Jondaryan Station : the relationship between pastoral capital and pastoral labour, 1840-1890

Walker, Janette A. (1984). Jondaryan Station : the relationship between pastoral capital and pastoral labour, 1840-1890 PhD Thesis, School of History, Philosophy, Religion, and Classics, The University of Queensland.

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Author Walker, Janette A.
Thesis Title Jondaryan Station : the relationship between pastoral capital and pastoral labour, 1840-1890
School, Centre or Institute School of History, Philosophy, Religion, and Classics
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 1984
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Supervisor -
Total pages 484
Language eng
Subjects 0701 Agriculture, Land and Farm Management
210303 Australian History (excl. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander History)
Formatted abstract This thesis was undertaken in an attempt to find out more about the nature of Queensland colonial society. More specifically, it sought to discover something of the material and social condition of both pastoral employer and pastoral employee and of their relationship within the specific context of Jondaryan Station on the Darling Downs.

Colonial employer and employee alike had emigrated in hope - hope of greater material wealth and an improved social position. Their expectation was that New South Wales would be a classless society, a land of equal opportunity and social mobility for all, and that the reward for patient toil would be land. The reality, however, was that even to become a Downs squatter in the 1840s, an illegal tenant, let alone a land-owner, required such large amounts of financial backing as to preclude the English labouring classes. In the 1840s this capital was provided by English and Scottish gentlemen with British capital to invest and convict labour at their disposal. This input, coupled with British market demand, created rural capitalist enterprises on the one hand and a rural proletariat on the other. Jondaryan Station was one such enterprise.

The antithesis of law and order prior to the mid 40s, the Downs squatters' production of a much needed export staple and their direct links with the Sydney 'establishment' assured their change of status from 'radicals' to 'respectables'. Men like James Andrew, John Coutts, Walter Gray, Robert Tertius Campbell, the Tooths and their resident manager at Jondaryan, James White, became Jondaryan's new entrepreneurial breed of the 50s, a breed which was Southern inspired, Southern-controlled and which exercised a political and social control out of all proportion to its actual numbers. Their use of the Masters and Servants Act to try and re-establish a 'proper' relationship between themselves and their employees and their insistence on the right to control the labour market were to remain a constant source of conflict between pastoral employer and pastoral employee.

As the 50s drew to a close, Downs society had largely solidified structurally. Downs squatters modelled themselves on the English landed Gentry and assumed a dominant position within the community. They chose to express this dominance and their hierarchical view of the world through the same forms as were used by the ruling elite in Britain.

Jondaryan Station was a highly-structured and unequal society and exhibited many of the characteristics of a close-knit, ordered and hierarchical rural English village. At the apex of its structure were the lessees, Messrs. Kent and Wienholt, absentee land-lords who paid Jondaryan the occasional supervisory visit. The manager was bound to them by marriage, loyalty and an identity of interest. Below the Management were two further divisions in the Jondaryan community, men and 'others'. In the latter category were women, blacks, exiles, Indian coolies, Chinese and later Polynesians, generally held to be lower in status than the lowest 'men'. From the overseer, the manager's executive, to the lowest blacks, there was a scale of descending status - lower status and remuneration being afforded to lesser occupations within the community. The population could be further broken down into resident, itinerant and contract groups and, within each of these, the skilled and the unskilled.

This structure was bound together by a system of controls, both internal and external. The rewards included promotion and bonuses for work well done. Conversely, there were fines to secure maximum efficiency, payment at the completion of a job was not always assured, and a labourer could be discharged at any time.

The squatters' internal authority was propped up externally by the legal and political system. Just as Downs squatters had brought their 'proper' influence to bear to secure the right type of labour and the right decisions on local benches, so, too, did they use the legislature to retain control of their land. By 1877, Edward Wienholt and the trustees of William Kent were the largest owners of freehold land in Queensland and Jondaryan was the largest freehold run.

Those selectors who overcame squatter resistance in the form of pre-emption, selective purchasing and 'dummying', could not overcome the problem of blocks which could not be profitably cultivated and which were too small to graze. The selectors who were forced to supplement their income by seasonally working for the squatter formed another distinct group in the Jondaryan community.

The Jondaryan 'men' of the late 70s and early 80s formed four distinct labouring groups, each of which occupied a particular place in the Station's social structure and each of which responded differently to the type of control which Jondaryan's management exercised over its employees. These responses ranged from the passive state of intemperance to more direct acts of 'absconding from hired service', arson, theft, attacks on property and person, and striking. The selector/shearers experienced the same sort of control as Jondaryan's resident employees without the countervailing benefits. The Union provided the former with the opportunity of avenging 'old scores'. Of those who withdrew their labour at Jondaryan in 1889, ninety per cent were selectors and their sons.

The Jondaryan 'Affair' of May 1890, whilst basically about the principle of freedom of contract, was the climax of a host of past skirmishes between Jondaryan's management and its employees. The Queensland Shearers' Union insisted that only union labour be employed. Employers insisted on their right to employ whomsoever they liked, be they union or non-union. It was about this principle of freedom of contract and the squatters' right to retain control in their own sheds that Jondaryan, in the heart of 'pure merino' country and one of the largest stations on the Darling Downs, became a test case for the relative strengths of pastoral capital and newly-federated pastoral labour.
Keyword Agricultural laborers -- Queensland -- History
Queensland -- Rural conditions
Additional Notes The author has given permission for this thesis to be made open access.

 
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