There was a serious shortage of coins throughout the British Empire in the late 1700s which led to the development of a vigorous barter system in the colony of New South Wales. Being highly sought after, storable, transportable, and easy to divide into different size portions, imported rum became the most accepted currency. In 1793 the enterprising NSW Army Corps saw the opportunity to purchase all the rum as it arrived giving them control of Australia’s first currency and thus becoming known as ‘The Rum Corps’.

Governor Bligh and The Rum Rebellion
William Bligh, who does not drink, arrived in NSW in 1806 and immediately set about to curb the use of Rum as a currency and to limit the power of existing and past members of the Rum Corps. Naturally this met with resistance from The Corps and from the wealthiest man in the colony, John Macarthur. After more than a year of power-play Macarthur and the Rum Corps prevail. Bligh is deposed of office exactly 20 years after the establishment of the colony. It is the only military insurrection in Australia’s history.

The Holey Dollar
In 1813 the new Governor Lachlan Macquarie ordered that 40,000 Spanish Dollars be punched making a small coin which became known as ‘The Dump’ and a larger one which was called ‘The Holey Dollar’.  The Holey Dollar and The Dump soon replaced rum as the currency of the colony and remained in circulation for the next 13 years.

Birth of the Australian Spirit
The first white Australians suffered hardships that are unimaginable to us these days.  Settlers were tough, determined and resourceful.  The class based society of 18th century Britain did not work in a new country where everyone had to pull their weight. There was no place for bludgers and respect became something that had to be earned.  Whether arriving as convicts, free settlers, or part of the military, all had to work together if they were to succeed. This was the beginning of the distinctly Australian concept of mateship which today unifies all those who have a fair go regardless of their backgrounds. 
Send to friend