How Australia Post Came To BeJune 20, 2014

Before e-mail, a letter is a means of communication.

Australia Post, which provides postal services in Australia and its overseas territories, will celebrate its 204th year of founding on June 23. On 1810, on that same date, Governor Lachlan Macquarie officially opened Australia's first postal office, which was significant for many reasons. One of which was the then colony of the British Empire was on its way to progress.

Back then, the state of affairs in New South Wales was in disarray. William Bligh, who was a key figure in the historic mutiny of HMS Bounty in 1789, was in another crisis, leading to the Rum Rebellion of 1808. He was ousted, again, with Macquarie replacing him. One of the first things that the British Army officer did was to transform New South Wales from a penal colony to a free settlement in able to play a major role in the shaping of Australian society in the early nineteenth century. One way to do it was to establish a postal service. It was essential, as Australia was halfway across the United Kingdom. Not that there were letters arriving from the continent, but there was mayhem when a ship (carrying a bagful of letters) arrived in Sydney, with unscrupulous locals taking other people's mails and selling it back to them. So the need for an orderly system.

Isaac Nichols, an ex-convict (from the Third Fleet) turned businessman, was designated by Macquarie to be the first Postmaster, his home at George Street becoming the first post office in New South Wales. He advertised on The Sydney Gazette the names of the people who have mails. They must claim the letter by dropping by his house and pay a shilling. The more important inhabitants of the state will have their letters delivered by Nichols himself. It worked, but there were adjustments needed to be done months after it started.

A year after Nichols assumed his new post, the first postal office opened. Letters were carried on carriages, reaching to areas such as Windsor, Newcastle, and Liverpool. It would take three years before street posting boxes appeared and postmen became a common sight. The issuance of the first postage stamp followed.

Great Britain is the first nation to issue an adhesive postage stamp, the Penny Black. It is sought after by philatelists, as a mint condition of that small piece of paper has an estimated value of four million pounds. Not to be outdone, Australia released the first pictorial prepaid stamp, the Sydney Views, nine years later. Like the Penny Black, it's valuable even at its used condition. Then the Federation of Australia on 1901 changed the postal system, such that the era of Colonial Post Office would be replaced by a nationally-integrated system.

Nowadays, a stamp is becoming more of a collectible and writing letters a thing of the past. But Australia Post tries to keep snail mail alive, so that everyone won't forget a momentous occasion in Australian history.

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