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By. J. S. .C. ELKINGTON, M.D., D.P.H. CHIEF Health OfficerTasmania fnrincvly

of th<: ImpRi-ifil Plai-qti Resi-arch Laboratory Bombay.

[Printed by order of the Common-

weal t Ii Senate.]

I.-WHAT is Tropical Australia % No question of labour economics can be here dealt with. I hold no biief for

any particulir political view or theory, and desire merely to reasonably discuss the physical possibility of a consider^ able white population working and thriving in Tropic ii Australia under an enlii»htened and piogr^ssive Admin- istration, as well as to indicate certain difficulties which appear to lie in the way of successful colonisation, and the manner in which they may be met. Before doing so it may he advisable to briefly consider certain facts, and a very few figures, bearing upon the country

under consideration.

. Tropical "Australia, comprises rather

more than one-third of the entire Com- monwealth territory.- One-half of Queensland, 523,620 square miles or the Northern Territory, and the north- western divisions of Western Australia, are included, totalling in all some 1,145,000 square miles. Much of it yet remains to be opened up, but enonah is known to justify bright anti- cipations of its commercial future. The mines of Chillagoe and Charters Towers testify to the existence of mineral wealth in the East, and the mineral deposits which are known to exist in the Northern Territory and the Kin»

berley district have not yet been faiily investigated. Sufficient reliable physi- cal cartography has baen carried out in Northern Australia to effectively dis- pose of the old idea that the Northern Territory is purely a vast mangrove flat,

and the remainder an arid waste of sand

ator near sea-level.Elevation materially modifies climate, and the bieezy table- lands of eastern North Queensland at least afford for many months of the year as " bracing'*' an atmosphere as can be found anywhere in the "world. -

Drought is a rare phenomenon in tho »nonsoonal area, and the great northern rivers testify to the abund- ance and regularity of the annual re-

vivification from this cause. These also afford waterways for considerable distances into the interior, and drain extensive areas- of good pastoral country. The Victoria River, for in- stance, is stated to be navigable for ships of any size for over 50"miles, and the Roper for some 90 miles. The Gilbert, Flinders, McArthur, Daly, and Fitzroy, are amongst other large stream?, whose basins are stated to contain extensive areas of good pastoril land. Very large cattle runs ha*»c been taken up, and in the first six months of 1904 some £500,000 worth of cattle were exported from the Nor- thern Territory alone. Where good pastoral land is plentiful in a well watered country, it may be reasonably concluded tint good agricultural land

is not absent.

Itjs already known that the finest quality of cotton can be produced in parts of Tropical Australia, and al- though cotton is now held to be a "peasant crop," the problem of a mec- hanical picker may not always remain unsolved- The cultivation of tobacco, maize, dates, quinine, spices, opium, and other profitable vegetable products appears to require only the necessary population; The extension of pastoral and farming pursuits, as, for instance,

in the direction of breeding goats for hi ea and mohair, the raising of poultry a; d eggs, and dairying for export, would seem to be capable of extensive and profitable developments. The breeding of Indian remounts of a kind particularly fitted for the , Indian clin«ate does not appear to have been attempted on a large scale.

These brief indications cover but a

few of the possibilities now hidden in an undeveloped country. It is by no means an earthly paradise, but neither is it a fever-smitten jungle, as some would have us believe. It already parts a fairly considerable .white population, who do not appear to be degeneiating, despite the reck- lessness aud ignorance so often dis- played in relation to personal health and habits. Although the numbers are too small, and the age and sex dis- tribution too uneven to permit any solid

conclusion to be drawn from the statis-

tical records of the Northern Territory, or North-West Australia, those of the more evenly settled districts of tropical Queensland conipaVe- excellently well with »ion-tropical places.




Granting, then, that over a third of Australia is situated within the tropics, that the territory so included presents a great variety of local conditions, and appears to be capable of supporting a

number of varied and lucrative indus-

tries, it is worth while considering in some detail the objections which may be raised to its occupation by a work- ing white population. The magic word "climate'' at once leaps to the lips of the lay controversialist, and but too often obscures the judgment of the

medical observer. Around this word h has been woven a tissue of incorrect ti

inferences, of superstitions, and of pre- n j uri ices. oi

Modern army experience shews that pi

with the formulation and observation ol

of sanitary laws, and the adoption of a se more reasonable manner of living, the in sickness and mortality of European ai soldiers has steadily decreased, until in tr, some of the very stations which in for- tr mer ysnrs were most dreaded (e.g, oi Trinidad an<J Barbadoes), they are st actually lass than on home service in he years in which there is no yellow fever. ie Cinco these observations weie made, ', A

the Americans ha\e taught 'us - that yellow fever is a preventible accident, even more manageable than malaria.

