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History of Australia Day 

Australia Day traditionally marks the anniversary of 26 January, 1788 when Captain Arthur Phillip and the First Fleet raised the flag on Australia's first European settlement at Sydney Cove.

Captain James CookAfter the United States of America won the Revolutionary War in 1783, it was no longer possible for Britain to send unwanted criminals there. As the crime rate increased in England, jails and prison hulks moored in British harbours became overcrowded. Captain Cook had discovered the east coast of Australia in 1770 and not long after this voyage, the possibility of using Australia as a penal colony was considered.

It is believed that this need for a place to "dump" convicts, was not the only reason for colonising Australia. Botany Bay was also seen as a port of call and supply base for British ships traveling the Indian and Pacific Oceans, and trading with China. Although shorter alternative routes were possible, by the mid 1780's, the British Government was concerned that these routes might be cut if the Dutch went to war with Great Britain.

At the same time, Britain was heavily dependent on Baltic countries fro timber that could be used for masts and shipbuilding and flax used for the manufacture of canvas, sailcloth and rope. As possible alliances between French, Dutch and Russians could block the supply of these material, Britain was anxious to find alternative sources. Captain Cook and Sir Joseph Banks recommended that Australia, New Zealand and nearby islands could be potential sources of timber and flax.

On May, 13 1787, eleven ships set out from Portsmouth, England on an eight month voyage to Australia, carrying approximately 1 350 men, women and children. 

The ships of the First Fleet and their functions were: 

HMS Sirius - Flagship Prince of Wales - Transport
HMS Supply - Armed Tender Scarborough - Transport
Alexander - Transport Borrowdale - Storeship
Charlotte - Transport Fishburn - Storeship
Friendship - Transport Golden Grove - Storeship
Lady Penhryn - Transport  

The Supply was the first ship to reach Botany Bay, followed by the three transports the second day and the remainder the following day, 20th January 1788. The journey of 15,000 miles took just over eight months. After exploring Botany Bay it was found to be unsuitable for settlement. The reason was that it lacked good soil, it lacked a good supply of fresh water and that the bay was so shallow that ships had to anchor too far offshore. 

On Monday 21st January, Phillip took a small party of officers and marines in three open boats to explore the coast north of Botany Bay Captain Cook had mentioned Port Jackson which he had not explored, and also Broken Bay which he described as having hills right down to the edge of the bay. 

As Port Jackson was closer, the explorers examined it first and were delighted with what they saw. There was a cove with a good stream of fresh water flowing into it and Phillip named it Sydney Cove after Lord Sydney. His party spent two days examining the area around the cove. On 23rd January they returned to Botany Bay and the idea of a settlement  at Port Jackson was enthusiastically welcomed. 

The next day two French ships under the command of Jean-Francois Galoup, Comte de la Perouse was sighted. They were on a voyage of discovery set to continue on the work done by Captain Cook. 

On 25th January Phillip set sail for Sydney Cove, allowing the rest of the fleet to sail when the strong gale eased sufficiently to allow the 10 ships to sail safely together. A clearing was made and a flagpole was erected and on the next day the Union Jack of Queen Anne was hoisted with the usual ceremony. On that evening the rest of the fleet under Captain Hunter arrived. 

The day of the hoisting of the flag, 26th January, 1788 was originally called Foundation Day and today is called Australia Day.

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