We know little about business enterprises in colonial Australia. Existing case studies are analysed within the context of the established theoretical and international comparative literature on business history. Emphasis is placed upon the uncertainties caused by smallness and remoteness in the early decades, the opportunities of expansion in the middle of the century, and the challenges of economic crisis in the years leading up to Federation. Each period produced different types of strategies and structures from initial vertical integration, diversification, and networking, through to economies of scale, innovation, and internal hierarchies, and finally to collusion and incorporation. © Blackwell Publishers Ltd and the Economic History Society of Australia and New Zealand 1998. Published by Blackwell Publishers Ltd.