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Hit the headlines

Students examine the first local newspaper printed in the colony.

Student activities

Task no. 1

Hit the headlines

Reading is something to do in your ‘idle hours’. If most of the First Fleet convicts could not read or write, then printing a newspaper was not a good idea. Although a printing press did come out with the First Fleet, the first newspaper in the colony was not created until 5 March 1803 when ex-convict George Howe, printed the first one in a shed at the back of Government House.

Look at the first newspaper printed in Australia, below.

Sydney gazette and New South Wales advertiser. [Album view] -Image 1, 1803-1842
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You can read the first newspaper online here.

Design a newspaper for the newly arrived convicts in the first few years of the colony.

As we know, most of the convicts could not read or write but just for this activity let’s pretend they can.

Think about what you would include:

  • news of crimes and punishment
  • weather
  • births/deaths/marriages
  • news from England
  • gossip from England
  • recipes for using their food ration
  • map of the local area
  • latest worn-out rag fashion
  • promotion of plays and other entertainment
  • section advertising services provided by convicts – sewing, carpentry, child minding…
  • anything else?

Write a headline that sums up your opinion of convict life in the early colony. Draw pictures to enhance the stories.