Journey of the First Fleet

Students learn about European exploration and colonisation in Australia and throughout the world up to the early 1800s. They examine the impact of exploration on other societies, how these societies interacted with newcomers, and how these experiences contributed to their cultural diversity.
Key inquiry question #1: 
Why did the great journeys of exploration occur?

Content Summary

Stories of the First Fleet, including reasons for the journey, who travelled to Australia, and their experiences following arrival. (ACHHK079)

Background Notes for Teachers

The State Library of New South Wales hold the most extensive collection in the world of journals, letters, diaries and 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 interal struggles of the people who came to 'Botany Bay' in the First Fleet.

The State Library's Voyages of Discovery has made a wide selection of stories written by the people of the First Fleet available on the Internet.

Students use images and written sources to ask historical questions about the past.

  • The activities are designed to introduce students to images and written sources as historical records of people, places and events in the past.
  • Students examine images and written sources from the State Library of NSW to investigate the journey of the First Fleet to Botany Bay, Port Jackson and Sydney Cove.

Student Activities

Discovering the First Fleet

Students read through the 'Voyages of Discovery' story on the State Library of NSW website and research the journey of the First Fleet.

Number of set tasks: 1

NSW Syllabus for the Australian Curriculum History K - 10

A student:

  • HT2-5 applies skills of historical inquiry and communication


Comprehension: chronology, terms and concepts

  • use historical terms (ACHHS066, ACHHS082)

Analysis and use of sources

  • locate relevant information from sources provided (ACHHS068, ACHHS084, ACHHS0215, ACHHS0216)

Explanation and communication

  • use a range of communication forms (oral, graphic, written) and digital technologies (ACHHS071, ACHHS087)
  • Cause and effect: events, decisions or developments in the past that produce later actions, results or effects
  • Perspectives: people from the past will have different views and experiences

Learning across the curriculum

  • Literacy
  • Personal and social capability