The penal settlements.
The first settlements were penal colonies and until 1868, when transportation ceased, a vocabulary similar to that in a slave society described the life of the convicts. A major distinction was maintained between bond and free, as in free emigrant, free native, free labourer, free servant, and the distinction between free and freed. The settlements were populated in part by convicts and the attendant military forces, in part by free settlers. Though convicts who had served their sentences or obtained pardons (known from 1822 as emancipists) became free in their own eyes and those of the law, they often had difficulty escaping the stigma of servitude and obtained only a measure of freedom, being known by the exclusives or exclusionists as free convicts or freed men.
Concomitantly, the land was explored and opened up for settlement and the stock-raising industry was developing. Squatters (stock-raisers or graziers occupying large tracts of Crown land under lease or licence) moved inland from the limits of location (the frontier of settlement) into the back country or back of beyond in search of land suitable for runs (tracts of grazing land) or stations (ranches). They looked for open land (free from forest or undergrowth), seeking open forest or open plains, and using words like brush (dense natural vegetation), bush (the distinctive Australian natural vegetation), mallee or mulga (forms of natural vegetation giving their name to their habitat), and scrub (generally, poor vegetation) to describe features of an unfamiliar environment. The stock industry employed overseers or superintendents (both convict terms), stockmen, and rouseabouts (general hands). Drovers travelled stock long distances overland, the original overlanders driving stock from New South Wales to South Australia. The importance of sheep in opening up the country and establishing a frontier society was such that the occupational vocabularies of droving and shearing figure largely in Australian literature.
Gold was discovered in the 1850s, leading to movement between the Californian, Australian, and New Zealand goldfields. Rushes (first used of the sudden escape of a number of convicts and then of the sudden movement of a number of miners to a particular place or goldfield) followed when a prospector (gold-finder, gold-hunter, gold-seeker) made a find and established a claim. A number of mining terms originated in Australia, but many are shared with other varieties of English, and the importance of the discovery of gold, and of the rushes that followed, lies in the mobility it encouraged and the effect of this on the homogeneity of the accent.
A growing sense of national identity was fostered by involvement in the First World War. The line between formal and informal usage is perhaps less rigidly drawn in Australia than elsewhere, colloquialisms being more generally admissible than in Britain. In informal usage, the suffixes -ie or -y and -o or -oh are freely attached to short base words (roughie a trick, tinnie a can of beer, bottle-oh a bottle merchant, plonko an addict of plonk or cheap wine, smoko a work break) and clippings (Aussie an Australian, arvo an afternoon, barbie a barbecue, Chrissy Christmas, compo workers’ compensation, derro a derelict or down-and-out, reffo a refugee).