In 1788, the first non-native inhabitants of Australia
arrived from Britain at Botany Bay upon Cook
’s feasibility reports from 18 years earlier. They came in eleven ships led by Captain Arthur Phillip of the Royal Navy. The intent of their arrival was two-fold – to establish a naval base in the Pacific in order to better defend British interests against the French, and to solve the problem of Britain’s overcrowded jails. Under Phillip’s charge as Governor, was around 1000 people – ¾ of which were convicts, a ¼ were marine guards. The convicts would serve out their punishment as labourers to prepare and build the British colony of New South Wales
and to also quickly claim and occupy nearby Norfolk Island before the French. They chose Sydney
Cove as the site for the first settlement.
Early efforts at agriculture were fraught with failures and supplies from overseas were scarce. It took many years to understand the different environment of the new colony, and disease and malnutrition were widespread during the first decades of settlement. Governor Phillip sent exploratory missions to the Parramatta region in search of better soils. As more convicts became emancipated some were granted land and these people, along with soldiers, whose military service had expired, pioneered a new non-government private sector economy.
When Governor Arthur Phillip returned to England for reasons of ill health in 1792, Lieutenant-General Francis Grose held the post of colonial administrator. In 1793 Phillip returned to New South Wales
with the first wave of free settlers (and sheep), and he resigned his post as Governor to also take up land. Phillip’s recommendation for Philip Gidley King to be his successor was denied and it was another 2 years until John Hunter took over as Governor from 1795 – 1800. Meanwhile, the colony had become rife with drunkenness, gambling and crime under Grosse’s administration. Officers gained control of the rum trade to form what became known as the Rum Corps. Throughout this period, John Macarthur, the first successful pastoralist, was also becoming known an as outspoken political activist. Aside from being recognised for being the first man to clear and cultivate 50 acres of land, Macarthur was instrumental in the fall of Governor Hunter. Hunter was eventually recalled as Governor, being blamed for the ineffective management of the army officers who had taken control of lands, stories, labour and trade.
This was the beginning of a political unsteadiness that would challenge the leaders of this new society. As the population
of free citizens increased, there came a demand for democratic change.
Phillip Gidley King replaced Hunter to become the third Governor of New South Wales
in 1800. He had originally arrived with the First Fleet but had spent 12 years on Norfolk Island leading the setup of a settlement there. Returning to New South Wales
to take charge as Governor, he recognised the importance of changing the system of administration. He attacked the misconduct of officers of the New South Wales
Corps in their illicit trading of alcohol but was thwarted by their military arrogance and he failed in his attempt to court-martial John Macarthur. He did have some successes however in the development of farming, mining, education, whaling, and even launched the colony's first newspaper. But conflicts with the military wore down his spirit, and they were able to force his resignation in 1806.
Meanwhile, Great Britain and France were at war, which prompted the settlement of a 2nd colony to protect the southern passage (Bass Strait) in 1803. In 1803, Lieutenant John Bowen
led the establishment of a little colony at Risdon Cove, in Tasmania
and in 1804 Hobart
Town was created by Colonel David Collins.
Around this same time, Mathew Flinders and George Bass made important voyages of discovery and Flinders is credited with not only proving Australia
was a continent but for suggesting it’s new name “Australia
” (officially changed from New Holland
In 1806 William Bligh was made governor of Australia
however his rule was short-lived with officiers refusing to accept his attempts to bring an end to the rum trade and he was eventually overthrown. Bligh's replacement, Lachlan Macquarie, served as Governor from 1809 to 1821. Considered the most talented Governor since Phillip, he also became the most powerful. He disbanded The New South Wales
Corps, returning them to England, and the government finally gained some stability. Macquarie began an extensive public works programme employing an ex-convict, Francis Greenway, to design buildings in Sydney
, many of which remain standing today.