Birth of NSW

February 07, 2019

On 7 February 1788, on the shores of Sydney Cove (Circular Quay) in the harbour of Port Jackson, Governor (and Captain) Arthur Phillip of the First Fleet formally proclaimed the Colony of New South Wales (NSW).

A few days after the 11 vessels of the First Fleet arrived at Botany Bay – carrying over a thousand settlers, including 778 convicts (192 women and 586 men) – Governor Phillip relocated the fleet on 26 January 1788 to the more suitable Sydney Cove, which he named in honour of then British Home Secretary (of State), Lord Sydney.

With its fresh water supply and safe harbour, Governor Phillip famously described Sydney Cove as, “… being without exception the finest Harbour in the World ... Here a Thousand Sail of the Line may ride in the most perfect Security.”

Just 12 days after the landing at Sydney Cove – and the birth of a new Western nation – the Colony of NSW was brought into being.

Celebrate the birth of NSW by:

  • if you’re in/near Sydney, visiting Circular Quay and showing your friends or loved ones some sites commemorating New South Wales’ history
  • if you live outside of NSW, planning a visit to the First/Premier State to enjoy its beauty, contrasts, hospitality and history
  • getting into the NSW spirit by donning their sky blue colours and/or displaying blue lighting that is visible from your street
  • if you have a NSW state flag, flying it with pride
  • researching the history of NSW and how this first British colony of Terra Australis came into being and evolved
  • reflecting on what early colonial life would have been like around the banks of Sydney Cove/Harbour without fossil fuels, air-conditioning, telephony, the internet, insect repellent and reliable food supply
  • writing to your local newspaper about this great occasion and all the development and innovation brought to the state and Australia by Western civilisation in the subsequent 230+ years
  • apprising yourself of the Conservative Party’s principles and policies around preserving our Constitution and the best of Australia and its people, and/or
  • sharing this Action Plan post on social media with family, friends and those proud and patriotic about our nation’s history, development and culture.

More information:

When first settled by the British in 1788, the Colony of NSW comprised the whole eastern half of Australia (ie east of the 135th meridian east), including today’s Tasmania and most of New Zealand, with the continent’s western half left as “New Holland”.

  • The whole continent of Australia had been generally referred to as, or called, “New Holland” since Dutch seafaring explorer, Abel Tasman, named it so after discovering Tasmania (Van Diemen’s Land) in the 1640s – although the Dutch never proclaimed or settled it. Before that, Australia was generally referred to as Terra Australis (or South Land).

In 1825, the Colony of NSW was extended west to the 129th meridian east (the current WA border) and the islands south of today’s Victoria were made the Colony of Van Diemen's Land (now Tasmania).

In 1836, a portion of the Colony of NSW (south of the 26th parallel south) was made the Colony (or Province) of South Australia (SA).

In 1840, the Colony of New Zealand was split from NSW.

In 1851, the Colony of Victoria (essentially south of the Murray River and east of SA) was split from NSW.

In 1859, the Colony of Queensland (essentially north of the 29th parallel south) was split from NSW. Queensland’s western border was originally east of the 141st meridian east, but was extended west to the 138th meridian east in 1862 – the current Qld-Northern Territory (NT) border.

The Colony of NSW was further reduced in territory by extending the Colony of SA’s territory:

  • west to the border of New Holland (the current WA-SA border) in 1861, and
  • north to include the whole of today’s NT in 1863 (which was subsequently transferred to federal control in 1911 and called the NT).

The Colony of NSW began to flourish soon after inland explorers, Blaxland, Lawson and Wentworth, in 1813 successfully crossed the formidable barrier of the Blue Mountains (part of the Great Dividing Range, near Sydney) and saw “enough grass to support the stock of the colony for thirty years.” This was in reference to the eastern reaches of today’s great Murray-Darling Basin (MDB), whose subsequent agricultural development enabled the fledgling colony to thrive and a sovereign nation to evolve.

Today, NSW – a state since the Federation of our nation in 1901 – has a population of about 8 million with nearly two-thirds of them living in the vicinity of its capital – the Greater Sydney area. NSW accounts for around 33% percent of Australia’s economy (and Sydney nearly a quarter).

Much of Australia’s newer industries such as financial services, IT, communications, film, television and media are centred in the Sydney CBD, with many global giants also having their headquarters there (along with the significant political, cosmopolitan and internationalist influence that brings). But as with the state of Queensland, coal (and its related products) is NSW’s largest export.

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