Children At Work

31) Boy Panning for Gold

Colony or Mother Country Work Environment

A Child's Life in Colonial Australia was a bit better than in post industrial revolution England.

Families living in extreme poverty in mother England would send their children into the workforce where they worked inhuman hours. Until the early 20th century, children suffered terribly cruel treatment, with attendant health and nutrition issues. Children worked in mills, factories and mines as scavengers or beasts of burden. Those that stayed home especially in rural areas also worked hard, either on the farms or in the house.


In Australia the children like their parents either had a harsh existence, where everyone had to work hard for the family to survive, or they had a privileged existence of the wealthy. Children today have expectations of a life more similar to that of the wealthy in the past. Wealthy families had servants to do the work both in the house and gardens and on the farms,

Early settlers  in the struggling colony were desperately short of labour. They relied on the labour of convicted and neglected children.   Children from the poorest  levels of  society were often placed in institutions, where they were taught how to be a useful. However the conditions were not as terrible as most of those in post industrial revolution England.

Children's Chores

Chores that needed to be done were the fetching and carrying of water from the well or river. Washing the dishes, assisting with the weekly laundry wash, gathering wood, most poor settler families would have a few animals and a poultry run.  Each day, children had to feed the   hens and gather the eggs, milk the cow and bottle feed poddy lambs. If the lot was big enough they would be expected to wield a hoe to chip weeds, or swing a scythe (mowing). Girls were taught to knit and sew, wash and iron clothes, cook and clean and make beds as well as mother their younger brothers and sister. Seasonal farm work would add to their load as they had to help with sowing the crops, and harvesting them.  Boys were taught to chop and saw wood, tend the animals and get involved with all construction and farm work.