‘The tender [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; and without a sufficient proportion of that sex it is well known that it would be impossible to preserve the settlement from gross irregularities and disorders’. 1786 – Heads of a Plan for Botany Bay

1788-1813: While other European nations included convicts in their settler-mix Britain’s occupation of Australia was unique, in so far as, the first generation 1788-1813 was almost exclusively male.

‘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, On Liberty.

1786 – 2 August, London: On 2 August 1786 a deranged woman failed in an attempt to assassinate King George 111. Fear of mob-violence exploded in the minds of England’s ruling elite.

1786 – 18 August, London:  Home Secretary Lord Sydney, through under-secretary Evan Nepean, advised Treasury; ‘His Majesty has thought advisable to fix upon Botany Bay’.

1786 – 21 August, London: The Admiralty informed Treasury; ‘orders had been issued for the transportation of 680 male and 70 female [ amended to 600 male, 200 female ] convicts to New South Wales’.

1786 – September, London: Government, through the Navy Board, advertised for tenders to supply, fit-out and provision a squadron of eleven (11) ships known in Britain and Australia as the ‘First Fleet’. See: A Tale of Two Fleets.

‘The administration gave no consideration to the date of expiry of sentences and several of the First Fleet had been tried as early as 1781 and 1782, As seven years transportation was the most common sentence, many had already served five-sevenths of their time on embarkation and six-sevenths on disembarkation at Sydney Cove’. Dr John Cobley, Crimes of the First Fleet, Angus and Robertson, 1982.

1787 – 13 May, Portsmouth: The ‘First Fleet’ of eleven (11) ships, commanded by Captain Arthur Phillip RN, with a complement of 1500 souls  – 1300 men and 222 women – sailed from England to Botany Bay, in the island continent of New Holland.See: Apollo 11 -Fly Me To The Moon. 

1788 – 18/20 January, Botany Bay: In mid-January 1788, between 18th & 20th of the month the ‘First Fleet’ anchored in Botany Bay, Australia. See: Australia – Britain By A Short Half-Head

1788 – 26 January, Sydney Cove: The fleet sailed nine (9) miles north to Sydney Cove where on the of 7th February Governor Phillip, without consent of Australia’s First Nations’ Peoples, claimed the entire eastern coast ‘of our territory called New South Wales…from the Northern extremity of the coast called Cape York…to the Southern extremity…South Cape’.

‘It was the custom in the eighteenth century for the authorities to consider the sex problems of convicts or others [soldiers/sailors] in similar positions. Historical Records of New South Wales, Commentary. Vol. 1 

The  very small proportion of females makes the  sending out of an additional number absolutely necessary for I am certain your Lordship will think that to send women from the [Friendly] Islands in our present situation, would answer no other purpose than that of bringing them to pine away’. Arthur Phillip to Lord Sydney, 14 May 1788, Historical Records of New South Wales Vol. 1.

1788 – 15 May, Sydney: Governor Phillip’s dispatch dated 15 May 1788, while stressing the ‘absolute necess[ity]’ of sending more women, spelt out his rationale ‘our present situation’ – a state of near starvation – for ignoring London’s instructions to  ‘procure a further number of women’ from the Friendly Islands. See:  Buried Alive.

‘The important investigations of [Manning] Clark, [L.L.] Robson, [A.G.L.] Shaw have revealed that the majority of convicts were sentenced at urban courts, were usually single, [ male] 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, 1990

1788 – January to December 1792:  Approximately 3,546 male and 766 female convicts landed in Sydney Cove between January 1788 and December 1792.

1792 – 11 December, England:  After five (5) years as Britain’s first Governor of Australia Arthur Phillip left the colony and returned to England.

By then upwards of three hundred and fifty ( 350), in the main young men, had served their sentence. Free lonely and stranded 13,000 miles (21,000 km) from home they lived isolated lives on their mandated land grant of thirty (30) acres of bush.

1793- February, France: On the 3rd of February 1793 the French declared war on England. The French Revolutionary War morphed into a generation of global conflict – The Napoleonic Wars.

1805 – October, Trafalgar: Off the coast of southern Spain at Cape Trafalgar a British fleet defeated a combined squadron of French and Spanish ships in the major sea-battle of the Napoleonic Wars 1793-1815.

Although evenly matched, thirty-seven (37) English vessels including Horatio Nelson’s HMS Victory, clashed with Admiral Villeneuve’s forty (40) ships and wrought carnage. One (1) enemy ship was sunk by gun-fire, seventeen (17) captured and 7000 deaths recorded.

No English ships were lost, 450 deaths were reported, including Admiral Nelson. Within 18 months a significant number of English seamen had been paid-off.

