Thomas Austin (1815 – 15 December 1871) was an English settler in Australia who is generally credited with the introduction of rabbits into Australia in 1859.
Thomas Austin was born at Baltonsborough, Somerset, England, the youngest son of John Austin and Nancy, née Lucas. In 1831 he arrived with other members of his family in Hobart Town, Van Diemen's Land (now Tasmania).
In 1845 he married Elizabeth Phillips Harding (1821–1910) in Melbourne and they had 11 children.
In 1871 work was completed on the bluestone mansion that Austin had designed and built on his property. This is now owned by the National Trust of Australia and is open to the public. He died six months after the mansion was completed but his widow continued to live there and, as a philanthropist, helped to found the Austin Hospital in Heidelberg and the Austin Homes for Women in Geelong.
Introduction of species
As a member of the Acclimatisation Society of Victoria, Thomas Austin helped to introduce many species from England. In 1861 he wrote that he had introduced hares, blackbirds and thrushes, and that he was breeding English wild rabbits and partridges.
He introduced 24 breeding rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus) on his estate in southern Australia, near Melbourne, in October 1859 as game for shooting parties. While his efforts were praised at the time, he has borne the brunt of blame for introducing this pest to Australia.
- "A GREAT BENEFACTRESS". The Argus. 3 September 1910.
- "The late Mr Thomas Austin". The Argus. 18 December 1871. p. 6.
- National Trust
- "THE ACCLIMATISATION SOCIETY.". The Argus. 21 April 1864. p. 7.
- David Krogh (2010), Biology: A Guide to the Natural World, Benjamin-Cummings Publishing Company, p. 658, ISBN 978-0-321-61655-5
- Special Broadcasting Service[dead link]
- Australian Dictionary of Biography - Thomas Austin
- Australian Dictionary of Biography - Elizabeth Austin
- Australian Heritage (Autumn 2006) article on Thomas Austin & rabbits
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