1786 – London, 21 August:  The Home Office informed Treasury; ‘to New South Wales…orders had been issued for the transportation of six hundred and eight (680) males and seventy (70) female convicts…[with] two [2] companies of marines to form a military establishment’. Historical Records of New South Wales, Vol. 1

Britain’s invasion of Australia was unique in so far as the first generation of occupiers 1788 to 1813, were almost exclusively male – both criminal and military.

1788-1868: In the period 1788 to 1868 Britain transported approximately 163,000 convicted criminals to New Holland, then New South Wales, now Australia.

Of these only 25,000 were women with 12,500 going directly to then, Van Diemens Land now Tasmania. West Australia, where transportation ended in 1868, received 10,000 male criminals and zero (0) women.

It is well known…without a sufficient proportion of that [female] sex…it would be impossible to preserve the settlement from gross irregularities and disorders’. Heads of a Plan for Botany Bay.

1786 – 8 August, London: ‘His Majesty [George 111] has thought advisable to fix upon Botany Bay’.

1787 –  6 January, Portsmouth: The first male convicts boarded Alexander, one (1) nine (9) chartered vessels that, together with two (2) warships HMS Sirius and HMS Supply, made up a large squadron of eleven (11) vessels, known in Britain and Australia as the ‘First Fleet’.

‘It was the custom in the eighteenth century for the authorities to consider the sex problems of convicts or others in similar positions’. Commentary, Historical Records of Australia, Vol. 1

With the well established camp-follower ‘custom’ in mind the number of women was increased to two hundred (200) and males reduced to six hundred (600).

Captain Phillip was instructed; ‘HMS Supply…may be employed in conveying to the new settlement a further number of women from the Friendly islands, New Caledonia etc…from whence any number may be procured without difficulty’. Heads of a Plan for Botany Bay

1787 – 13 May, Portsmouth: The ‘First Fleet’, with a complement of 1500 souls  – 1300 men and 222 women –  left England to sail 13,000 miles (21,000 km) across the globe to Botany Bay.

‘Several [100 +] convicts had been tried as early as 1781 and 1782…many had already served five-sevenths of their time on embarkation and six-sevenths on disembarkation at Sydney’. Dr John Cobley, Crimes of the First Fleet, Angus and Robertson, 1982

1788 – 18/20 January, Botany Bay: After eight (8) months voyaging ‘imperfectly explored oceans’ via Tenerife, Rio de Janeiro, Cape Town, the fleet a testosterone fueled biological time-bomb, reached Botany Bay within thirty-six (36)  hours between 18-20 January 1788.

1788 – 26 January, Port Jackson: Phillip ordered the English fleet sail nine (9) miles (14km) north of Botany Bay to Sydney Cove; ‘a more eligible Situation’ sheltered deep within Port Jackson.

Protected by towering sandstone headlands, eminently defensible  Port Jackson where Phillip wrote in his ‘mission accomplished’ dispatch to his spy-master the arch-intriguer Earl Shelburne; ‘My Lord…here a Thousand Sail of the line may ride in the most perfect Security’.

1788 – 7 February, Sydney Cove: Captain, now Governor Arthur Phillip ‘raised English Colours…using a form of words’ claimed British Sovereignty over ‘Our territory New South Wales from Cape York in the most northern extremity…to South Cape’.

1788 – September: By the middle of September 1788 eight (8) of nine (9) chartered vessels Alexander, Charlotte, Prince of Wales, Friendship, Scarborough, Lady Penrhyn, Fishburn and Borrowdale, with crews of approximately four hundred and forty (440)  merchant seamen, had left Sydney for the return to England.

“Rape is a biological possibility for the male”. Cited in Anne Summers, Damned Whores and God’s Police, Penguin, 1975

It is not possible to know the number of Aboriginal women raped by merchant seamen between January 1788 and their departure in mid September 1788.

But given Anne Summers’s opinion the; ‘disposition amongst men to view sexual intercourse as one additional piece of weaponry in their armoury of power, [is] one that they can use whenever and upon whomsoever pleases them’.

And given the differential in the  balance of power between the First Australians and the English invaders and, their capacity to coerce – guns v spears – make it possible to extrapolate, the number may have been considerable.

Governor Phillip did not order HMS Supply sail to ‘the Friendly islands [to] procure a further number of women’  as instructed because; ‘our present [precarious] situation would answer no other purpose than…[to] bring them [here] to pine away’.

Phillip however emphasized ‘the very small proportion of females makes the sending out of an additional number absolutely necessary’.

In December 1792 Captain Arthur Phillip, after a five (5) year tenure as Britain’s first commissioned Governor  of Australia, returned to England.

‘The important investigations of [Manning] Clark, [L.L.] Robson, [A.G.L] Shaw have revealed that the majority of [male] convicts were sentenced at urban courts, usually single, aged between 20-45, commonly convicted of theft and the majority were convicted more than once’. Stephen Garton, Out of Luck, Poor Australians and Social Welfare 1788-1988, Allen and Unwin, 1990

By December 1792, upwards of three hundred and fifty (350) of these young men having served their sentence were free.

They joined soldiers and sailors also ‘usually single, aged between 20 and 45’ who too lived lonely lives 13,000 miles (21,000 km) from home kith or kin.

White males: Two hundred (200) Royal Naval personnel, two hundred and forty-five (245) marines, twenty (20) officials, five hundred and eighty-three (583) male convicts; white females – one hundred and ninety-three (193) is a massive imbalance of the sexes.

