National Library of Australia

Cosme and New Australia colonies

Plan of Main Camp Cosme, December 1894–January 1895hand-drawn plan; 152.0 x 206.0cmJohn Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland
Cosme and New Australia colonies

After his dream of Australia becoming a worker’s paradise was dashed with the suppression of the Queensland shearers’ strike in 1891, radical journalist and trade unionist William Lane (1861–1917) set about founding his own Socialist Utopia—in Paraguay, South America.

Colonia Nueva Australia (New Australia Colony) was founded on 28 September 1893 by 238 adults and their children.

Lane’s strict rules and abrasive personality quickly led to a breakdown in the behaviour of the settlers and some rebelled.

Cutting his losses, Lane and 63 loyal settlers set up Cosme, a new colony 72 kilometres farther south.

By early 1898, Cosme too suffered irretrievable breakdown.

Writer Mary Gilmore (1865–1962), then Mary Cameron, was a colonist. She taught Cosme’s children, married fellow settler, William Gilmore, had a son and, like most of her fellow colonists, grew quickly disillusioned, returning to Australia in 1900.

The photographs featured are from Gilmore’s collection. She also edited Cosme Monthly, and compiled

In 1899, Lane left Cosme for New Zealand, becoming a conservative journalist and editor of the New Zealand Herald.

The struggling colonies were divided into individual holdings by the Paraguayan government.