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History of Australia
 
 
 

The first records of European mariners sailing into 'Australian' waters occurs around 1606, and includes their observations of the land known as Terra Australis Incognita (unknown southern land). The first ship and crew to chart the Australian coast and meet with Aboriginal people was the Duyfken captained by Dutchman, Willem Janszoon.

Between 1606 and 1770, an estimated 54 European ships from a range of nations made contact. Many of these were merchant ships from the Dutch East Indies Company and included the ships of Abel Tasman. Tasman charted parts of the north, west and south coasts of Australia which was then known as New Holland.

In 1770, Englishman Captain James Cook charted the Australian east coast in his ship HM Bark Endeavour. Cook claimed the east coast under instruction from King George III of England on 22 August 1770 at Possession Island, naming eastern Australia 'New South Wales'. The coast of Australia, featuring Tasmania as a separate island, was mapped in detail by the English mariners and navigators Bass and Flinders, and the French mariner, Baudin. A nearly completed map of the coastline was published by Flinders in 1814.

This period of European exploration is reflected in the names of landmarks such as the Torres Strait, Arnhem Land, Dampier Sound, Tasmania, the Furneaux Islands, Cape Frecinyet and La Perouse. French expeditions between 1790 and the 1830s, led by D'Entrecasteaux, Baudin, and Furneaux, were recorded by the naturalists Labillardière and Péron.

The First Fleet and a British colony

Captain Arthur Phillip and the First Fleet, comprising 11 ships and around 1,350 people, arrived at Botany Bay between 18 and 20 January 1788. However, this area was deemed to be unsuitable for settlement and they moved north to Port Jackson on 26 January 1788, landing at Camp Cove, known as 'cadi' to the Cadigal people.

Governor Phillip carried instructions to establish the first British Colony in Australia. The First Fleet was under prepared for the task, and the soil around Sydney Cove was poor. The young colony relied upon both the development of farms around Parramatta, 25 kilometres upstream to the west, and also trading food with local Aboriginal clans.

The Second Fleet's arrival in 1790 provided badly needed food and supplies; however the newly arrived convicts were too ill, with many near to death, to be useful to the colony. The Second Fleet became known as the 'Death Fleet' - 278 of the convicts and crew died on the voyage to Australia, compared to only 48 on the First Fleet.

The colony experienced many other difficulties, including the fact that there were many more men than women - around four men for every woman - which caused problems in the settlement for many years.


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