From Terra Australis to Australia

In May 1787 the British government sent the First Fleet 20,000 kilometres around the world to establish a  British colony in New South Wales.

Tales from the First Fleet

The State Library's First Fleet Collection includes journals, letters, drawings, maps and charts created by those who actually travelled with the First Fleet of British ships to Australia. It is one of the Library’s most significant and valuable collections.

These powerful eyewitness accounts not only tell us about how the British viewed Port Jackson and its inhabitants, they also record the hopes and ambitions of the First Fleeters, their feelings of homesickness and despair, along with detailed descriptions of the unfamiliar natural environment.

These observations also provide a glimpse into the Indigenous communities living in the Port Jackson area. Several journals record words from the local language groups and lengthy descriptions of the people, their daily pursuits of fishing, hunting and their responses to the new arrivals.

Sydney Cove, Port Jackson, 1788

Explore the maps and artworks depicting the establishment of the British colony in New South Wales.



Made possible through a partnership with John T Reid Charitable Trusts and Thyne Reid Foundation - UNESCO Memory of the World