satanides" Carhampton and the Ulster magistrates during the Orange reign of terror in 1795-96, "without sentence", as Lecky says, "without trial, without even the colour of legality" (Ireland in the Eighteenth Century, III, 419; England in the Eighteenth Century, VIII, 250). After the insurrection of 1798, "a stream of Irish political prisoners was poured into the penal settlement of Botany Bay, and they played some part in the early history of the Australian colonies, and especially of Australian Catholicism" (Lecky, England in the Eighteenth Century, VIII, 250). In his "Catholic Mission in Australia" (1836), Dr. Ullathorne says of those early Irish political convicts: "Ignorance or violation of religious principle, the knowledge or habits of a criminal life, were scarcely to any extent recognizable features in this unhappy class of Irish political prisoners. On the contrary, the deepest and purest sentiments of piety, a thorough comprehension of religious responsibility, and an almost impregnable simplicity of manner, were their distinctive virtues on their first consignment to the guardianship of the law. In many illustrious cases, a long and dangerous residence in the most depraved penal settlements was unable to extinguish these noble characteristics." During the first three decades of the nineteenth century the convict population was notably increased by the addition of many who had taken part in the agitations in connexion with tithes, the Charter and Reform movements, the Combination Laws, and the Corn Laws. During the first fifty years and more of the Australian penal settlements, convictions and sentences of deportation were matters of fearful facility. For no provision was made for the defence of prisoners unable to procure it for themselves; the right of defence throughout the entire trial was not recognized till 1837; jurors were allowed to act as witnesses; and, belonging as they generally did, to "the classes", they were too prone to convict, and judges to transport, especially during periods of popular ferment, on weak or worthless evidence, or on the mere presumption of guilt (See National History of England, IV, 310).

Convictism endured in New South Wales from its first foundation in 1788 till 1840. Tasmania remained a penal colony till 1853. Transportation to Norfolk Island ceased in 1855. Moreton Bay (in the present State of Queensland) became a convict station in 1824 and remained one till 1839. Western Australia began as a penal settlement in 1826. It continued as such for only a very brief space. Owing to the dearth of free labour, convicts (among whom was the gifted John Boyle O'Reilly, a political prisoner) were reintroduced from 1849 till 1868, when the last shadow of "the system" was lifted from Australia. Two noted Catholic ecclesiastics (Dr. Ullathorne and Dr. Wilson, first Bishop of Hobart) took a prominent and honoured part in the long, slow movement which led to the abolition of the convict system in New South Wales, Tasmania, and Norfolk Island. Almost from the dawn of the colonization of New South Wales and Tasmania, voluntary settlers went thither, at first as stragglers, but in a steady stream when the advantages of the country became known, when irresponsible military rule ceased (in 1842) and when free selection and assisted immigration were planks in the policy of the young Australian colonies. The first free settlers came to Queensland (known till its separation in 1859 as the Moreton Bay District of New South Wales) in 1824, just in advance of the convicts; to Victoria (known till its separation in 1851 as the Port Phillip District of New South Wales) in 1835, and to South Australia in 1836. The gold discoveries of the fifties brought a great inrush of population, chiefly to Victoria and New South Wales. Events have moved rapidly since then. The widened influences of religion, the influx of new blood, the development of resources, prosperity, education, and the play of free institutions have combined to rid the southern lands of the traces of a penal system which, within living memory, threatened so much permanent evil to the moral, social, and political progress of Australia. The dead past has buried its dead.

