University of Tasmania
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Stage-coach enterprises in Van Diemen's Land and Tasmania

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posted on 2023-05-27, 10:36 authored by Walker, S
From 1820, increased settler movement into Van Diemen's Land prompted the need for improved communications; but small population numbers and high commercial risk factors discouraged the establishment of inland passenger transport enterprises. After 1830, population growth near the two main towns, and the colonial Post Office's evolving inland communications route structure, encouraged transport infrastructure and stage-coach enterprise development, as physical and financial security became more assured. ‚ÄövÑvâ The financially constrained colonial government, transitioning from penal, through self-governing colony to federation, was reluctant to operate businesses where private enterprise might provide the means. Instead, where possible, it subsidised construction, contracted for services, devolved responsibility to local communities, and enacted a comprehensive body of legislation to achieve these ends. Government and stage-coach enterprises alike faced commercial uncertainty caused by economic depressions, the high cost of capital, a reduction in wages, and from outflows of free citizens. Adjustment was necessary following the introduction of steam-powered ferries, the electric telegraph and the railways; population growth was slow and only the opening of new mines increased the potential passenger transport market. The skills required by managers within a convict/free settler society in the face of such economic, financial, legal, social, and workforce uncertainty and complexity were considerable. Yet settlers with capital were primarily interested in land acquisition, and not in service industries. Therefore, stage-coach entrepreneurs were drawn from a free-settler, lower socio-economic group, or from convict expirees with limited business skills, and insolvency was a constant risk. Monopoly of both the route and the logistic support chain was a perceived means towards viability, but was unpopular with government and the press. The large numbers of confident and energetic, yet ordinary, men and women within the stage-coach enterprises, served their communities, and made a considerable contribution to the island's social development, inclusion and capital, and to its economy; yet they are historiographically unnoticed.


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