Caroline Chisholm wrote this letter to the Victorian government in 1854. It proposes the construction of 10 shelter sheds along the route from Melbourne to the Castlemaine diggings, to provide affordable accommodation, especially for families with women and children. Chisholm did indeed succeed in persuading the government to erect the shelter sheds.
Letter fromCaroline Chisholm to the Chief Secretary's Department, 15 November 1854; Public Record Office Victoria, Victorian Archives CentreFirst ladies: finding women in Public Record Office Victoria, 2004, http://www.womenaustralia.info/exhib/fl/firstladies.htm. Details.
Having lately returned from the Bendigo Simpson's and Castlemaine Diggings, I beg to call your Excellency's attention to the great want of accommodation along the line of Road for the wives and families of Diggers, as well as all newly arrived Immigrants who may wish to make their way into the interior in search of more profitable employment than they can find in Melbourne. Good and respectable Hotels are to be met with along the line of the road, and considering the enormous rents they pay, their charges may be considered moderate, viz. Beds 5/- & 4/- Breakfast's 4/- Dinner's 4/ & 5/- Tea 4/-, still such rates are not within the means of second class Travellers, and men in search of work, - Refreshment Tents are freely sprinkled along the line of road where at 3/- per meal travellers can be accommodated, and although Beds can be had at 2/6 & 3/-, I doubt very much whether a family of young children would be willingly received.
Bread can be purchased every few miles at from 2/- to 3/- the 4 lb loaf. Fine mutton from /2 to 8d. per lb consequently at these rates for all articles of consumption, Families could provide themselves with meals at the rate of 9d. or 1/-.
If some more reasonable mode were adopted to bring the road expenses, with regard to night shelter, within the range of a working man's means, we should not have so many wives and families left as they are now unprotected, or hear complaints from the unemployed walking the streets of Melbourne.
I propose therefore to attempt to remedy this evil by establishing respectable Homes along the line of Road where for 1/- per night Beds could be procured by Travellers and for 2d. each meal they should have conveniences for cooking, the use of crockery and a sheltered place for taking their meals seperate [sic] from their Bed rooms. These Encampments I would propose to have at such distances from each other that females could walk from one to the other without fatigue as I hold it to be a matter of great importance not to exhaust the system or energies of the Travellers by over fatigue, sufferings, and other privations along the line of the road.
I beg to call Your Excellency's attention to the fact that the establishment of such resting places would not immediately interfere with any established interest along the line of road, as the parties for whom I am desirous to procure cheap and respectable accommodation either sleep in the Bush or are deterred from going into the country by the difficulties attending a journey.
These Shelter places I propose to establish on self supporting principles, securing from the profits increased comforts for the people and an extension of the system throughout the country.
The first difficulties in establishing such a system of dispersion being great, I have the honor to request Your Excellency will sanction the loan of some tents to aid me in the undertaking - the same to be returned when required for the public service, also permission to occupy Crown lands for such a purpose without charge.
It is perhaps right that I should very clearly state that I do not mean to recommend that stores for the sale of goods should be kept up at these Establishments, further than that parties should be supplied with Hot & Cold Water, Soap and Candles.
I propose to raise the Funds by Subscription, every subscriber to be entitled to receive 20 tickets of accommodation for one pound, Subscribers of five shillings five tickets.
I beg most respectfully to call your attention to the Tax on Immigrants of 5/- on landing, and would suggest that purchases of tickets could be made from that Fund and given by the Immigration Agents to such persons as may wish to push their way into the interior.