The reformation of the criminal formed no part of the convict system in Australia. "The body", says Bonwick, "rather than the soul, absorbed the attention of the governors" (First Twenty Years of Australia, 218). "Vengeance and cruelty", says Erskine May, "were its only principles; charity and reformation formed no part of its scheme" (Constitutional History of England, III, 401). For the convict, it was a beast-of-burden life, embittered by the lash, the iron belt, the punishment-cell, the prison-hulk, the chain-gang, and the "hell". "The 'whipping-houses' of the Mississippi", says Dilke, had their parallel in New South Wales; a look or word would cause the hurrying of a servant to the post or the forge, as a preliminary to a month in a chain-gang on the roads" (Greater Britain, 8th ed., 373). For idleness, for disobedience, for drunkenness, for every trivial fault, the punishment was "the lash!-the lash!-the lash!" (Dr. Ullathorne, in Cardinal Moran's History of the Catholic Church in Australasia, 156). And the "cat" was made an instrument of torture (Dilke, Greater Britain, 8th ed., 374). Matters were even worse in the convict "hells" of New Norfolk (established in 1788), and of Port Arthur and Macquarie Harbour in Tasmania. In 1835 Dr. Ullathorne went to New Norfolk to prepare thirty-nine supposed conspirators for an abrupt passage into eternity. Twenty-six of the condemned men were reprieved. They wept bitterly on receiving the news, "while those doomed to die, without exception, dropped on their knees and with dry eyes thanked God they were to be delivered from so horrid a place". They "manifested extraordinary fervour and repentance", received their sentence on their knees "as the will of God", and on the morning of their execution "they fell down in the dust and, in the warmth of their gratitude, kissed the very feet that had brought them peace" (Ullathorne in Moran, op. cit., 16l4).

For a long period Australian officials and ex-officials were to all intents and purposes a great "ring" of spirit-dealers. Rum became the medium of commerce, just as tobacco, and maize, and leaden bullets were in the early days of New England (History of New South Wales from the Records, II, 271-273). The cost of building the first Protestant church in Australia (at Sydney) was, as the pastor's balance sheet shows, in part paid in rum (op. cit., II, 66). "Rum-selling and rum-distilling debauched the convicts and their guards" (José, History of Australia, 21), and the moral depravity that grew up under the system is described by Dr. Ullathorne as "too frightful even for the imagination of other lands" (Moran, op. cit., pp. 8-11, and "Historical Records of New South Wales", II and III passim ). The Irish Catholic convicts-"most of whom", says Ullathorne (in Moran, op. cit., 152-153), "were transported for the infringement of penal laws and for agrarian offence and minor delinquencies"-had generally (according to the same eyewitness) a lively dread of the depravity of the prison hells of the system. Irish Catholic female convicts were also saved to a notable extent by their robust faith from the profligacy which, almost as a matter of course, overtook their less fortunate sisters from other countries (McCarthy, History of Our Own Times, ed. 1887, I, 467; Ullathorne, in Moran, 157-158). Long before, similar testimony was given by John Thomas Bigge, after he had spent three years (1819-22) in Australia as Special Commissioner from the British Government to investigate the working of the transportation system. In his final report (dated 6 May, 1822) he said: "The convicts embarked in Ireland generally arrive in New South Wales in a very healthy state, and are found to be more obedient and more sensible of kind treatment during the passage than any other class. Their separation from their native country is observed to make a stronger impression upon their minds, both on their departure and during the voyage."


The influences of religion were not allowed to remedy to any great extent the hard animalism and inhumanity of the convict system. Anglicanism was de facto , although not de jure, the established religion of the Australian penal colonies. But the Anglican chaplain, frequently a farmer, run-holder, and magistrate, was more conspicuously a civil than a religious functionary. Methodism (then a branch of the Anglican Establishment) made a feeble beginning in Australia in 1813; Presbyterianism in 1823; other Protestant denominations at later dates (Bonwick, First Twenty Years of Australia, 240). In 1836, when Dr. Ullathorne wrote his pamphlet, "The Catholic Mission in Australia", Catholic and other dissidents were still compelled to attend the more or less perfunctory services of the Anglican Church (in Moran, op. cit., 153). The penalties for refusal, provided at various times in General Orders, consisted in reduced rations, imprisonment, confinement in prison-hulks, the stocks, and the urgent pressure of the public flagellator's "can-o'-nine-tails"-twenty-five lashes for the first offence, fifty for the second, and for the third, the road-gangs, or transportation to the "living death" of the convict hells. (See the official and other evidence in Moran, op. cit., 11-19.) As late as 5 March, 1843, a convict named Bernard Trainer was sentenced to fourteen days' imprisonment in Brighton jail for refusing to attend the Protestant service (Therry MSS., in Moran, 19). This abuse of power continued in Tasmania till 1844 (Hogan, The Irish in Australia, 3d ed., 257-258). Both in New South Wales and Tasmania, the children of Catholic convicts and all orphans under the care of the State were brought up in the profession of the dominant creed. In 1792 there were some three hundred Catholic convicts and fifty Catholic freemen (mancipists) in New South Wales. Nine years later, in 1801, there were 5,515 inhabitants in the penal settlement (Bonwick, First Twenty Years of Australia, 175-176). About one-third of these were Catholics; but no regular statistics of religious belief were kept at the time (Kenny, The Catholic Church in Australasia to the Year 1840, 20). Among the "little flock" there were three priests who had been unjustly transported on a charge of complicity in the Irish insurrection of 1798-Fathers James Harold, James Dixon, and Peter O"Neill. The last-mentioned priest had been barbarously scourged on a suborned charge of having abetted murder-a crime of which he was afterwards proved to be wholly innocent. Father Harold was the uncle of the Rev. Dr. William Vincent Harold, O.P., famous in the Hogan Schism in Philadelphia, and en route to Ireland in 1810, from Australia, he visited Philadelphia (Moran, op. cit., 33).

