According to Stuart Piggin of the Centre for the History of Christian Thought and Experience in his book Firestorm of the Lord (Paternoster Press, Cumbria, 2000, p 165-166),
“The first revival on Australian soil of which I am aware was a prayer revival at Hobart, Tasmania in June 1834, during the ministry of the Revd Nathaniel Turner, a Wesleyan. It stemmed from a prayer meeting started by a few eminent Christians posted to Tasmania in the 48th Regiment.”
His source is The Pioneer Missionary: Life of the Rev. Nathaniel Turner which is quoted in Iain Murray’s Australian Christian Life.
Mrs Turner wrote,
“Our June quarterly visitation was, I believe, the best our society ever knew in this part of the world. Glory be to God! At our quarterly fast the power of the Spirit came down so that many were led to cry aloud for mercy. Several souls found peace with God. The spirit of prayer was given in an extraordinary degree. Such wrestling and pleading with God I never beheld in these regions. I could almost have believed myself carried back to one of our revival meetings in England, at one of which I remember nearly one hundred souls professed to have found forgiveness for their sins. at most of our prayer-meetings, which are numerously attended, souls are crying out for mercy. At one meeting a man and his wife were meeting side by side. The man was happy, and immediately prayed aloud for his wife. She too found the saviour.” (J.G. Turner, The Pioneer Missionary: Life of the Rev. Nathaniel Turner, George Robertson, Melbourne, 1871, p 146)
This revival does not get a mention in C.C. Dugan’s A Century of Tasmanian Methodism 1820-1920. However, R.D. Pretyman appears to be describing the same period in A Chronicle of Methodism in Van Dieman’s Land 1820-1840 when he quotes a letter from Nathaniel Turner to the London Committee,
“You will be pleased to hear that the Lord is graciously carrying on his work amongst us in this part of the world. In the course of our last quarterly visitation, I had much satisfaction. Never I believe, did so deep and hallowed a feeling pervade the minds of the society as at the present time. Last Friday was kept as the society’s quarterly fast and prayer-meetings. At six in the morning the vestry was so crowded that we were obliged to remove into the chapel, and again at the prayer-meeting at noon. Some who had been truly brought from the gates of destruction into the liberty of Christ, gave up their employ for the day, and spent the whole of the forenoon in the school-room, in prayer and praise to God. On Monday morning at six o’clock we held a meeting for special prayer for the outpouring of the Spirit, and never do I recollect to have felt more of the power of the divine presence, than on that occasion.” (R.D. Pretyman, A Chronicle of Methodism in Van Dieman’s Land 1820-1840, Aldersgate Press, Melbourne, 1970, p 86)
As far as I can tell, Australia’s first revival took place here in Wesley Hall in Melville Street, Hobart. On one side is the multistory car park where I usually park when I go to Hobart, and on the other side is what used to be the Avalon Cinema where I first saw Jaws in the 70s.
The front part of the building appears to be a later addition.
This is the inside of the building where Australia’s first recorded revival took place.
This revival took place at the same time as the Second Great Awakening in the United States. Perhaps it should be seen as part of that movement.
Australia has never experienced a widespread revival comparable to the First and Second Great Awakenings in the United States and Great Britain. Revivals in Australia tend to be confined to local churches and do not spread. Stuart Piggin has suggested the closest Australia has come to a national revival was the Billy Graham Crusade in 1959 (Stuart Piggin, Spirit of a Nation, Strand Publishing, Sydney, 2004, p 154-171)