Australia as a Penal Colony
Australia wasn’t always the tropical tourist attraction it is today. It was originally settled by Britain as a penal colony. A penal colony is a settlement outside a country where that country sends its prisoners. Penal colonies are usually set up in order to bring the prison population and send the criminals out for the country.
Prior to America’s Revolutionary War, Britain sent its convicts there. After the war America refused to take any more convicts. This left Britain in need of a place to send them. The country selected Australia because they also wanted a post in the east for military purposes.
In May, 1787 Britain sent the First Fleet, led by Captain Arthur Phillip, to settle Australia. 750 people of the 1.00 that sailed had been convicted of committing a crime. Over 200 Britain marines were sent to guard the inmates.
The fleet reached Botany Bay in January of 1788. They prepared to settle the area, but Captain Arthur Phillip said the area was unsuitable to settle. On January 26, 1788 they selected a cove seven miles north of Botany Bay, which later became Sydney.
Most of the criminals sent to Australia were blue-collar citizens form England and Ireland. These people provided work (however undesirable that work might be) to the blossoming colony. Many convicts worked on government projects such as constructing roads, bridges, and buildings.
In the early years the penal colony operated like a village. The prisoners wore their own clothes, had their own homes, and cold run their own businesses. Free family members were allowed to move to Australia with their inmate relatives and run a normal life.