These priests were strictly forbidden the exercise of their sacred ministry. After repeated representations, Father Dixon was at length, by order of the Home Government, conditionally emancipated, and permitted to celebrate Mass once a month, under galling restrictions (see Historical Records of New South Wales, V, 110). He offered the Holy Sacrifice for the first time in New South Wales, 15 May, 1803. There was no altar-stone; the chalice, the work of a convict, was of tin; the vestments were made of parti-coloured old damask curtains sacrificed for the occasion, and the whole surroundings of this memorable event in the history of the Church in Australia bespoke the poverty of Bethlehem and the desolation of Calvary. After little more than a year, Father Dixon's precious privilege was withdrawn, and the last state of the Catholic convicts became worse than the first. Father O'Neill had in the meantime (1803) been restored to Ireland, with his character completely vindicated. In 1808 Father Dixon, broken down in health, was permitted to return to his native diocese. Two years later he was followed to Ireland by Father Harold, and till 1817 a deep spiritual desolation brooded over the infant Church in Australia. In the last-mentioned year there were some 6,000 Catholics in and about Sydney alone. The representations of the returned priestly exiles resulted at length in the appointment of Father Jeremiah Flynn, an Irish Cistercian, as Prefect Apostolic of New Holland. Obstacles were thrown in his way by the Colonial Office. He placed the matter in the hands of the Rt. Rev. Dr. Poynter, and, relying on the known influence of his English friend, set sail in good faith for his distant field. On his arrival in Sydney, Governor Macquarie bluntly informed him that no "Popish missionary" would be allowed to intrude within the settlement, and that every person in the penal colony must be a Protestant.

Father Flynn ministered secretly to his flock whenever he could evade the watchful eyes of hostile officials. A few months after his arrival he was suddenly arrested without warrant or accusation, placed under lock and key in prison, and, without trial, shipped back to London as a prisoner by the first vessel homeward bound. Before his arrest he used secretly to celebrate the Sacred Mysteries in the house of a pious Catholic named Davis. There the Sacred Species were reserved for the sick and dying, in a cedar press, or tabernacle. Father Flynn vainly besought permission to return to the house. And there, for two years after his departure, the taper or lamp was ever kept alight, and, with pathetic devotion, the children of sorrow gathered in adoration around the Bread of Life. The "Holy House of Australia", with its small adjoining grounds and the sum of £1,000 was devoted to religion by Davis, and on its site now stands a fine church dedicated to God under the invocation of the national apostle of Ireland. Governor Macquarie's harsh and illegal treatment of Father Flynn created a stir in the British House of Commons. It opened up the whole scandalous story of the persecution of the Catholic convicts and settlers in Australia, created a healthy reaction, and led to the appointment of two Irish chaplains, Father Philip Connelly (who went to Hobart) and Father John Joseph Therry (who remained in Sydney), each with a slender yearly salary of £100. That was in May, 1821. With that day, to use the words of Archbishop Carr of Melbourne "what may be termed the period of the Church suffering ends, and that of the Church militant begins".


