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Austin, Albert (1834–1916)

by Margaret Caldwell

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 3, (MUP), 1969

Albert Austin (1834-1916), grazier, was born on 1 July 1834 at Baltonsborough, Somerset, England, son of John Austin, farmer, and his wife Eleanor, née Collins. He arrived in Victoria with his brother Benjamin in September 1851 in the 500-ton clipper Brilliant and joined his uncle, Thomas Austin, at Barwon Park, near Geelong, where he had two years of pastoral experience. With help from his uncles he bought Eilyer station, 30,000 acres (12,140 ha) of crown leasehold fully stocked, on the shores of Lake Bolac. On 3 July 1862 he married his cousin Catherine, daughter of Joseph Gardner Mack of Berrybank. They had five sons: Albert Sydney (b.1863), Ernest Gardiner (b.1867), Frank Stanley (b.1868), Arthur John (b.1873) and Harry Lucas (b.1877); and four daughters: Anne Eleanor, Gertrude, Catherine and Nancy.

Austin bought the Kanawalla estate from Thomas McKeller in 1862 in partnership with his brother Benjamin. With William Hose Bullivant he purchased the Longerenong estate near Dooen in 1873 from Sir Samuel Wilson, and the Boriyallock estate of 32,000 acres (12,950 ha) near Skipton. This last property he later sold to his two sons, Ernest and Frank, the former retaining the old homestead and the latter building a new one at Mount Widderin. Austin also owned, in partnership with his brother William, Canoon and Gelam, 137,000 acres (55,442 ha) on the Murrumbidgee River twenty-five miles (40 km) from Hay. He bought and worked Lake Midgeon, a property of 8000 acres (3237 ha) on the river near Narrandera, which he afterwards left to a daughter. Other properties acquired by Austin were Palal near Bingara, Murgha, 42,000 acres (16,997 ha) on the Edward River which he later sold to his younger sons Arthur and Harry, and Bringagee, 85,000 acres (34,399 ha).

His most important and famous property was Wanganella, 46,000 acres (18,616 ha) twenty-five miles (40 km) north-west of Deniliquin, which he bought with his brother-in-law Thomas Millear from Peppin & Sons in 1878 along with half the ordinary stud sheep and all the 'double studs'. When the partnership was dissolved in 1894 the property and sheep were divided by a limited auction between the partners. Austin was the highest bidder and chose the western portion of about 20,000 acres (8094 ha) including the original homestead, and received the right to use the name Wanganella and all the registered brands and earmarks. In 1914 he transferred the property to his sons who formed a limited company. He followed the methods developed by the Peppins when in 1861 they had decided to establish a stud of pure merinos, selected 200 of their best ewes and 100 bred by Nicholas Chadwick of Canally, New South Wales, and sired by an imported Rambouillet ram; these ewes were mated with selected Wanganella rams, the foundation sires being Emperor and Grimes. Many of the registered studs throughout Australia are either founded directly upon, or contain an infusion of, Wanganella blood. Wanganella sheep won great repute and 'Bruni' in pastoral articles in the Australasian repeatedly referred to the value of the strain. At various sheep shows they more than held their own; in 1891 at the Deniliquin show in a £100 challenge for scoured fleeces Austin & Millear won the first four places against some twenty competitors.

Austin was a very keen businessman and a sound judge of sheep. From 1898 to 1916 he was on the Melbourne board of advice of the Australian Mercantile, Land and Finance Co. On the foundation of the Pastoralists Association of Victoria and the Southern Riverina he was elected the first president, holding office through the difficult years in 1890-97 and was vice-president in 1899-1902. He was also chairman of the Deniliquin Freezing Co. In 1888 when his sons were attending Melbourne Grammar School he built a family home, Eilyer, in Albany Road, Toorak. There he died on 11 June 1916, survived by his wife, four sons and four daughters. His estate was valued at more than £61,000.

Select Bibliography

  • ‘Wanganella: The Property of Mr. Albert Austin’, The Pastoral Homes of Australia (New South Wales) (Melb, 1910), pp 1-15
  • E. J. Brady, Australia Unlimited (Melb, 1918)
  • Mrs R. A. Austin, ‘The Austin Family in Australia’, Victorian Historical Magazine, vol 36, no 3, Aug 1965, pp 78-96
  • Age (Melbourne), 12 June 1916
  • Argus (Melbourne), 12 June 1916
  • J. S. Gale, ‘Famous Merino Studs. The History of Wanganella’, New Nation Magazine, 15 Jan 1935, p 34.

Citation details

Margaret Caldwell, 'Austin, Albert (1834–1916)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/austin-albert-39/text4189, published first in hardcopy 1969, accessed online 21 October 2018.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 3, (MUP), 1969

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