Registration Of Births, Deaths & Marriages Of Passengers And Crew On Australian Vessels

Pre Federation in 1901, each Australian State was a British Crown Colony, which maintained its own Acts of Parliament, including Shipping Acts. Even after Federation, if a ship was registered in Queensland and only traded "Intra State" as apposed to "Interstate" then the operation of the vessel was regulated under a Queensland Harbours and Marine Act and not the Australian Navigation Act. A similar situation existed in other States of Australia. Each state had its own regulations covering the qualifications required of personnel on a ship trading within that State. Prior to Federation, Immigration was a State matter.

Arrivals, births, deaths and Marriages at sea would have been processed according to the State Acts and regulations, which were not standard among the States. In this country they couldn't even agree on a standard railway line gauge. Industrial disputes between ship-owners and maritime unions, were resolved in either the State or Federal Courts depending upon whether the ship was engaged in Intra State or Interstate Trade. The law became quite complex and many legal practitioners did not fully appreciate the application of the State and Federal Acts in relation to shipping. Jurisdiction of the States and Commonwealth, over Maritime Trading, is defined in the Australian Constitution. Generally the Commonwealth Acts took precedence in marginal matters. When the Federal Acts did not cover a situation, then the State Law could be applied depending upon the port of registration of the vessel.

First published on The Ships List
Alan Bird
Brisbane Q.