The new era inaugurated by Fathers Connelly and Therry was, however, one of only partial toleration of the Catholic Faith. It extended from their arrival in Australia, and was marked by long and successful struggles against religious ascendancy, the partial cessation of convictism, and the beginnings fo the present hierarchical organization. In 1821 New South Wales and Tasmania (the only places then colonized) contained a white population of 35,610 souls. Some 30 per cent of these were Catholics. At a census taken in 1828 there were in eastern Australia 36,598 whites, of whom 11,236 were Catholics. Serious restrictions were still placed upon the marriage of Catholic convicts. The chaplains were strictly forbidden to receive converts from any Protestant denomination, or to interfere with the old-standing abuse of bringing up all the children in State-aided institutions in the creed of the Church of England (Hogan, The Irish in Australia, 3d ed., 236-237). And through and over it all ran the constant effort to set up the Protestant Reformed Religion as the Established Church of the new south lands. A great stride in the direction of such an establishment was made when, on 17 July, 1825, Royal Letters set apart for the ruling creed one-seventh of the whole territory of New South Wales, without prejudice to previous grants bestowed upon it. It was in great measure to Father Therry's energy and ardour that this crowning act of ascendancy owed its partial defeat. The Royal Grant was revoked in 1834, but in the meantime, 435,000 acres of the public domain had been alienated for the benefit of the Anglican Church. Father Therry's frequent collisions with abuses created a deadlock with the Sydney officials. This, in turn, led to the appointment of Dr. Ullathorne, a distinguished English Benedictine, as Vicar-General of the Bishop of Mauritius, who exercised jurisdiction over Australia till 1834.

Dr. Ullathorne arrived in his new field of labour in 1833. In that year the white population of New South Wales (i. e., of the whole island continent except Western Australia) had risen to 60,794. Of these, some 36,000 were free. The Catholic body, numbering 17,179 and scattered over a vast area, was ministered to by four priests. There were on the Australian mainland four Catholic schools, and four churches under construction (one of them Old St. Mary's, Sydney). Tasmania (as we still call it by anticipation) had only one Catholic priest, no school, and its one church (at Hobart) was described by Dr. Ullathorne as "a mere temporary shed". Sir Richard Bourke, a broad-minded Irish Protestant, was at that time Governor of New South Wales. Through his exertions was passed the Church Act of 1836, which broke up the quasi-monopoly of State appropriations for the clergy and the denominational schools that had hitherto been enjoyed by the Church of England (Therry, New South Wales and Victoria, ed. 1883, 17; Flanagan, History of New South Wales, I, 512, 513). Despite its admitted shortcomings, this was, in the circumstances of the time and country, a notable measure. It ended forever the dream of a Protestant ascendancy on the Australian mainland, and is justly regarded as the first Charter of the country's religious liberties. A Church Act on similar lines was passed in Tasmania in 1837. During the governorship of Sir Richard Bourke Catholics (Roger, afterwards Sir Roger, Therry, and John Hubert Plunkett) were also, for the first time in the history of Australia, appointed to positions of any importance under the Crown. Under this administration the annual influx of free immigrants (some 3,000) equalled for the first time that of the convicts (Sutherland, History of Australia, 12th ed., 51, 52).

