What was it?
1896 to 1902
Hardly rained for 5-6 years
Number of sheep fell by half between 1892 and 1903; from 106 to 54 million.
Wool production declined by 36% at same time. (1)
During the drought river systems across the nation suffered, notably the Darling River which virtually ran dry at Bourke, New South Wales. In Victoria, the Murray River ran dry through the towns of Mildura, Balranald and Deniliquin causing river transport to suffer or cease. (2)
The Australian wheat crop was all but lost (4)
In Western New South Wales and west Darling areas, the 1895 Federation Drought was exacerbated by heavy overstocking, and the arrival of rabbits which crossed the Murray River into western New South Wales in 1881 and reached plague proportions. Overstocking caused widespread severe erosion and increased the effects of the drought. (5)
Practically the whole of Australia was affected but most persistently the coast of Queensland, inland areas of New South Wales, South Australia, and central Australia. This was probably Australia's worst drought to date in terms of severity and area. Sheep numbers, which had reached more than 100 million, were reduced by approximately half and cattle numbers by more than 40 per cent. Average wheat yields exceeded 8 bushels per acre in only one year of the nine, and dropped to 2.4 bushels per acre in 1902. (6)
"The skies are brass and the plains are bare, Death and ruin are everywhere — And all that is left of the last year's flood is a sickly stream on the grey-black mud; The salt-springs bubble and the quagmires quiver, And — this is the dirge of the Darling River." Henry Lawson - from The Song of the Darling River (3)
Influences on development:
Because of the financial crisis, the drought played a role in Australia’s slower recovery.
Because of decline in sheep and therefore wool production Australia could not export as much.
Less efficiency in production. (1)
Harder to transport exports due to rivers running dry. (2)
With drastic declines in bushels of wheat per acre pastoralists had nothing to sell, therefore drop in income.
Pastoralists had no money/profits to increase capital or productivity.
Therefore were not able to contribute as much to development of the country.
From Text Book (9):
Rural land is a renewable natural resource, it may be depleted such as through overcropping, leading to a decline in its fertility or livestock-carrying capacity. In short run, farm output may…