The First Nations’ women, conscripted to ‘comfort’ both criminal and conqueror, bore the brunt of the ‘gross irregularities and disorders’ foretold in the Heads of a Plan for Botany Bay.


1790 – January, Sydney Cove: ‘No communication whatever having passed with our native country since the 13th of May, 1787, the day of our departure from Portsmouth’. Captain Watkin Tench, Sydney’s First FourYears, ed. F.L. Fitzhardinge, Angus and Robertson, 1961

See: Abandoned and Left To Starve Sydney Cove January 1788 to June 1790

The Robinson Crusoes of the ‘First Fleet’ – English men, women and children – were abandoned and left to starve confined to a small area centred on Sydney Cove.

1790 – JANUARY

‘Here on the summit of the hill [South Head], every morning from daylight until the sun sunk, did we sweep the horizon, in the hope of seeing a sail.

Famine besides was approaching with gigantic strides, and gloom and dejection overspread every countenance…the misery and horror of such a situation cannot be imparted, even by those who have suffered under it’. Tench. ibid.

Despondent Tench turned to Shakespeare; ‘pride, pomp and circumstances of glorious war were no more’.

1790 – JUNE

1790 – 3 June, Sydney Cove: ‘Flags Up-  London on her stern’ ; with  two hundred and twenty-six (226) female convicts, Lady Juliana first of four (4) transports, broke the ‘misery and horror’ of profound isolation on 3 June 1790

Britain’s Grim Armada’ – of one thousand (1000) mainly male convicts embarked on the convict transports Suprize, Scarborough and Neptune, one-quarter (25%) starved and brutalized, died during the horrifying voyage; a further 15% were dead within weeks of arrival.

Most survivors remained permanently physically and mentally damaged by their experiences. On release, emotionally diminished, morally degraded, they fell on the ‘other’ – the Aboriginal.

1790 – June: Overnight the white population of Sydney doubled.   Seven hundred and fifty (750) male criminals, seventy-eight (78) women prisoners and one hundred and five (105) officers and infantry men, first contingent of the New South Wales Corps, raised to replace the marines of the Sydney garrison.

‘The colony required that as many male convicts as possible should be sent thither, the prosperity of the country depending on their numbers; whilst, on the contrary, female convicts are as great a drawback as the others are beneficial’. Governor Lachlan Macquarie, dispatch, 30 April, 1810.

1820: As Governor Macquarie’s tenure came to its end; ‘in New South Wales…there were nine [9] white men…for every white woman’

New South Wales & Queensland, the eastern states where transportation ended in 1841, received approximately 81,000 convicted criminals 68,500 men and 12,500 women.

1836 – January, Sydney: Charles Darwin arrived in Sydney aboard the Beagle in January 1836. A few days later the experienced horseman struck out westwards to visit “Wallerwang” a sheep station.

Born in 1809, similar in age to prisoners he encountered on the road to Bathurst Darwin, who went on to father ten (10) children, related viscerally to their unmet sexual needs.

‘The usual number of assigned convict-servants here [Wallerawang] is about forty [40] but at present time there were rather more…Although the farm was well stocked with every necessary, there was an apparent absence of comfort; and not one single woman resided here.

‘The brightest tints on the surrounding woods could not make me forget that forty hardened, profligate men were ceasing from their daily labour, like the slaves from Africa, yet without their holy claim for compassion.

[Men in] iron gangs or parties of convicts who have committed here some offense, appeared the least like England. They were working in chains, under the charge of senteries with loaded arms…I believe the years of assignment are passed away with discontent and unhappiness. As an intelligent man remarked to me, the convicts know no pleasure beyond sensuality, and in this they are not gratified’. Charles Darwin, Voyage of the Beagle.

Darwin, after five (5) years at sea on Beagle, separated from friends and a family more closely entwined than most, identified as seminal the ‘absence of [heterosexual] comfort‘.

‘I call upon you to remember that cruel punishments have an inevitable tendency to produce cruelty’. Sir Samuel Romilly, House of Commons, Hansard.

The ‘cruel punishments’ of Britain’s brutal penal system produced degraded human beings.

‘It is well known’, the demand for heterosexual intercourse by ‘hardened, profligate men’ made immoral by unmet need for ‘sensual gratification’, generated the ‘gross irregularities and disorder’ inherent in Whitehall’s ‘Heads of a Plan for Botany Bay’.

For the First Nations’ women and girls there was no safe place. No avenue of appeal for protection from an overwhelmingly male society where, according to Anne Summers; ‘men monopolized political, economic, legal, military, religious and [all] other forms of power’. 

1948: Following Word War Two (1933-1945) and the violent destruction of European Jewry – Holocaust – the United Nations 1948 Genocide Convention codified conduct constituting the crime of genocide in International Law.

Article 2 of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the crime of Genocide states:

‘Genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, such as:

a)  Killing members of the group;

b)  Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;

c)  Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;

d)  Imposing measures intending to prevent births within the group;

e)  Transferring children of the group to another group.


‘The fact itself of causing the existence of a human being is one of the most responsible actions in the range of human life. To bestow a life which may either be a curse or a blessing, unless the being on whom it is bestowed will have at least the ordinary chances of a desirable existence, is a crime against that being’. John Stuart Mill [1806-1873] On Liberty, Collins Fontana, 1977

The seeds of the Stolen Generations came with the ‘First Fleet’.

Records reveal James Lavell the first known named Anglo-Aboriginal child was born in 1788 his mother’s name is unknown, while Henry Lavell his father, of whom a great deal is known, was one (1) of that rare breed a convict who returned to England a free man. See: Blind Man’s Bluff

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