Thursday, February 19, 2009

Was your ancestor a Postie? - 200 years of Australia Post

This year 2009, marks 200 years of the postal service in Australia.

The postal service officially began on 25 April 1809 when a former convict, Issac Nichols was appointed the first Postmaster of New South Wales.

His task was to co-ordinate all mail coming into the colony. He set up Australi's first post office at his home in George Street, Sydney and advertised the names of all mail recipients in the Sydney Gazette. Settlers could collect their letters from Nichols' home for a fixed price of one shilling per letter, with parcels costing more depending on weight.

Upon Nichols' death on 8 November 1819, George Panton was appointed second Postmaster of New South Wales. He also held the office of Wharffinger, transacting both his duties from a small building on Kings Wharf until March 1828 when accommodation was provided for postal work in a small office in Bent Street.

In 1825, the NSW Legislative Council passed the first postal Act giving the government control of the colony's postal services. The Post Offce in New South Wales was officially established as government department in March 1828. On 8 March, George Panton was appointed Principal Postmaster.

He appointed appointed his private servant as the colony's first postman in 1828. From that time, letter carriers as they were known distributed mail in Sydney.

Mail routes out of Sydney were established and more postmasters were appointed. By 1828, regular daily horseback deliveries had begun operating from Sydney to Parramatta and Liverpool; a twice weekly service ran to Windsor and Campbelltown and a weekly service from carried mail to Penrith and Bathurst. There was also a twice weekly mail service by ship between Sydney and Newcastle.

As the colony grew, post offices sprang up and the postal service became a vital cog in the wheel of opening up overland routes for the mail and providing a means for people to communicate and receive supplies.

Because of the distances involved in the distribiton of mail, the Government of New South Wales required the services of thousands of contractors to deliver mail services. Often it was the mail contractor who forged the route through an inhospitable countryside.

History Services NSW has compiled a database of over 12,000 contracts awarded by the Government of New South Wales to persons to provide specific mail services for the period 1835 to 1901. For more information go to:

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