Australia’s first newspaper, The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser, was first printed, on this day, 5th March 1803 .
George Howe, one of the early convicts to arrive in New South Wales, was responsible for creating the colony’s first newspaper. George Howe was born in the West Indies but was well-educated and he had extensive printing experience. His original death sentence for shoplifting in England was commuted to transportation to New South Wales. His skills in printing were immediately put to use for the publication of government documents. In 1802 he issued the first book printed in Australia, “New South Wales General Standing Orders”, which listed Government and General Orders issued between 1791 and 1802. Copies are held in the State Library of NSW - see digitised pages.
Howe was also permitted to commence Australia’s first newspaper, which he printed from a shed at the back of Government House. On 5 March 1803, publication commenced of “The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser”. Initially it was printed weekly, and held four portfolio pages of official material, with a small number of private notices. Early editions comprised shipping news, auction results, crime reports and agricultural notices, poems, literature and religious advice.
The Sydney Gazette.. remained the only newspaper in Sydney until the appearance of explorer William Wentworth’s “The Australian” in 1824.
Australia’s first newspaper is celebrated in this stained glass window in the Mitchell Library Reading Room at the State Library of New South Wales.
It portrays George Howe presenting a copy of the first issue to Governor Philip Gidley King. Next to Governor King is his son Phillip Parker King, and standing behind the printing press is his wife, Mrs King. The small boy partially obscured on the left of the scene is George Howe’s son Robert.