‘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’. Dispatch, Governor Lachlan Macquarie, 30 April, 1810. 

1815 – Waterloo, Belgium: The Napoleonic Wars came to an end, when England’s Duke of Wellington defeated Bonaparte’s army at Waterloo, near Brussels on the 18th of June 1815.

1816 – England: Victory – soldiers returning from Britain’s land wars with Napoleon joined the ranks of the unemployed swollen already by 120,000 sailors paid off Trafalgar.

In England push factors – peace, unemployment, poverty and an exploding population were matched in Australia by pull factors land –  lots of land – and a shortage of labourers – conditions that saw convict transportation escalate.

‘I call upon you to remember that cruel punishments have an inevitable tendency to produce cruelty. Sir Samuel Romilly.

1828: The census of 1828 put the European population of the eastern states, Tasmania included from 1803, at 27,600 men and 9,000 women.

1833: The demand for labour saw this number rise by 1833 to approximately ‘59,000 – 73% male, 27% female’.

1831-1840: Between 1831 and 1840 Britain shipped convicts – 43,000 male and 7,750 female – to Australia  at the rate of 5,000 a year.

‘A marked sex imbalance…was responsible for a high incidence of male sexual violence towards women in the colony’. Garton. ibid

January 1836, Sydney: Charles Darwin arrived in Sydney aboard the Beagle. A few days later the experienced young horseman struck out for Bathurst. Born in 1809 Darwin was similar in age to prisoners he encountered on the road to Bathurst.

‘The usual number of assigned convict-servants here [Wallerawang] is about forty, 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 labours, like the slaves from Africa, yet without their holy claim for compassion’. Charles Darwin, Voyage Of The Beagle, 1836.

Charles Darwin, after five (5) years at sea separated from friends and, a family more closely entwined than most, recognised instantly the ‘apparent absence of comfort’ experienced by male convicts. Darwin, who went on to father ten (10) children, related viscerally to their unmet sexual needs.

 ‘[Men in] iron gangs or parties of convicts who have committed here some offence, 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’. Darwin. ibid

On release the need for ‘sensual gratification’ and heterosexual ‘compassion’ generated  ‘the gross irregularities and disorders’ flagged in London’s 1786 ‘Heads of a Plan for Botany Bay’.

‘Nine (9) white men…..for every white woman’ the demands of ‘hardened, profligate men’ for heterosexual intercourse came near to completely destroying the future biological integrity of Australia’s First Peoples.

1786-1858: Approximately 163,000 convicts were transported to Australia between 1786 and 1858. Only 25,000 of these were women, with one-half – 12,500 – going directly to Tasmania and zero to West Australia.

‘Only 25,000 women, a seventh of the total number of convicts, were transported, creating a marked sex imbalance in the population. By 1820 there were nine white men in New South Wales, and ten men in Van Diemen’s Land [Tasmania] for every white woman.

Historians have argued that this imbalance was responsible for a high incidence of male sexual violence towards women in the colony’. Stephen Garton. ibid.

Aboriginal women were conscripted to ‘comfort’ criminal and conqueror alike. Aboriginal women bore the brunt of white ‘male sexual violence’.

The eastern states [New South Wales + Queensland] where transportation ended (1841) received 80,440 prisoners; 67,980 males and 12,460 women.


1841-1846: During the entire period of transportation (1803-1846) a total of 67,150 common criminals – 54,650 men and 12,500 women were transported to Tasmania.  See: A War Grave – Tasmania.


1857, West Australia from England: Britain began shipping convicts to West Australia in 1857 under Home Secretary the Duke of Buckingham. Zero women and 10,000 male convicts were transported there.

1867 – 12 October, Freemantle : Hougoumont the last convict transport sailed from England to West Australia with 280 male convicts. Among them sixty-three (63) Irish political prisoners condemned for involvement in the Clerkenwell ‘Fenian conspiracy’. See:  Ketch Connection Michael Barrett, Thomas Barrett & Robert Ryan


‘With the cessation of transportation to the eastern mainland thousands of assisted [pauper] migrants were brought out to supply the labour market’. Russell Ward, Australia, 1965

1851-1861: As if two (2) genocidal gender assaults – firstly convicted criminals followed by brutalised paupers swept from Britain’s vast, infamous work-houses, were not bad enough, Australia’s First Nations’ Peoples were ravaged by a third wave. Again predominately men in search of the Holy Grail – gold.

‘In the sixty odd years after the First Fleeters landed at Sydney Cove the population increased slowly to 405,000. In the decade of the Gold Rush, 1851-1861, this figure grew to about 1,146,000. In these ten years the white population of the continent nearly trebled, while that of the infant colony of Victoria increased six-fold from 87,000 to 540,000’. Ward. Op. Cit.

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