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Mount Sion iCentre: First Fleet

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First Fleet

The First Fleet was a group of eleven ships that brought convicts to New South Wales in 1788. Before this England had sent convicts to colonies in North America. When the colonies in North America became an independent nation, the United States of America, the British Government needed to find a new place to send its convicts. They decided to send them to Botany Bay in New South Wales and set up a penal colony.


Introductory ABC video about First Fleet from BTN

Australia in the 1780s Good general information about the First Fleet and conditions in Australia from My Place website.

Overview of the First Fleet

First Fleet Facts

First Fleet Timeline Trace the journey of the First Fleet.

Stories from the First Fleet Read the stories of people from the First Fleet.

Convict ships of the First Fleet Find out the names of convicts on the First Fleet.

Provisions on the ships in the First Fleet Find out what they brought with them on the ships.

Ships of the First Fleet A list of the ships in the First Fleet.

Tales from the First Fleet Search the State Library of New South Wales First Fleet Collection for journals, letters, drawings, maps and charts created by those who actually travelled with the First Fleet.

First Fleet

In the 1780's there were no cameras, so the only way to make an image was to draw or paint it.

So the way we can tell what Sydney looked like to the people from the First Fleet, is by looking carefully at the paintings and drawings they made.

Click on a painting below to go to the Natural History Museum with lots of scenes of early Sydney as well as drawings of the indigenous people living there at the time and strange animals and plants that we know, but look a bit odd because the artist was seeing them for the first time.

ABC Education

Mary Ann Friend was the wife of Matthew Friend, who captained the Wanstead. She wrote about the Swan River Colony during her visit in 1831.

In this video, State Library of WA Battye historian Dr Kate Gregory talks about Mary Ann Friend’s humorous accounts of life as a female in the early colony – she describes Fremantle as a "circus town" and curses the sandflies.

Discover the real life stories of some of the child convicts on the First Fleet. Produced by BTN.

Life in 18th Century Britain



Bound for Botany Bay

The story of the first fleet, under the command of Captain Arthur Phillip.

It begins in England with the British government desperate to alleviate their overcrowded prisons by establishing a new colony at Botany Bay. With the hardships faced by the fleet, it was one of the greatest maritime expeditions ever.

Filmed on location in Portsmouth and at the fleet's ports of call. Written and presented by historian Dr Jonathan King in 1988

Aboriginal Life before Colonisation

The following video clips are from the series My Place.

Catching yabbies Hunting for food.

Dance off An Aboriginal camp.

Snakebite How to survive snakebite and how to make a spear.

Fishing Hunting for food.

Water Collecting water and taking it back to camp.


Historical Fiction

One of the best (and most fun) ways of learning history is to read historical fiction. Check out these titles.

For Teachers

Weblinks to information

First Fleet Online

A database of all the convicts who were transported to Australia in 1787.

Click on Stories ‚Äčin the left hand menu for more information about the First Fleet and the conditions.

Convict Records Search for a convict by surname, year of transportation or ship.  Basic information about convicts.
The First Fleet This short interactive shows you the voyage of the First Fleet.
Timeline A brief time line showing the events leading to the First Fleet departing England and its journey.
A Convict Story Find information about the journey, the convicts, at the barracks and convict artefacts.
A Day in the life of
a convict
Scroll down to find information about work, food, clothes, tattoos, punishments and escape.


Children on the First Fleet

First Fleet movie
  • Video
  • Audio