Camper Trailer Australia

THE SQUATTING LIFESTYLE

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As inland exploratio­n exploded after the western crossing of the Blue Mountains by explorers Blaxland, Wentworth and Lawson in 1813, it created an insatiable craze for new grazing land. The 1824 journey by Hume and Hovell from Appin, just south-west of Sydney, to Corio Bay, near the present city of Geelong, led to a rapid passage of settlers keen to grab well watered land in the intervenin­g areas.

These newly opened lands had become the resort of “emancipist­s, runaway convicts and bushranger­s”. It was decided to control the release of land and ensure the leasing or sale of property to bring in funds to be used to subsidise the immigratio­n of free settlers. In

1829 Governor Darling declared an area, known as the Nineteen Counties, in which settlement was to be limited. This area, three times the size of Wales, was 400km long at the coast and 240km wide, and was bounded by the “Limits of Location”. Wealthy pastoralis­ts saw this as a mere figment of government­al imaginatio­n.

They plunged out into the void, droving large flocks of sheep and mobs of cattle while seeking prime real estate and simply became squatters on the government-owned land. Sheep were initially the favoured animals as they produced an annual fleece which fed into the insatiable demand from Britain's newly mechanised spinning mills and could always be slaughtere­d or boiled down if things became financiall­y too tough.

But cattle were cheaper to manage, required no fencing or nurse-maiding to keep alive, and when the gold rushes of the 1850s launched a huge market for meat they became the preferred form of farming in the rougher country of the high alpine regions.

By 1843, just 17 years after Hume and Hovell's groundbrea­king trip, the Monaro region — the alpine area between today's Canberra and the Victorian border — contained 129 station properties with 200,000 sheep and 75,000 cattle. Settlement had spread south from modern NSW and by the time of the 1850 gold rushes had occupied nearly all of modern Victoria.

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