The State Library of New South Wales holds the most extensive collection in the world of journals, letters, diaries, sketches and paintings produced by people who journeyed to Australia on the First Fleet.
This collection provides insights into one of the most significant changes that the Australian continent would experience: the establishment of a British settlement in Sydney. This settlement would almost immediately introduce profound and revolutionary change to the flora, fauna, and Indigenous people.
The First Fleet was made up of many different types of people. Some wrote letters, some wrote diaries, and some wrote accounts of their experiences to be published back in England. Others drew or painted the people, plants and animals they saw in this new land.
These sources are an important record of the first contacts between the British and the Indigenous people. They also provide a valuable insight into the wonderment and joy as well as the difficulties and internal struggles of the people who came to ‘Botany Bay’ in the First Fleet.
First Fleet journal of Arthur Bowes-Smyth
The list of female convicts and the information is excerpted from the First Fleet journal of Bowes-Smyth, Surgeon on board the Lady Penrhyn. It has been adapted for teachers and students.