Australia was gradually rolling out of the sullen gloom of a penal settlement, and emerging into the condition of a freeman's country. The Catholic population increased rapidly. Their numbers and their distance from the immediate centre of their spiritual jurisdiction led, in 1834, to the formation of Australia, Tasmania, and the adjacent islands (including New Zealand) into a vicariate Apostolic. The Right Rev. John Bede Polding, an English Benedictine, was appointed its first bishop. In 1841 his vast diocese contained some 40,000 Catholics, ministered to by twenty-eight priests, and scattered over a territory nearly as large as Europe. The Australian mainland and Tasmania had in that year a population of 211,095 souls. At the census of that year, there were 35,690 of Bishop Polding's spiritual subjects in a total population of 130,856 in New South Wales (which then included the present States of Queensland and Victoria). Among the other scatterred Catholics was a little group, poor labourers all, except one family, in a white population of some 15,000 souls in South Australia. This colony had been founded in 1836 as a free and "socially superior" Protestant settlement, from which "Papists and pagans" were to have been rigidly excluded. A few Catholics, however, crept in. They were ministered to by one priest (Father Benson) who lived among them in apostolic poverty from 1839 till the arrival of the first Bishop of Adelaide, Dr. Murphy, in 1842. In Western Australia there were 2,311 hard-pressed colonists at the census of 1840. There were very few Catholics among them, and no priest till 1845, when there arrived in the colony Dom Rudesind Salvado, a Spanish Benedictine, afterwards founder and first Abbot of New Norcia. A closer hierarchical organization was needed. At Bishop Polding's earnest solicitations new dioceses were created by the Holy See: Hobart, in 1842; Adelaide, in 1843; Perth, in 1845; Melbourne, Maitland, and Port Victoria, in 1848. Sydney also became an archiepiscopal see. Dr. Wilson, the first Bishop of Hobart, will be remembered for his successful opposition to the efforts made, despite the local Church Act of 1837, to have Anglicanism placed on the same official footing as in England. It was the last serious effort to establish a religious ascendancy in any part of Australasia. In New South Wales the first synod was held in 1844. Six years later, the first sod of the first railroad in Australasia was turned in the capital of the mother-colony. At the census of 1851, the Catholic body in the mother-colony had risen to 58,899 in a total population of 190,999. In the Morton Bay District of New South Wales (now Queensland) there were few Catholics, and no resident priest till the Passionist Fathers opened their mission to the aboriginals on Stradbroke Island, in 1843. In the Port Phillip District of New South Wales (now Victoria) there were, in 1851, 18,014 priests (in 1850) and thirteen State-aided primary schools. Dr. Gould was the first Bishop of the new see founded there in 1848.


The discovery of rich gold in Victoria in 1851 had a profound and far-reaching effect on the history of Australia. There was a delerium of sudden prosperity. Population rushed into the new El Dorado. In 1851, the mainland and Tasmania had a joint population of 211,095, nearly double that of 1841. This rapid increase of inhabitants soon called for the erection of new episcopal sees. That of Brisbane was founded in 1859, the year in which Queensland became a separate colony. The Bishopric of Goulburn was established in 1864; Maitland (a titular see since 1848) and Bathurst, in 1865; the abbacy nullius of New Norcia (aboriginal mission), in 1867; the See of Armidale, in 1869; and those of Ballarat and Sandhurst, in 1874. In the last-mentioned year Melbourne (since 1851 the capital of the separate colony of Victoria) became an archiepiscopal see. The Vicariate Apostolic of Cooktown was formed in 1876, and the Diocese of Rockhampton in 1882. Three years later, in 1885, Dr. Moran (successor to Dr. Vaughan in the Archiepiscopal See of Sydney) was raised to the purple as Australia's first cardinal. The Plenary Synod held in Sydney in the same year resulted in the formation, in 1887, of the Dioceses of Grafton (now called Lismore), Wilcannia, Sale, and Port Augusta, together with the Vicariates Apostolic of Kimberley (now under the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Geraldton) and of Queensland (for aborigines only), while Adelaide, Brisbane, and (in 1888) Hobart became archiepiscopal sees. The Plenary Synod of 1895 led to the formation of the Diocese of Geraldton in 1898. The occupant of that see is administrator of the Diocese of Port Victoria and Palmerston, which, founded in 1848, lost its whole European population in 1849. The latest Plenary Synod of the Church in the Commonwealth took place in 1905, and two important and highly successful Cathlic Congresses were held, the first in Sydney in 1900, the second in Melbourne in 1904. In 1906, there were in the Australian Commonwealth six archbishops (one of them a cardinal, another a coadjutor), fifteen bishops (two of them coadjutors), one abbot nullius, and one vicar Apostolic; in all, a hierarchy of twenty-three prelates exercising episcopal jurisdiction.


The following table, compiled from official sources, shows the numerical strength of Catholics on the Australian mainland and in Tasmania for the years named, which have been chosen as being, in most instances, census years:

1861 1871 1881 1891 1901

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Bibliography Information
Obstat, Nihil. Lafort, Remy, Censor. Entry for 'Australia'. The Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company. New York. 1914.

Year New South
Victoria Queensland South
Tasmania Total
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