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Botany Bay

Between 1771 and 1784, the prisons of England were overcrowded. The British Government became worried about the possibility of prisoners rioting or escaping.

To find a solution, the British Government looked for a colony where they could relocate the convicts. Sir Joseph Banks, who had joined James Cook on his voyage to Australia, suggested Botany Bay as a penal settlement.

In August 1786, the British Government decided to establish a convict settlement in New South Wales.

The First Fleet

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Arthur Phillip was the person chosen to lead the First Fleet to Botany Bay and to rule the colony. Phillip found that the bay was shallow and ships were not protected from storms and strong winds, so he did not stop there.

Phillip chose Port Jackson as the place to make a settlement. He chose that particular bay because it had good, fresh water and the ships could anchor close to the shore. He named it Sydney Cove in honour of Lord Sydney, an official who helped to arrange the voyage.

On 20 January 1788 Phillip went ashore after an eight-month voyage with eleven ships. Phillip began the first permanent settlement on January 26, now known as Australia Day.

There were nearly 1500 people on the ships of the First Fleet, including officials, crewmen, marines, convicts, their children and wives. These people were going to start a new colony, New South Wales.

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Problems for the new colony

Not long after his arrival at Sydney Cove on 26 January 1788, Phillip began to encounter problems. British ways of meeting basic needs were at first unsuccessful in the Australian environment.

The greatest problem for the new colonists was the food supply. The natural food sources of fish and kangaroos were not enough. The new colony relied mainly on the provisions of food from England as attempts to produce food themselves had been unsuccessful.

The seed which had been brought from England did not grow as it had dried out after the long voyage or been attacked by insects. The remaining seed also failed to germinate because the land around Sydney Cove was too sandy for farming. The sheep brought from England could not survive either in the new environment. The supplies that were left had to be used very sparingly.

Another problem facing Arthur Phillip was that the convicts were from the city and were not farmers. Some were too old or too ill to work and were a burden on the meagre food supplies. Some convicts resorted to stealing.

In an effort to improve the situation, Phillip attempted to build farms on the banks of the Hawkesbury River a few miles north-west of Sydney. This land, however, was often flooded and was used by Aboriginal people, so the move did not improve the food shortage.

The situation became more and more desperate for the new colony. In 1789 a supply ship was sent to the new colony but it was wrecked off the Cape of Good Hope in Africa. In March 1790 Phillip sent the 'Sirius' to China to find food but it was shipwrecked near Norfolk Island.

The Second Fleet

The Second Fleet arrived in June 1790 to provide much-needed food supplies for the colony.

This fleet, however, brought even more trouble and became known as the 'Death Fleet'. 267 convicts had died on the way and 480 were sick. The convicts from the second fleet were of no benefit to the new colony as most of them were too ill.

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The end of Phillip's government

In 1792, Arthur Phillip resigned. During his four years as Governor, Phillip had faced the problems of lack of food, unskilled workers and disease. He had, however, ruled fairly. Phillip also encouraged friendly relations with the local Aboriginal people.

In 1792 there was another change which affected the colony. The British Government replaced Royal Marines with the New South Wales Corps. These settlers had been specifically recruited in Great Britain and were granted a certain amount of land. They became the colony's best and largest farmers who came to pose a serious threat to the governors as they controlled the economy.

Despite its problems, the colony of New South Wales began to thrive. More free settlers arrived and opened up more farms and businesses and Sydney began to grow. The whaling and sealing industries also appeared.

More convicts also arrived. Between 1788 and 1868, 193000 convicts were transported to Australia.


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