Background to Indian migration
Few Indians arrived and settled in the colony of NSW in the first half of the 19th century. Most were labourers who returned to India once they had completed their contracts. A small number of convicts were transported to NSW from India, including David Cusshon, who was tried at Bombay in 1828. The majority of convicts transported from India were tried by military courts.
In 1816 William Browne brought nine Indian workers to Sydney and they were probably one of the earliest Indian non-convict arrivals. According to the 1828 Census, there were at least two earlier ‘free’ arrivals — Rhamut on the Favourite in 1808 and William Boxo who arrived from Calcutta in 1809 on the Mary Ann.
Recruitment of Indian labourers
As British settlers migrated to the colony from India, the practice of recruiting Indian labourers to work in NSW continued into the late 1830s and 1840s. John Mackay was among those who advocated recruiting Indian labourers to work in NSW. The Legislative Council’s Report of the Committee on Immigration of Indian and British Labourers into NSW (25 August 1837) recommended public support for the introduction of ‘Asiatic’ labourers. However the proposal did not have Governor Bourke’s support and did not proceed.
John Mackay went ahead with private arrangements to recruit Indian labourers and in December 1837 brought 42 Indian labourers from Calcutta on the Peter Proctor. It appears that the labourers, who were ‘distributed’ to various employers, were dissatisfied with their working conditions and took their complaints to the Sydney Bench of Magistrates.
In 1838 the Indian Government ‘prohibited contract emigration from its territories although small numbers of workers continued to arrive in NSW in the 1840s and 1850s’.
East Indian Emigration
Sir William Burton, a former NSW Supreme Court Judge, and Puisne Judge in Madras from 1844, supported the emigration of young Indians to Sydney. He organised two groups of immigrants (mainly Anglo-Indians) from Madras. They arrived on the William Prowse (21 February 1853) and the Palmyra (8 November 1854). Under the Southern Cross (published in 1880) by Henry Cornish includes a survey of the results of this scheme.
The Colonial Secretary’s Minutes and Memoranda contain the correspondence relating to the East Indian Emigration Society (Minutes and Memoranda in M12724 in [4/1052]). The list of those who arrived on the William Prowse and the Palmyra can be checked by the name of the vessel in the Index to assisted immigration, 1844–59, available on our website.
A scheme for the employment of orphans from Madras and Bengal was adopted by the NSW Government in 1838. The first group of 'Indian' orphans (7 boys) arrived on February 1841 on the Sesostis , with the passage paid by the East India Company's Marine Board. There were subsequent arrivals of other orphans, including girls entering domestic service.
In the second half of the 19th century the number of Indian-born settlers in NSW began to increase although it was low in comparison with European settlers — 1,800 in 1891 and 1,663 in 1901.
Indian settlers worked as agricultural labourers, hawkers and pedlars, often settling in regional centres. Woolgoolga on the northern coast of NSW is one of the largest rural communities of Indians in the country. The Commonwealth Immigration Restriction Act of 1901 effectively ended Indian immigration to NSW until the late 1950s.
Immigration policy began to change with the 1957 decision to allow non-Europeans with 15 years residence in Australia to become Australian citizens. Restrictions on ‘non-European’ immigration were further reduced after the review of the policy in 1966. New immigration policies and programs were adopted in 1978.
Specific records relating to Indians
 James Jupp, The Australian People: An Encyclopaedia of the Nation. Its People and their Origins, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2001, p. 427.
 ibid., p. 427.
 R B Madgwick, Immigration into Eastern Australia, 1788–1851, Sydney University Press, Sydney, 1937, p. 238.
 Alan Dwight, The use of Indian labourers in New South Wales Journal of the Royal Australian Historical Society, Vol 62 pt 2, September 1976, p. 121.
 The Australian Encyclopaedia, 2nd ed., Vol V, Angus and Robertson, Sydney, 1957, p.78.
 Henry Cornish, Under the Southern Cross, Penguin Books, England, 1880 (reprinted 1975), p. 305–6.
 , COD 41.
 Suzanne Rickard, Lifelines from Calcutta, India, China, Australia Trade and Society, 1788-1850, Sydney, Historic Houses Trust of New South Wales, 2003, p.86-7.
 T.A. Coghlan, Reports on the 1891 and 1901 Census
 Hunter to Portland, No. 58, 20 March 1800. HRA, Ser 1,vol II, pp. 475–6