Early German Immigrants to the Moreton Bay Settlement – 6 – The Immigration Agents

After convict transportation had been abandoned in 1840, New South Wales was desperate for labour. 18

In a familiar refrain, the British migrants proved reluctant to leave Sydney for the rigours of up-country life. Facing acute labour shortages, pastoralists argued for a resumption of convict transportation, but faced fierce opposition from those who had been agitating for its removal. They therefore looked for other options. One result was Chinese immigration, the bringing in of Chinese workers as indentured labourers. Down in Sydney, however, Karl Ludwig Wilhelm Kirchner (who had arrived in Sydney on 20th July 1839 on the Mary) 19 had his own solution.

Karl Ludwig Wilhelm Kirchner

Now a prosperous merchant, Kirchner was influenced by idealism and connection to his homeland, but also saw business opportunities, including a potentially profitable role as an immigration agent. Until then, German migrants had been restricted from access to subsidised migration unless they fell into a limited number of occupational classifications that could not be filled by British immigrants. NSW, Kirchner argued, should bring in German migrants. They were hard working, would fit in and would be prepared to go to country areas, thus solving labour problems. Kirchner’s broad arguments were accepted. He therefore began looking for employers who would be prepared to sponsor German migrants. 20

In 1848, Kirchner returned to Frankfurt as NSW emigration agent, basing himself in his mother’s house. By then, he had arrangements in place with a number of employers and needed to find the people to fill the agreements. On the trip home, Kirchner wrote a promotional book, Australien und seine Vortheile für Auswanderer –  (Australia and its Advantages for Emigrants), extolling the virtues of a new life in NSW. This was published upon his arrival in Germany to encourage interest in migrating to Australia. He also put up posters and advertisements promoting the message in towns and villages all over the Rhine regions. 21 The first ship with assisted German passengers left London in 1848. By 1850, Kirchner had made arrangements with the Hamburg ship owner Charles Goddefroy. By 1853 2000 Germans had disembarked in Sydney. 22

Johann Christian Heussler

He was born in Germany in 1820, and migrated to pre-Separation Queensland in 1854; he was a merchant by training and occupation; and on arrival here he went into partnership with fellow German immigrant Frederic Alterwicker and they established a business in South Brisbane. From this modest start he embarked on an eventful and varied career: as a wine merchant, importer/exporter, a labour bureau (an employment agency for Germans), an immigration agent, a sugar planter, a Member of the Legislative Council, and a founder member of the Queensland Club.  He had already acquired experience of finding jobs for German immigrants, as part of the commercial activities he undertook with his new partner, Reinhard Francksen.

However, according to a notice that was published in the Queensland Government Gazette on Saturday, 19th May, 1862, Messrs Heussler and Francksen informed the public at large that they had become German immigration agents under the bounty immigration scheme. The German emigrants recruited in this way left Germany for Queensland on ships that departed from Bremen and Hamburg. Johann Christian Heussler is credited with recruiting some 2000 German emigrants to settle in Queensland. Thus, the ancestors of many Queenslanders of German descent came to the newly-minted colony.23

Johann Christian Heussler

Advertisement in Moreton Bay Courier, November 1854:


In presenting the object of our circular of August last, we have now to acquaint the stock and landowners, and other employers of these districts, that our Mr. Heussler contemplates visiting Germany, to establish a continued Immigration thence to this place, and to request that all parties wishing to procure Vine-dressers, Shepherds, Hutkeepers, Farm Labourers, Domestic Servants, Mechanics, single or in families, through us, will be pleased to favour us with their orders as soon as possible.

Information as to terms and wages may be obtained from our office.


South Brisbane, Nov, 1854.

However, there was some local resentment against employing German workers as written in the Armidale Express and New England General Advertiser on Saturday 27 June 1857:

‘A meeting had been held in Brisbane for the purpose of protesting against the employment of Germans on the roads, to the exclusion of Englishmen suffering from want of employment. In answer to the deputation, Capt. Wickham explained that the eleven Germans engaged were road makers by profession, and they had been preferred on that account and no other.’ 24

Assisted immigration had petered out by the late 1850s, the problem of labour supply not being pressing any more. Assisted non-British immigration shifted to the north of the continent. Queensland became the state with the largest percentage of people of German origin and Wilhelm Kirchner again played a key role. His fortunes had been mixed since his return as chief immigration agent in NSW in 1858, and in 1861 his company was declared insolvent and he had to resign his position as Consul. In 1863 Kirchner was appointed Commissioner of Stamp Duty in Brisbane and in 1867 he returned to Germany succeeding Johann Christian Heussler as the new colony’s Immigration Agent. In 1869 he was appointed Commissioner for Queensland in Germany and in 1871 Commissioner of Queensland in London, where he remained until his retirement in 1874.


18. Corkhill, Alan; The Australian People

19. www. germanaustralia.com

20. Belshaw, Jim; Armidale history: Kirchner puts forward the German solution, Armidale Express.

21. ibid.

22. Corkhill, Alan, op.cit.

23. Bennett, Trudy, A Colourful Character (John Oxley Library) 2012

24. Armidale Express and New England General Advertiser, Saturday 27 June 1857

3 thoughts on “Early German Immigrants to the Moreton Bay Settlement – 6 – The Immigration Agents

  1. Interesting article. I am trying to find out more about Heussler & Co for an assignment. I am studying for my Diploma of Family History on line with the University of Tasmania. My great grandparents and children (Röser) came aboard the Solon as unassisted passentgers to Moreton Bay arriving in 1859. My great grandmother was hospitalised not long after arrival. Heussler & Co paid the hospital bill. There are no passenger lists.
    The year they arrived seems to be before the immigrant bounty, from my research so far. I am trying to find out if there would have been a reason they came at this time. i.e. work, gold, some scheme that may have been happening, but can’t pinpoint anything in particular.
    Are you able to help?


      1. Thank you very much, this is so much appreciated

        Every day is a new day Sharyn Willis



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