Australia has changed hands a lot throughout its history. From being inhabited by the aborigines, which had been there for around forty thousand years, until the British claimed it.
However the British were not the first to come across this continent, they were just the first countries to see it as useful. The Dutch were seeking new land and trade in the East Indies, and found that sailing along the coasts of Africa and India too much longer than if the went due east and the cut up. However, the Dutch Vessel, Duyfken, first sighted the coast of modern day Australia in 1606 when it did not turn north in time. In 1642-43 Able Tasman was looking for new land south of Batavia, and shifted course to avoid bad weather. In doing so, he ran into the stormy west coast of Tasmania which he named VanDiemens Land. He also sailed eastward after that and discovered New Zealand.
All of these discoveries revealed only desolate deserts and hostile natives. It wasnt until 1770 when James Cook discovered the long avoided east coast that it was seen as a possible resource. The British soon lost their American colony, where they had sent some of their prisoners, and now began to consider Botany Bay, Cooks first landfall, as the next penal colony (Brander, 18). The First Fleet left sail from Portsmouth, England in May 1787 heading for Australia under the command of Authur Phillip (httpozramp). Phillip and his crew landed on January 26, 1788, which is now celebrated as Australia Day (Australia).
There were prisoners that were also aboard the ship that landed in Australia. Huddled in the bowels of the ships were 772 terrified convicts- 568 men, 191 women, and 13 children (Brander, 15). Many of the crimes that they were charged with crimes that would be thought of as trivial by todays standards (Australia). They landed in Botany Bay, and approximately forty people had perished during the journey (httpfirst). Many of them were sentenced to stay there for 7 years, but some were sentenced to remain there for life (httpfirst).
After a while Phillip realized that this area wasnt as well suited as he thought it was, and he had spotted another inlet a little farther down the coast. He left early the next day with some crewmembers to scout out that bay, to see if it was any better. The reason for the urgency were two French ships that had been sighted, the La Boussale and L’Astrolabe, which were commanded by Jean Francois De La Perouse. Phillip was anxious to beat the French, to have traveled all this was and to be beaten the last by the French in taking possesion of the land would have been disastrous (httpwarra). The port that he found was said to be the finest port in the world and was impressed. He decided that they would stay here instead of the original landing area.
Later Phillip realized that no matter where they were the land wasnt easily cultivated. By June 1790 when the second fleet arrived at Port Jackson, the people of the first fleet were facing starvation. They were beginning to feel abandoned by Britain and the sight of the second fleet brought relief (httpwarra). However, after the doors of the ship opened, the people on the shore were amazed at the condition of the people on the ship.
Some of the people, now exposed to fresh air, fainted, died on deck, or died on the ship on their way to shore (httpwarra). The first fleet had navy supervision, but private traders did the second fleet. They were offered 17 10S 6D for each convict by the government, whether they reached Australia alive or not (httpwarra). It was so bad that Phillip wrote an official report on the condition of the prisoners when they reached the colony. After his letter the ship owners were paid in full when the prisoners had reached Australia safely.
Once this was implemented surgeons were on board the ships and the prisoners were encouraged to use their free time to exercise and get some fresh air (httpwarra). Once the convicts reached Australia their fate was almost in their own hands (httpwarra). If they had a skill the might be paid for their work, but if not then they merely worked for their lodgings and some food. This was how most of the prisoners lived out their lives as long as they kept themselves clean.
If they committed a crime while there, they were sent to a secondary punishment site, either Port Arthur or Norfolk Island. These places were known as hell to almost everyone due to the severe punishment they received there (httpwarra). In 1793 some of the first free settlers came there and many convicts were sent to work for them. Some did chores around the house, while others were left to do hard labor that included almost everything. These prisoners were called Assigned Convicts (httpwarra).
When the prisoners finished their term they came to be known as expires and could do anything except return to England. The only ones that could do that were the free settlers or those convicts that had received pardons. By 1810 the population of Australia had risen to almost twelve thousand and land grants were attracting more and more settlers (httpopening). The new colony became more and more crowded until on May 11TH 1813 George Blaxland, William Lawson and William Wentworth set off from Penrith with convict labor, horses and dogs (httpopening). A few weeks later they came back with the news that they had found land that was as good as any they had ever seen. George Evans confirmed this later, due to the skeptical report.
The exploration continued and in 1829 Britain laid claim to the entire continent (Dolce, 11). Australia has been through a lot from the aborigines until the present day. The major change from on to the other was when Britain took it over. At first it was used merely as a penal colony, but was then used simply as a colony, until it gained its independence. Bibliography:Australia.
World Search, 2000. Brander, Bruce, et al. Australia. Washington, DC: The National Geographic Society, 1968.
Dolce, Laura. Major World Nations: Australia. Philadelphia, PA: Chelsea House Publishers, 1999. http://www.
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