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On this day, 5 March 1803, Australia’s first newspaper, The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser, was printed.
One of the early convicts to arrive in New South Wales, George Howe, 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.
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.
Howe’s newspaper remained the only newspaper in Sydney until the appearance of explorer William Wentworth’s “The Australian” in 1824.
The first newspaper is celebrated in this stained glass window in the Mitchell Library at the State Library of New South Wales.