“In 1836, Melbourne had a population of 177: In 1836, the whole population of the region – then called Port Phillip District – and now called Victoria, was 177. In 1851, the entire colony had 77,345 inhabitants. Then, gold was found, and it is now computed that the numbers are very little short of 800,000. In 1872 they amounted to 765,240”.
Anthony Trollope, in The Tireless Traveler: Twenty Letters to the Liverpool Mercury, in 1875, reported on an eight-month round-the world-Trip. “When the last census was taken, Melbourne, with its suburbs, contained 206,780 inhabitants; and in saying this it is fair to remark at the same time that the suburbs of Melbourne are so completely a part of the town that, except for municipal purposes, there is no division. Montreal—which is, I think, the largest town in our colonial empire outside of Australia—contained in the same year 107,225 souls. I make the contrast that I may the more readily bring home to the reader’s mind the amazingly rapid growth of a town which 40 years ago had no existence at all, and which as a city has been but 25 years in growing.
In forty years grew to “great town” : “Melbourne has become a great town, by far the greatest congregation of British human beings outside the British Isles. It will be observed that it contains above a quarter of the population of the entire colony—a population which is excessive, and, as far as the evidence goes, tells badly for the agricultural interests. Men prefer to live where they can be engaged in manipulating the production of others rather than in producing themselves. Consequently, though large districts of Victoria are capable of growing wheat, she is driven to import grain. But there they are, these 200,000 human beings, eating and drinking and enjoying life. Very little poverty meets the eye. Three years ago I saw no street beggars. On the present occasion one or two have asked me for money, but even these have had about them a look of colonial well-being.
Wages in Melbourne in 1875: “Artisans in Melbourne, such as masons, bricklayers, and carpenters, now earn from 8s. to 10s. a-day. Twenty years ago they were earning from 20s. to 30s. But 20 years ago everything in Melbourne was so dear that the man’s condition was hardly better than it is now. Men-servants, such as grooms and gardeners, are earning from £40 to £50 per annum, with board and lodging. A plain cook receives from £30 to £40—other maid-servants from £25 to £35 per annum. Farm labourers through the colony are paid from 15s. to 20s. a-week, with their rations. A shepherd, whose work is supposed to be the lowest class of work, gets from £25 to £35 per annum, with rations. In shearing time, the shearers of sheep will earn from 12s. to 15s. a hundred; and as he will shear, on an average, 350 sheep a-week, he will receive from something under 40s. to something over 50s. a-week. But shearing is skilled labour; it lasts but from ten to twelve weeks in the year; and the shearer finds his own provisions.
Food costs in Melbourne in 1875: The value of money wages is, however, only relative, and depends on the cost of provisions. In Melbourne, butchers’ meat ranges from 3d.to 7d. per lb. In country towns it is cheaper—say from 2d. to 5d. Bread is nearly the same as in England, the difference, if there be a difference, being in favour of the colony. Clothes, upon which protective duties are levied, are somewhat dearer in Victoria than at home. Fuel, if purchased, is dearer in the towns, coals running in Melbourne from 30s. to 35s. a ton; but the climate requires but little fire, and in the country wood is cheap”.
Trollope, Anthony. The Tireless Traveler: Twenty Letters to the Liverpool Mercury. Berkeley: University of California Press, [1978,c1941] 1978. http://ark.cdlib.org/ark:/13030/ft1d5nb0hv/