Friday, 2 January 2015

Government Labour Settlement at Pitt Town

On the outskirts of Pitt Town is Nelson Common, it was established by Governor King in 1804 for settlers to use for grazing stock. One of several commons in the Hawkesbury district, it covered an area of over 2,000 hectares and later became known as the Pitt Town Common. 

In the early 1890s, part of Pitt Town Common was set aside as a Government Labour Settlement or Camp. Set up on 930 hectares, the settlement enabled the breadwinners of selected families during the 1890s depression, an alternative lifestyle operating along the lines of a co-operative or commune. By 1894 over 500 residents were living onsite; however it was disbanded after only a few years. 

Windsor & Richmond Gazette 30 September 1893 p. 5 

In 1894 the local newspaper reported that, "Close upon 600 men, women, and children are now located on the Pitt Town Labour Settlement, the men all industrious and hard-working beings, compelled through stress of bad times and absolute lack of employment to seek to make homes for themselves under new and altered conditions." The powers to be did not have the means to provide the inhabitants with clothing, in light of winter coming, so the media appealed to the community for help. The editorial stated,"It is not too much to ask that those who have been more favoured by Fortune should lend a hand in a good cause, and assist in rendering the lot of men, women, and children brighter and happier than will otherwise be the case."

In 1896 the site was converted to a Casual Labour Farm, this time the aim was to house unemployed men, in return for their upkeep. The local newspaper recorded the object of the farm was 'to enable men who could not obtain employment though ill put in a few weeks of comparatively light labour under wholesome conditions. They must all work but the work is to be suited to the strength and capacities of the men'. The chores consisted of light manual duties around the farm including the cutting of firewood. The number of men living and working on the farm peaked around 1907 with about fifty men and twenty boys recorded. Again this operation was short-lived and by 1910, the Labour Farm had ceased to operate.

The site was then set up as the Government Agricultural Training Farm in 1910 and named Scheyville, closing in the 1930s. For more information about the farm see the Scheyville Government Agricultural Training Farm post. In later years the site was used as a Migrant Accommodation Centre (1949-1964) for those wishing to settle in Australia after WW2. Then an Officer Training Unit during the late 1960s. National Servicemen were trained as part of their deployment in the Vietnam War. 

Over the last forty years the site at Scheyville has been used for a wide range of purposes including the accommodation for the Hawkesbury Agricultural College, now the University of Western Sydney - Richmond campus. There were also proposals for the site in the 1980s for a prison complex, an airport, rubbish tip and a residential development. In 1996 the Scheyville National Park covering over 920 hectares was established to conserve the fragile environment of this area. 

No comments:

Post a Comment