Convicts to Australia Home Page Convicts to Australia
A Guide to Researching Your Convict Ancestors

Another Perth DPS Project
Search These Lists Online:
All the Convict Ships

WA Convicts

WA Pensioner Guards

NSW Convict Women

Convict Tales
Home | Research Guide | Gangs | Censuses & Musters | Serendipity | Links | Bibliography | Glossary | Claytons Convicts | Quiz | Project
 Research Guide > Timeline > Next: British Trials


Settlement of Australia and Convict Transportation
at a glance

Go To Top
Go To Top
Go To Top
Go To Top
Go To Top
Go To Top
Go To Top
Go To Top
1718-1783 About 50,000 British criminals were transported to colonies in America.
1775-1783 AMERICAN WAR OF INDEPENDENCE - hostilities with Britain brought transportation to a halt.
1783-1787 British prisons and hulks began to over-flow.
1786 The colony of New South Wales was proclaimed by King George III
23/01/1787 British parliament informed that Lord Sydney had agreed to send convicts to New South Wales.
13/05/1787 The 11 ships of the FIRST FLEET left Portsmouth under the command of Capt Arthur Phillip. Different accounts give varying numbers of passengers but the fleet consisted of at least 1,350 souls of whom 780 were convicts and 570 were freemen, women and children and the number included four companies of marines. About 20% of the convicts were women and the oldest convict was 82. About 50% of the convicts had been tried in Middlesex and most of the rest were tried in the county assizes of Devon, Kent and Sussex.
18/01/1788 The fleet arrived in Botany Bay but the landing party was not impressed with the site, and moved the fleet to Port Jackson and settled in Sydney Cove on 26/01/1788.
1790 SECOND FLEET of convicts arrived.
1791 THIRD FLEET of convicts arrived.
1793 First free settlers arrived.
14/06/1825 The colony of VAN DIEMEN'S LAND was established in its own right and its name was officially changed to TASMANIA on 01/01/1856.

The first settlement was made at Risdon on 11/09/1803 when Lieut John Bowen landed with about 50 settlers, crew, soldiers and convicts. The site proved unsuitable and was abandoned in August 1804. Lieut-Col David Collins finally established a successful settlement at Hobart in February 1804 with a party of about 260 people, including 178 convicts. (Collins had previously attempted a settlement in Victoria.)

Convict ships were sent from England directly to the colony from 1812-1853 and over the 50 years from 1803-1853 around 67,000 convicts were transported to Tasmania. About 14,492 were Irish but many of them had been sentenced in English and Scottish courts. Some were also tried locally in other Australian colonies.

The "Indefatigable" brought the first convicts direct from England on 19/10/1812 and by 1820 there were about 2,500 convicts in the colony. By the end of 1833 the number had increased to 14,900 convicts of whom 1864 were females. About 1,448 held Tickets of Leave, 6,573 were assigned to settlers and 275 were recorded as "absconded or missing". In 1835 there were over 800 convicts working in chain-gangs at the dreaded penal station at Port Arthur which operated from 1830-1877.

Convicts were transferred to Van Diemen's Land from Sydney and, in later years, from 1841-1847, from Melbourne.

Between 1826-1840 there were at least 19 ship loads of convicts sent from Van Diemen's Land to Norfolk Island and at other times they were sent from Norfolk Island to Van Diemen's Land.

21/01/1827 WESTERN AUSTRALIA was established when a small British settlement was established at King George's Sound (Albany) by Major Edmund Lockyer who was to provide a deterrent to the French presence in the area.

On 18/06/1829 the new Swan River Colony was officially proclaimed with Captain James Stirling as the first Governor. Except for the settlement at King George's Sound, the colony was never really a part of NSW. King George's Sound was handed over in 1831.

In 1849 the colony was proclaimed a British penal settlement and the first convicts arrived in 1850. Rottnest Island, off the coast of Perth, became the colony's convict settlement in 1838 and was used for local colonial offenders. Around 9,720 British convicts were sent directly to the colony in 43 ships between1850-1868. The convicts were sought by local settlers because of the shortage of labour needed to develop the region. On January 9, 1868, Australia's last convict ship, the "Hougoumont" brought its final cargo of 269 convicts.

Convicts sent to Western Australia were sentenced to terms of 6, 7, 10, 14 and 15 years and some reports suggest that their literacy rate was around 75% as opposed to 50% for those sent to NSW and Tasmania. About a third of the convicts left the Swan River Colony after serving their time.

28/12/1836 The British province of SOUTH AUSTRALIA was established. In 1842 it became a crown colony and on 22/07/1861 its area was extended westwards to its present boundary and more area was taken from New South Wales.

South Australia was never a British convict colony and between 1836-1840 about 13,400 immigrants arrived in the area. 24,900 more arrived between 1841-1850.

Some escaped convicts did settle in the area and no doubt a number of ex-convicts moved there from other colonies. There were also South Australian convicts who were convicted of colonial offences.

1841 NEW ZEALAND separated from New South Wales.

1851 VICTORIA separated from New South Wales (formerly known as the Port Phillip District of NSW. Apart from castaways and runaway convicts in the 1790s, the first attempt at settlement was made on 13/10/1803 by Lieut David Collins and his party of soldiers and convicts. Harsh conditions convinced him to abandon the settlement in January 1804. He moved on to Tasmania and it was not until the Henty brothers landed in Portland Bay on 19/11/1834 and John Batman settled on the site of Melbourne that the Port Phillip District was officially sanctioned on 10/04/1837.

The first immigrant ships arrived at Port Phillip in 1839.

Apart from those involved in early attempts at settlement in 1803 and 1826, the only convicts sent directly to Victoria from Britain were about 1,750 convicts known as the "Exiles" and they arrived between 1844-1849. They were sometimes called the "Pentonvillians" because most of them came from Pentonville Probationary Prison in England. Many ex-convicts and convicts on Tickets of Leave and Conditional Pardons also moved to Port Phillip from Van Diemen's Land.

10/12/1859 QUEENSLAND separated from New South Wales. In 1824 the explorer Lieut. John Oxley took a party of 30 convicts and established a penal colony at Redcliffe. Known as the Moreton Bay Settlement, this later moved to the site now called Brisbane. The name Brisbane Town was in use by 1825 and the main inhabitants in the area were the convicts of the Moreton Bay Penal Station until it was closed in 1839. Around 2,280 convicts were sent to the settlement between 1824-1839 and at the end of 1836 the convict population numbered 337.

The first free settlers moved to the district in 1838 and others followed in 1840.

On 23/12/1862 the area of QUEENSLAND was increased.

1863 In 1825 the area occupied today by the NORTHERN TERRITORY was incorporated into the colony of New South Wales. It was first settled by Europeans in 1824 at Fort Dundas, Port Essington.

In 1863 control of the area was given to the Province, and later the State, of South Australia.

Its capital city, Darwin, was established in 1869 and was originally known as Palmerston.

On January 1, 1912, the NORTHERN TERRITORY as we know it today, was separated from South Australia and became part of the Commonwealth of Australia.

1901 The FEDERATION of Australian States took place.
1911 The AUSTRALIAN CAPITAL TERRITORY was established.

Source: Tracing your family history in Australia: a guide to sources,
Nick Vine Hall, Adelaide: Rigby, 1994.

Next: British Trials

Home | Go To Top | Convict Ships | WA Convicts | Pensioner Guards | Convict Women | Convict Tales