In September 1893, 254 Australian immigrants arrived in Paraguay to found an agricultural colony based upon communitarian principles. Hard economic times in Australia and a recent failed general strike prompted William Lane, a prominent social reformer and Labour Party publicist, to propose a new society free from social and economic oppression. Isolated from worldly corruption, the society would be based upon shared wealth and work, women's equality, and prohibition of alcohol.
Paraguay was selected for the site of the new colony, and its government awarded the New Australian Cooperative Settlement Association fifty square leagues in the remote Ajos region. Paraguay, desiring agricultural immigrants, demanded only that 600 families be settled in the new colony. Soon a second party of 195 men arrived.
The government had appointed William Lane intendant of New Australia and he had sole and full control over the colony's finances. He insisted upon a rigid interpretation of the association rules, particularly the ban on alcohol. His demand that all wealth be shared equally met opposition. And his racist prohibition against hiring Paraguayan labor for fear of "contamination" of the new society delayed development. Rapidly, some eighty-five of the original party had either been expelled or simply left. The second party allied themselves with remaining discontented original settlers and forced Lane to step aside and depart in April 1894. The New Australians then reorganized the colony on a business basis, abandoning much of the socialism inherent in the original project.
In Australia news of the colony's turmoil, and better economic times, precluded any further significant immigration, and by 1897 only 150 New Australians remained. The association was dissolved with its property distributed among remaining members and the colony became open to all settlers. Some Australians remained there; others returned to their homeland. Those staying in Paraguay and their descendants melded with the general Paraguayan population, leaving only the memory of an idealistic, but failed, social experiment.
Kleinpenning, Jan M. G. Rural Paraguay, 1870–1932. Amsterdam: CEDLA, 1992.
Livermore, Harold. "New Australia." Hispanic American Historical Review 30:3 (August 1950): 290-313.
Souter, Gavin. A Peculiar People: The Australians in Paraguay. Sydney, Australia: Angus & Robertson, 1968.
Jerry W. Cooney