Bank of Australia

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Bank of Australia
Founded 1826
Defunct 1843
Headquarters Sydney, Australia
Area served
Colony of New South Wales

The Bank of Australia was a failed financial institution of early colonial New South Wales formed in 1826 by a producers' and merchants' group as a rival to the Bank of New South Wales.[1]:333 It was dubbed the "pure merino" bank because its share register included the plutocracy of the colony but excluded the ex-convicts who had been associated with the Bank of New South Wales.[2] When investors responded to the depression of the late 1830s by the abrupt withdrawal of capital leading to a chain of insolvencies, a number of colonial banks found that their unrestricted lending had sent prices land soaring as speculators borrowed to invest especially in urban areas. When the banks called in these loans further insolvencies occurred and a number of banks, including the Bank of Australia, failed in 1843.[3] A number of leading colonial figures lost their fortunes with many taking advantage of the Insolvent Debtors Act 1841.[2]


The bank opened on 3 July 1826 in George Street, Sydney.[4] The first directors of the bank were: Thomas Macvitie (managing director), Edward Wollstonecraft, John Macarthur, Richard Jones, Thomas Icely, John Oxley, George Brown, W.J. Browne, Hannibal Macarthur, James Norton, and A.B. Spark.[5]:196 fn 44

1828 bank theft[edit]

In September 1828, thieves tunnelled into the Bank of Australia in Lower George Street, Sydney and stole about £14,000 pounds, described in 2008 as "the largest documented bank theft" in Australian history (in relative values and expressed as a proportion of GDP).[6]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ Brian Fitzpatrick, British Imperialism and Australia 1783 – 1833 : An economic history of Australasia (1939, London, George Allen & Unwin Ltd).
  2. ^ a b Vic Carroll, "The old, old story: the rich get richer while the rest go under", Sydney Morning Herald, 22 May 1992, p 13 via factiva accessed 16 September 2011.
  3. ^ Norman Abjorensen, "Australians Have Always Distrusted Banks", Canberra Times, 8 March 1997 via factiva accessed 16 September 2011.
  4. ^ "On this day", Daily Telegraph, 3 July 2010, p 36 via factiva accessed 21 September 2011.
  5. ^ Sydney James Butlin, Foundations of the Australian Monetary System, (Sydney University Press, Sydney, 1968).
  6. ^ Mike Scanlon, "Crime of the centuries", The Newcastle Herald, 7 February 2009, p 10 via factiva accessed 21 September 2011; book review: Carol Baxter, Breaking The Bank (Allen & Unwin, 2008).