University of Tasmania
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Geographical change in Tasmanian agriculture during the Great Depression

posted on 2023-05-26, 01:59 authored by Kellaway, RG
One indicator of a stagnant economy has been a slow rate of population growth . If Tasmania had been able to retain its natural increase between the first postwar census in 1921 and the second in 1933 , the fmal' population would have been 256,170 . The recorded populatIon was only 227,599 . The difference was a result of out-migration during the 1920s . The flow across Bass Strait was sufficient in one period , 192 3 / 24 to 1 926/27 inclusive , to cancel the natural increase and reduce the population of the state . The poor performance of agriculture was seen as the central factor in the process of economic decline . Report after report condemned farming as backward, inefficient and disorganised and called for a restructuring of the rural economy as the first step in overcoming the state 1 s chronic problems of low incomes and population loss . The initial strategy of agricultural reform was defined by Dr . S . S . Cameron , Director of the Victorian Department of Agriculture . Cameron had been brought to Tasmania in 1 92 5 by the Labour government of J . A . Lyons to examine the deteriorating agricultural situation . He concluded that the principal aim of agricultural development should be to increase the output of commodities that had a proven export record from Australia ( e . g . wool , wheat , lamb , fruit and butter ) or that could be worked up into a profitable export trade such as peas or eggs . Efficiency in production and marketing was to be stressed . Crops that were produced primarily for the domestic market ( potatoes , barley , hops ) were to be reduced . The Department of Agriculture was reorganised and given a mandate to bring Tasmanian agriculture up to the Australian norm . It followed the Cameron plan with the exception that livestock enterprises were favoured over cropping in order to restore fertility to the depleted farmlands of the Northwest Coast and North Midlands . Considerable progress was made along these lines before the rural economy was overcome by the collapse of commodity prices in CX:tober 1 929 . This study has been structured as a developmental narrative . Statistical and archival sources have been brought together to investigate the evolution of farming systems between 1 926/27 and 1 936/ 3 7 . The thesis begins with an overview of the agricultural situation in the mid-1 920s . Agricultural reglons are defined for 1 926/27 usmg both the Weaver method and cluster analysis on derived estimates of net farm income at the municipality level . The body of the thesis examines


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