First Penal Colony Established In Australia

On January 26, 1788, more than 700 British convicts landed on the Eastern side of Australia where they had been sent to establish a new penal colony. The prisoners were taken by Captain Arthur Phillip and his men aboard 11 ships on a voyage that took eight months to complete. The British government had realized that building prisons were too expensive and since they could no longer ship lawbreakers across the Atlantic after the Revolutionary War, they decided to search for a colony in the other direction.

Photo: frednilemlc

Australia was deemed the perfect location, though at the time it was known as New South Wales. Captin Phillip was tasked with establishing an agricultural work camp where the prisoners could grow their own food. However, when he requested experienced farmers to aid him in creating this camp he was denied. That combined with the unfamiliar terriroty and bad soil made this extremely difficult and the colony was on the verge of starvation for several years.

However they did survive, and over the next 60 years, more than 50,000 prisoners were sent to there. Soon some of the prisoners began to work off their sentences and were released. This began the colonization of Australia as we known it today. In 1818, January 26th became an official holiday which marked the 30th anniversary of the British settlement in Australia. Once it became an independent nation in 1901 it was officially deemed Australia Day.

Photo: abc