AUSTRALIA - THE LAND DOWN-UNDER

Back to start



THE EARLY SETTLERS

The Europeans arrive 

European settlement in Australia started in 1788 with an English prisoners' colony on the East coast. From there settlement gradually spread throughout the entire continent.

There were several reasons why the British decided to colonise Australia. The most important thing was to relieve the pressure on the English prisons at home. The Industrial Revolution had brought huge social problems to the British society, and the prisons were full. And when USA after the revolution refused to accept any more deportees from England, the situation became critical. Even the London docks were filled with ships, whose function were to act as prisons for the number of criminals they didn't have room for elsewhere.

Captain Arthur Phillip

A number of very violent episodes gave the autorities great problems keeping the most aggressive prisoners away from the rest. The British government was under strong pressure to find solutions to their problems. In addition, Australia was of  strategic importance, and was a good place for a marine base. Finally, Australia was close to large resources for the British world trade (China, India). Based on all these factors, the Home Secretary, Lord Sydney, decided to start the colonisation of Australia. 

On the 13th of May 1787 the first fleet left Portsmouth with the course for Australia. It consisted of 11 ships, with captain Arthur Phillip in command. They docked in Botany Bay on the 18th of January 1788, but left there 8 days later, not very pleased with the arrid and windy conditions. They went ashore a few kilometres further North instead, at Port Jackson, and decided to stay there. The fleet had successfully carried 1373 people, including 732 prisoners across the world to their new home, which was named Sydney.

The Australian National Day is being celebrated every year on the 26th of January in rememberance of this first fleet that landed on Australian soil.

HMS Sirius under the command of Captain Arthur Phillip

Development
A
fter development of Port Jackson,  they continued other places: 
in Tasmania 1803
at Brisbane River(Queensland) 1824
at Swan River(Western Australia) 1829
in Melbourne at Port Philip Bay (Victori)1835
in Adelaide at Gulf of St. Vincents (South Australia) 1836

New journeys of discovery along the coast and the inland helped the new colony to survive and expand.
In 1802-03 captain Matthew Flinders sailed around the entire continent. In 1813 Gregory Blaxland, William
Wentworth and William Lawson found a route over the Blue Mountains (a mountain range situated South-East inside the East-coast. Up until now the range had prevented further development inland. In 1827 captain Charles Sturt followed the Lachlan River all the way to the Darling Downs.

The most important factor for further development was the introduction of sheep. Towards the end of the 18th century captain John MacArthur started experimenting developing a breed of sheep with a better wool quality. He tried to combine Spanish Merino sheep with a certain British breed, and his work laid the foundation for a very important part of the Australian economy. The new breed became excellent 'producers' of wool, and the number of animals rose from 34.000 animals in 1820 to 405.000 in 1840.

Western Australia continued receiving prisoners from England up until 1868. In total, about 10.000 prisoners had by then been deported to Australia.

Gold!
The goldrush started when this precious metal was found in 1851 at Bathurst in New South Wales, and later in Ballarat and Bendigo in Victoria. There had been finds earlier on, but only in very small amounts, and with the law that made all found gold to be the property of the crown, nobody had really bothered. Until now.
The authorites tried to keep things quiet as long as possible, as the goldrush would steal workers from the farming industry, but after a few years and news from America that gold-mining over there had created great fortunes, they decided to spread the news.
People from all over the world came to New South Wales and Victoria, hoping to find their fortune. Tent towns grew up all over the place, and some had over 40.000 people living there. Most of the prospectors came from England and China.

The colonies were a long way from England, and administration became a problem. 
It was time to let the states run themselves, and in 1823 New South Wales got their first state government with limited authority. Gradually the states were separated from British rule, and in 1859 New South Wales became the first independant state.

E-mail: