Pioneering Families of Australia

gumtree3 outback



Elisabeth Marhaine (or Kuster) a young women (21) from Salzgitter near Hanover who embarked alone to migrate to a land where she didn't even speak the language!  On the voyage she met up with a group of musicians - the Diedrich family, 3 brothers and the wife of one.  Little is known of her life immediately after arrival in Sydney in 1855 but we do know she had a daughter, Johanna and then married Christian Diedrich in Melbourne in 1856.  Soon after they moved to the Goldfields, and over the next 10 years Elisabeth gave birth to another 9 children, at least one of these died soon after birth.  Birth records for one of the children (Louisa, known as Clara) give Elisabeth's husband Christian's occupation as Publican.    Spirit selling was strictly prohibited and although the Government would license a respectable public house on the road, it was resolutely refused on the diggings.  The result was the sly grog house.  We will never know if Elisabeth and Christian ran a respectable house, or a sly grog place as depicted below.

Past Carin’



...  Through Death and Trouble, turn about,

Through hopeless desolation,

Through flood and fever, fire and drought,

And slavery and starvation;

Through childbirth, sickness, hurt, and blight,

And nervousness an' scarin',

Through bein' left alone at night,

I've got to be past carin'.


Past botherin' or carin',

Past feelin' and past carin';

Through city cheats and neighbours' spite,

I've come to be past carin'.


Our first child took, in days like these,

A cruel week in dyin',

All day upon her father's knees,

Or on my poor breast lyin';

The tears we shed -- the prayers we said

Were awful, wild -- despairin'!

I've pulled three through, and buried two

Since then -- and I'm past carin'...


Henry Lawson

iron cottage

Marion Robertson -   Marion arrived in Van Diemen's Land (Tasmania) in 1833 but in 1837 the family was persuaded to have a look at land in the Port Phillip area, the fledgling town of Melbourne, the family was one of the first to take up land in Melbourne when land in Collins Street near Elizabeth Street, was purchased for a home.    However in 1839 the family moved to the Gisborne area wherein the property Wooling was established.


In about 1905 Marion's daughter Lillias was interviewed by a newspaper reporter and described the family's arrival in Melbourne in 1837  "we came up the Yarra, and the passengers were carried ashore by blackfellows, who had to wade through a sea of mud.  When we arrived in Melbourne there was nothing but tents and wattle and daub huts.  Water was scarce and vegetables were a luxury only to be purchased by a few.  We were natives of Edinburgh and colonial life was a great change from what we had been accustomed to.  The heat and mosquitoes were almost unbearable.  I've never felt them so bad since.  There were no sanitary laws;  consequently fever was prevalent in the camps.  When we got settled, I and some other members of the family were sent to school - the Scotch College.  It was a mixed school in those days.  After about two years in Melbourne we moved to Wooling".  McGilchrist claims there were some inaccuracies but in general the report is interesting.  Lillias also claimed at the time (1905)  that she was the oldest surviving settler.

Margaret Molloy (nee Derum) married John Molloy in Ireland in 1853 and gave birth to Mary in 1855 in Melbourne.  We know that Mary died soon after birth but we do not know if Mary was the first child the Molloy's had as I am yet to find a record of them arriving in Australia.  This family it would seem did not go to the Goldfields as the next 7 children were all born in Melbourne.  But Melbourne in the 1850's was a vastly different place to the magnificent city it is today.  Much of the city was made of canvas to house the thousands of migrants who were pouring in from all around the world.  Many were assisted  migrants and therefore indentured to an employer but the majority were unassisted, whose families had scraped together the fare in the hope that a better life could be had.   Houses were made of tin or weatherboard with a wood stove in the corner, earthen floors and no privacy, often a family of up to 10 children were reared within.



The European woman in a long layered dress in the Australian landscape has become one of the iconic images of Australian folklore.


These brave and resourceful women encountered conditions which would test their resilience and resourcefulness to the utmost: relentless heat, dust and isolation; and no doctors. Many women lived in wooden huts or tin sheds with earthen floors, cooked on wood-fired stoves, and knew nothing of even the basic domestic appliances we have today.


Women have been an influential and hardworking part of Australia since the first fleet landed. They shaped and created Australia’s rural towns just as much as men did, working alongside them in the goldfields and on the farms, managing homes and businesses, raising children and educating families.  


The reality of life in colonial Australia often meant that upper class women had to perform physical labour and hard work for which they were ill prepared.  Women of social standing found themselves in the harsh, surrounds of outback Australia where they frequently struggled to build lives for themselves and their families.


Henry Lawson’s The Drover’s Wife is a short story that tells of the lonely, exhausting and dangerous existence of a woman whose husband has gone droving. She is left alone in a remote bush hut with her children, waiting months for his return. During his absence she endures floods and bushfires, threatens swagmen who try to take advantage of her situation, nurses her sick and dying children and fights off frequent snake attacks.  If you have never read it, you are not Australian!

Their story is part of legend ....



My Country



....  I love a sunburnt country,

A land of sweeping plains,

Of ragged mountain ranges,

Of droughts and flooding rains.

I love her far horizons,

I love her jewel-sea,

Her beauty and her terror -

The wide brown land for me!


A stark white ring-barked forest

All tragic to the moon,

The sapphire-misted mountains,

The hot gold hush of noon.

Green tangle of the brushes,

Where lithe lianas coil,

And orchids deck the tree-tops

And ferns the warm dark soil.


Core of my heart, my country!

Her pitiless blue sky,

When sick at heart, around us,

We see the cattle die-

But then the grey clouds gather,

And we can bless again

The drumming of an army,

The steady, soaking rain. .....


Dorothea Mackellar





They left the vine-wreathed cottage and the mansion on the hill,

The houses in the busy streets where life is never still,

The pleasures of the city, and the friends they cherished best;

For love they faced the wilderness - the Women of the West.

The roar, and rush, and fever of the city died away,

And the old-time joys and faces-they were gone for many a day,

In their place the lurching coach-wheel, or the creaking bullock-chains,

O'er the everlasting sameness of the never-ending plains.

In the slab-built, zinc-roofed homestead of some lately taken run,

In the tent beside the bankment of a railway just begun,

In the huts on new selections, in the camps of man's unrest,

On the frontiers of the Nation, live the Women of the West.



The red sun robs their beauty and, in weariness and pain,

The slow years steal the nameless grace that never comes again;

And there are hours men cannot soothe, and words men cannot say -

The nearest woman's face may be a hundred miles away.

The wide bush holds the secrets of their longing and desire,

When the white stars in reverence light their holy altar fires,

And silence, like the touch of God, sinks deep into the breast-

Perchance He hears and understands the Women of the West.

Well have we held our father's creed. No call has passed us by.

We faced and fought the wilderness, we sent our sons to die.

And we have hearts to do and dare, and yet, o'er all the rest,

The hearts that made the Nation were the Women of the West.

But of course not all pioneering women lived in the outback, many had to endure the slums of our fledgling cities.


The Centenary Gift Book published in 1934 says of Marion Robertson:


"In 1840 Mrs Robertson journeyed up the rough track from Melbourne by bullock dray and settled in the little house her husband had built on the edge of the dreaded Black Forest.  She got on splendidly with the Macedon blacks, who are said to have been fierce and warlike, and particularly befriended two old gins who were always about the place.  Of an intensely kind and generous nature, she thought nothing of riding miles to help a woman in time of trouble and many babies had their first bath at her gentle hands.  Her house was always open to the sick and tired".