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Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware this website contains images, voices and names of people who have died.

A heap of about 600 rats caught in Sydney during the bubonic plague

The first case of the bubonic plague reported in Australia was that of Arthur Paine on 19 January 1900. He was a delivery man who worked at Central Wharf where the ship carrying infected rats would have docked. By the end of February, 30 cases had been reported and the government was concerned the colony was on the brink of an epidemic.

In March 1900 the city council began organising teams to exterminate the rat population. The government paid two pence per rat delivered to an incinerator on Bathurst Street.

Eventually, more than 108,000 rats were killed by government employees, although the number killed by private individuals using poison provided by the authorities may have exceeded that number.


State Library of NSW a147265

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