Centuries of service

Our history dates back to 1809 when a former convict, Isaac Nichols, was appointed to the role of Postmaster for New South Wales, using his own home to sort mail that was collected from sailing ships arriving in Sydney Harbour.

The first official Post Office, opened by Nichols soon after, was in George Street, Sydney.

To deliver and collect mail, Australia’s first posties overcame enormous challenges. On horseback, then guiding horse-drawn coaches, they played a vital role in establishing overland routes connecting what became, in 1901, the Federation of Australia. Over time, the postal service progressively exchanged horsepower for trains, motor vehicles and planes to deliver mail and keep Australia connected.

More than two centuries later, we still have the same social purpose and commitment to connecting people, businesses and communities that inspired Nichols to start out by sorting mail from his home. This very same purpose of helping people stay in touch remains at the core of who we are.

1809 — Ex-convict Isaac Nichols was appointed the first postmaster with authority to collect incoming and outgoing mail between Sydney and overseas destinations. Nichols retained all postal revenue received from which he met all the operating expenses. His residence in George Street, Sydney, served as the Post Office.

1812 — The first Postmaster appointed in Hobart was John Beaumont, who was succeeded by John Mitchell the following year. Like Nichols, Mitchell retained the postal revenue to meet the expenditure.

1825 — New South Wales passed a Postal Act to establish new Post Offices, fix rates of postage and set Postmasters’ salaries and allowances.

1828 — Following the opening of Post Offices at Bathurst, Campbelltown, Liverpool, Newcastle, Penrith and Windsor, the regular conveyance of mail between the towns commenced. In Sydney, the Chief Postmaster, one clerk and one letter carrier (postman) were sufficient to handle 50,000 letters and newspapers posted that year.

1831 — A regular two-penny post and post boxes (letter receivers) were established within the town limits of Sydney. That year, the total number of letters posted grew to 466,000 and Sydney’s postal staff increased to 15. Postmen were issued with uniforms of a red coat and black top hat.

1836 — Melbourne’s first Post Office was operated unofficially by John Batman at his residence.

1837 — The first official Post Office in Melbourne was established under the control of Sydney’s Chief Postmaster, as the Port Phillip District was part of NSW until the colony of Victoria was established in 1851. In Adelaide, Thomas Gilbert was appointed Postmaster and granted an allowance to operate a Post Office from his store.

1838 — The first overland mail route was operated by horseback once a fortnight between Melbourne and Sydney.

1841 — Melbourne’s first permanent Post Office was established at the corner of Bourke and Elizabeth Streets, which remained the site of postal activities for the next 160 years. Postmaster David Kelsh was assisted by one clerk and one letter carrier.

1850 — The first postage stamps were issued by New South Wales and Victoria, following the introduction of prepaid postage with low rates of unform postage. Previously, postage was calculated by distance and the amount collected from the addressee on delivery. Prepaid postage using stamps was adopted by Tasmania (1853), Western Australia (1854), South Australia (1855) and Queensland (1860); the last being the result of Queensland’s separation from NSW.

1853 — With the gold rush of the 1850s, Cobb & Co coach services emerged as an important part of the postal system. Cobb & Co had a near monopoly of Victoria’s mail contracts by the end of the 1850s. The company extended its operations into NSW and Queensland, but coach services gradually shrunk with the growth of railways.

1855 — The first railway line in NSW operated between Sydney and Parramatta and mail was carried on the train. In Victoria, mail was carried between Melbourne and Geelong when the line opened in 1857. The most important railway lines from the postal viewpoint were those operating between capital cities — Melbourne and Sydney (1883), Melbourne and Adelaide (1887) and Sydney and Brisbane (1888).

1857 — A regular mail service to England commenced. Following a contract being awarded to P&O (Peninsula & Oriental) shipping company two years later, mail was exchanged monthly between Sydney and Southampton in England. The frequency of voyages became weekly by 1880, with P & O operating fortnightly and its rival the Orient shipping line also carrying mail fortnightly.

1858 — Australia’s first money service was introduced in Victoria on 1 July.

1865 — A special feature of railway carriage of mail was the travelling post office (TPO) comprising a carriage in which postal staff sorted and postmarked mail during the train journey to use the time to best advantage. The first TPO operated on the Melbourne