Contact with non-Aboriginal people
On 18 January 1788, the First Fleet of British convicts and settlers arrived in Botany Bay. On this date, Aboriginal Australia was invaded. The invasion would continue for many decades. Thousands of Aboriginal people would die from violence, disease and poor living conditions taking much cultural knowledge with them. Many others would lose their freedom, being forced into mission settlements and reserves.
Life was also tough for many of the new arrivals. After the explorers had opened up new areas for settlement, it often fell upon the convicts to construct the roads and buildings that were needed. You can see some of the convict heritage - and the hardships they faced - in many parks and reserves around the state.
The explorers didn't 'discover' new areas for settlement by themselves. They had a lot of help from Aboriginal people. Find out more about their exploration and learn about the missions that church leaders set up in the 19th century, to house, protect, and 'Christianise' Aboriginal people.
Eight days after the British First Fleet arrived in Botany Bay, the British encountered the expedition of the Compte de Lapérouse, France's famous explorer, in Botany Bay. Governor Phillip was told before leaving England to expect the French, and he extended a friendly welcome to them.
However, it was not long before the British invaders became defenders. A fear of invasion by the French, and later the Russians (1850s) and Japanese (1940s), was the reason for the ongoing construction of a defence system for Sydney Harbour.
Defence heritage in and around Sydney Harbour
Trace the haphazard history of Sydney's defences, from the early days of the colony to World War II.
Botany Bay National Park
Find out more about the European explorers, and their interactions with Aboriginal people, at the Botony Bay National Park's Laperouse Museum and Discovery Centre.
Page last updated: 26 February 2011