Australia’s Military History Pre-Federation
From shortly after white settlement to Federation, Australians have been involved in military activity in many places and for a variety of reasons. Prior to Federation, Australians fought in Australia as well as abroad.
Australia, 1788–1900. Very minor battles took place at Vinegar Hill (against rebelling prisoners) in 1804 and Eureka Stockade (against rebelling miners) in 1854. The Frontier War took place against the Aborigines from soon after settlement to the 1920s.
New Zealand, 1860, 1863‒64. The Victorian ship Victoria served off the coast of New Zealand’s North Island in 1860. Australian volunteers served in locally raised British units in the New Zealand wars along the Waikato River, south of Auckland, during 1863‒64.
Sudan, 1885. New South Wales sent a contingent, under Colonel John Richardson, to assist British forces in Sudan. They saw little action.
Boxer Rebellion, 1900. A naval brigade, consisting of sailors acting as soldiers, from New South Wales and Victoria, served in China.
South Africa, 1899‒1902. As many as 20,000 Australians fought in South Africa against the Boers. Significant battles included Sunnyside, Slingersfontein, Pink Hill, Diamond Hill, Koster River, Eland’s River (all in 1900) and Wilmansrust (a defeat in 1901).