In 1852 Victoria was barely one year old, after separation from New South Wales in 1851. It was ‘the period of the greatest social and political disorganisation that the colony experienced.’ (A history of the Colony of Victoria…p.1)

With the discovery of gold, the population jumped from 97,000 to 168,000. Blinded by the lure of quick cash, many quit their jobs and travelled to the goldfields. ‘The population of the town became increasingly distracted…the civil service was disrupted and disorganized with resignations and desertions.’ (The centenary history of Victoria, p.2)

In this climate, new basic services had to be established. Twenty-four police stations were built throughout Victoria, costing in excess of £50,000. Over £15,000 was spent on gaols, stockades and hulks. Money for education was allocated according to denomination with the Church of England receiving the most. Accordingly, the Lord Bishop of Melbourne received a £500 stipend and the Roman Catholic Bishop received £200.

A lithograph print of Melbourne, by S.T. Gill
General Post Office, Gt. Bourke St. Melbourne 1854, H12598

The major source of revenue was the sale of land, which made the government over £700.000. Fees to dig for gold and occupy land at the goldfields generated £442,049. Taxes from cigarettes and alcohol pulled in over £250,000.

Below is a listing of some of Victoria’s other sources of revenues and expenditure for 1852, as listed in Statement, prepared by the honorable the treasurer… The numbers have been rounded off.

Rent of Queen’s Wharf £1,067
Store rent of gunpowder £100
Pawnbrokers licenses £50
Sale of wool from Aboriginal station £245
License to cut timber £1,413
Licence to take fallen timber £225
Police reward fund £1,047
Sale of logs from Botanic Gardens £3

Extending jetty at Geelong £681
Salary of Colonial Secretary £1,300
Purchase of specimen of gold for transmission to Her Majesty £1,650
Compiling statistics £130
South Australian boundary line £341
Lunatic asylum expenses £768
Erecting a pound at Buninyoung £10
Assisting vessels wrecked at the Port £351

Written by Paul Dee
Librarian, Australian History and Literature

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