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The Australind settlement on the eastern side of the Leschenault Estuary came into being in April 1841 on land previously owned by Colonel Peter Augustus Lautour and Sir Jame Stirling, Western Australia's foundation governor. It was the creation of the Western Australian Company, a group of entrepreneurs who were followers of the systematic colonisation theories of Edward Gibbon Wakefield.
The managing board of the Western Australian Company appointed Marshall Waller Clifton as Chief Commissioner for Australind with responsibility for all aspects of its management. Clifton, a former Secretary of the British Royal Navy's Victualling Board, maintained meticulous records of all his transactions through an events diary and letter books of all correspondence issued from his office as Commissioner.
The Australind contains Clifton's official correspondence as Commissioner and with the Board after his time as Commission terminated.
Clifton's official correspondence is not generally known. Still, it portrays, often in graphic detail, the problems he faced as a manager and his desperate attempts to keep the Company alive. It also throws into stark relief Clifton's profound belief in himself and his disdain for underlings who did not share his vision or exhibit sufficient application to their tasks as colonisers. At the same time, his extensive administrative experience at a senior level within the British Admiralty facilitated his assessment of the shortcomings evident in the administration of Western Australia. These provide fresh perspectives on this period of the colony's development.
As a foundation member of the Royal Geographical Society, Clifton could describe the topography, soils, trees and good farmland that matched anything he had ever seen when he wrote to the Company. His regular quarterly reports detail the agricultural and horticultural activities of the Australind settlers, their health and general behaviour and their interaction with local Aboriginal groups.
In addition to agricultural production and stock numbers statistics, Clifton lists the names of immigrants, employers, and visitors to the settlement, an unrivalled account of establishing a new settlement.