The efieci of tropical diseases upon European children will be later con- sidered. Personal experience - -and observation alike go to show, however, that the whole question of healthy European life in low lititudes hinges p>*iucipelly upon domestic and personal environment and habits, and that

¡climate pure and simple may be largely J ' discounted.

' Tropical diseases are closely as-

sociated wjth climate in the popular mind as mysterious horrors always ready to pounce upon the unwary in- truder between Lititudes 23 degrees 28 minutes N. and S,

But Malaria ranges from the sub Arciic zone to the Kquator, and is but recently extinct in the British Isles. In parts of Italy it is still a scourge, but, generally speaking, agriculture is the relentless enemy of malaria.

On the other hapd, certain notable diseases of Europeans in temperate climates are almost or wholly absent from the tropics. Diphtheria and scarlet fever are amongst these. .- With rational domestic environment, the ravages of tuberculosis, greatest of all disease scourges amongst civilized races, may be reduced, or even abolished, in tropical latitudes, owing to the in-

creased amount of-fresh air and sun-

light, and the lessened exposure to house dust. Typhoid fever, however, becomes accentuated in tropical localities, once introduced, and in European troops in India forms "the most prolific source of sickness and death." . ,

Tropical conditions may, and will,

accentuate and increase the results of

errors or offences against hygienic laws,

but no burden of imminent or unavoid-

able- disease is laid of necessity upon the white resident of the-tropics.

Impure water; improper food, and general negb-ct of the rules of health will produce much the same ultimate effect, whether the victim resides m Melbourne or Palmerston. The mea- sures which we now know how to direct against transmissible disease, whether for its prevention or its limita- tion and , extinction, . can be, and habitually are, employed with the same certainty and directness in tro- pical climates as in temperate ones. '

The degeneration of the progeny of white races in the tropics has been fre quently discussed. Three principal arguments have been advanced in its favour, iiDmely, climate, disease, and

mixture and association with coloured races. It has been sometimes stated

by extremists that children hegotten and born of European parents in a tro- pical climate tend to be deficient in me.nt-il or physical stuuimt from their birth. The long roll of famous 'Eng- lishmen from Thackeray onward, born in India, should go far to disprove any such assertion, and the strong heredi- tary tendencies shown in the Indian Army and the Medical and Civil Ser- vices should clinch the- question were serious proof needed. Even the short history of tropical Queensland can con- tribute its little quota of instances against the doctrine.

To sum up, the principal difficulties to be met in establishing a permanent white population in tropical Australia will, have to be created by the people themselves. Climate forms, by itself, but an exploded argument; specific diseas» s can be effectively dealt with by a properly skilled sanitary organiza- tion, and the absence of a numerous or settled coloured population is cal- culated to greatly simplify the whole problem. The development of the national common, sense will no doubt take time and in the event of any de- liberate attempt at tropical coloniza- tion, the "hygienic education- of new- comers, and ptrticul-irly of their womenkind,# will require to be care- fully and resolutely undertaken.


Any scheme for the colonization of the tropics will require to take into

account the fact that infectious dis-

eased form but a part of the responsi- bility, and that every reasonable at- tempt must be resolutely made from the commencement to exclude, check, and suppress all forms of. preventible


The exclusion of disease does not, however, complete the .undertaking.

The construction of houses- and build-

ings must be carried out in a manner befitting local conditions, and not on the lines obtaining in cold or temperate latitudes. Dwelling-houses should, for instance, be carried on supports well off the ground, and a total disregard paid to "draughts" in the construction of the rooms. The walls should stop short 6 inches or so below the roof

level, only the requisite props being carried thron h this spice, save in the coolest localities. Roofs should be of thatch or porous tile, if obtainable. Iron roofs should be done away with as far as possible, but if they nin&t be used, should be made double, with a space of at least l8 inches between, open to the air on each side. Ver- andahs are indispensable for shading the walls, and should be never less than 8 feet *wide. Trees and dense shrubs should be cleared away from the house. A free air supply, with protec- tion from the sun and ground air, are the principal objects to be aimed at, and by the issue of simple lithographed type-plans containing practical hints on

construction and on the utilizition of local material, useful assistance could be affordfd to newcomers.

The elementary principles of tropical hygiene, including such matters as the methods of self-protection against malaria, the danger of impure water, of excessive use of alcohol, and of im- proper diet, the care of children, and other questions of domestic and per- sonal hygiene, will need to be clearly indicated in simple, practical language, and reiterated as occasion or oppor- tunity arises. The sanitation of cen- tres of population, whether temporary or permanent, will necessitate very strict regulation and supervision. The hours of work should not be those of

temperate climates, and in tiopical Australia, as in tropical countries else

when«, must be adapted to suit the meteorological conditions. There is, however, no reason to believe that au adequate woiking day will become im- possible-it is me» ely a re-arrange- ment of .hours. For the children the. ordinary school hours and school terms of temperate climates must go by the board, together with the usual hap- hazard style of school buildings. Ele- mentary hygiene and tropical domestic,

sanitation, including dtet«ry, should ' form a salient feature in the school curriculum, both for their immediato and future effects. The preservation and care of health is already accepted as an all-important question in modern education, and under the condition*! now dealt with its importance becomes overwhelming.

Special diseases will need to be fore- seen. With the opening up of much of the new country malaria may be confidently expected to become a some- what serious faotor, to disappear later as pastoral and agricultural operations, become widely extended. The expéri- ence of the Malay Free States, of West Africa, ' and eleswhere, shows that malaria is, under ordinary condition^ an eminently manageable disease. The absence oí a large native population will greatly simplify the question, and it must-be borne in mind that' infected maniana is as essential ta its. spread as the Anopheles mosquito.

It may, perchance, appear to a lay- man that in the consideration of the difficulties to be faced, too great con- sideration has been given to health and sanitation. He may rest assured, how- ever, that no element of professional,, prejudice, or medical faddism, enters, into the matter. The most prominent arguments advanced against the coloni- zation of tropical Australia by a white race have been those of probable ill

health and racial deterioi-ation. The

fetish of " climate" has already been dealt witli. , Lest i.t~be concluded that too much confidence is placed in t he resources of modern tropical sanita- tion, I may be excused for biiefly quoting a recent experience in llio Maliy Free States.

Port Swettenham and Klang were

founded about 1900 as commet ciali

centres, in notoriously malarial locali- ties. ~ Port Swettenham, indeed, was situated on a mangrove swamp, and

both localities served as centres for the

spread of malaria to adjoining pi ices«. In 1900, 474 deaths occrred from " fever" and " other diseasps," and in 1901, 1,026 days ~of sick leave- were granted to Government officers on account of malaria alone. Vigorous anti-malarial measures were under-

taken, chiefly in the form of perman- ent drainage and reclamation works** and the destruction of mosquito breed- ing-places. The deaths from fever fell!

steadily-in an increasing a»td largely^ native population, be it remembered-~ from 259 in 1900 to 48 in 1904 ; tlxuie from " other diseases" also falling from 215 to 74- Elsewhere in the district,, where anti-malarial operations had not. been undertaken, they increased. It* 1903. the malaria leave was 73 days ; in 1904, 71 days, 40 days of which

were to two officers who had con-, ti'acted the disease in an outside dis-,

trict. Excepting tl»ësW~t^vl)7Tfiî""ïTîïiT

resident in either Klang or Port Swettenham suffered from malaria l-e

tween 12th July and 31s»t December^ 1904.


The future of tropical Australia, appears to lie in the common sense of the people, and of their representa- tives in the Legislature. In its pre-

sent condition it must continue to. form a monument to the lack of enter-

prise displ»yed*by Anstralhn*, and a perpetual temptation' to other races and peoples more appreciative of its varied endowments, and "gifted with greater resolution and insight than we appear at present to possess.

In this age of land-hunger Australia cannot continue to act as the- dog in the manger. Given sufficient industrial attraction, population will soon be forthcoming, and there appears to be no good reason why that population, should not be a white one. Should the

initial difficulties appear too great, the-' alternative of a coloured population is. always feasible; but I, for one, would regret to think that the national pluck, and enterprise upon which we Aus-, trilians are rather apt to pride our-

selves is insufficient to enable difficul- ties to be faced which have been met and overcome elsewhere under less, favorable conditions.