Why the British Decided to Send Convicts to Australia in 1788

I am sure all the Australians know this story already, but The Telegraph has published an article for the rest of us.

January 26 is celebrated as Australia Day because on that day in 1788 British settlers arrived on Australian shores for the first time. The anniversary has become an annual opportunity for the country to show its national pride.

The First Fleet of convicts departs Portsmouth, England, bound for Australia

British convicts had been sent to the Thirteen Colonies on the east coast of North America. But following the American War of Independence, the newly created United States of America refused to take criminals from the United Kingdom. And so, in 1785 plans were put in place for convicts to be sent to the land claimed by British explorer James Cook five years earlier: New South Wales in Australia. Philips was tasked with setting up a the first penal colonies on this new land, with Botany Bay the destination and site in mind.

You can read the full story by Rozina Sabur and Charlotte Krol at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/0/australia-day-can-celebrate-london.


Except our Prime Minister is Malcolm Turnbull, not Turnball…
Anna from Adelaide


And the interval from Capt. Cook’s landing and territory claim in 1770 to the 1785 decision to establish a penal colony at Botany Bay would be much closer to 15 years than to 5 years.
Ian from Central Victoria.


Dick, as usual with such reporting in “foreign” press, the details can often be wrong (but I ascribe no blame to you). Captain Arthur Philip did not arrive on Australian shores on 26 January – it was 18 January 1788.

As genealogists, you and others may be interested in Philip’s fascinating biography and career, including transporting Portuguese convicts to Brazil. http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/phillip-arthur-2549

It may also introduce you to a marvellous, free Australian resource, the Australian Dictionary of Biography.

Bill Webster

NSW, Australia


On a much lighter note Dick, as an English immigrant to Australia, my family and school told me that it was mad King George (III) who lost the America’s because of his inability to do a deal! And yes, I had three ancestors, from Norfolk, England who came to Van Dieman’s Land (Tasmania) as convicts. Any scathing remarks to me were always answered with, ” and yes, my British ancestors to Australia were picked by the best judges in England”. I recall that when I began my family history / genealogy research in 1974 and on into the 1980s it was much frowned upon to have owned up to convict ancestry. I trust none of the above will be harmful or insult anyone. Family lore, text books etc., are often proven incorrect!. But not all !


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