LOCAL HISTORY - NEW SOUTH WALES
We’ve come a long way in 200 years. From the rich pasturelands of the countryside to Sydney’s thriving metropolis, it’s easy to forget the severity of our colonial history. Back then, battles were fought, convicts toiled, corruption was rife and plucky explorers risked their lives to chart New South Wale’s vast and unforgiving terrain. Today, however, the premier state is numbered among the most popular tourist destinations in the world.
KEY EVENTS IN THE HISTORY OF NEW SOUTH WALES
1640s Australia’s east coast was charted by the Dutch and dubbed New Holland.
1770 130 years later, Captain Cook sailed into what is now called Sydney Harbour. He called the area ‘New South Wales’ and claimed Australia for the British – although it wasn’t colonised until 18 years later.
1776 America’s Declaration of Independence ended two decades of British rule – and Britain was no longer able to transport convicts to North America, so the decision was made to found a colony in New South Wales.
1788 Around 18 years after Cook’s maiden voyage, Captain Arthur Phillip and the First Fleet dropped anchor at Port Jackson on 26 January (now known as Australia Day). The British flag was unfurled at Sydney Cove (now Circular Quay), the birthplace of the nation. It was named after Viscount Sydney, British Secretary of State, who commissioned the voyage.
1788 The arrival of the British had a huge impact on Australia’s tribal culture, the Aborigines, who had no central political system and were unable to present a united front to defend their land. The British staged fierce battles to drive the Aborigines away, which, for many indigenous Australians, meant a disruption of their traditional way of life as well as death, disease and dispossession.
1800s Much of the back-breaking work of building the colony fell to the convicts. The Rocks is where the young colony took root and by the early 1800s Sydney had become a busy trading port and prosperous farming sector.
1814 26 years after the colony was first established, cartographer Matthew Flinders, who had circumnavigated the continent, proposed the name Australia.
1823 New South Wales granted the first constitutional charter by British law.
1851 Large quantities of gold were discovered near Orange, prompting a swarm of miners to the area hoping to strike it lucky. For the next 50 years, gold rushes throughout NSW and Australia helped contribute to the cultural, social and economic structure of the new colony.
1901 The six British colonies in Australia formed a federation to become the Commonwealth of Australia.
DID YOU KNOW?
The new colony was never designed to be a great city, just a prison settlement – which is why most of the first inhabitants of the city were actually criminals!
Convicts were transported to the colony for minor infringements (such as stealing a loaf of bread). They were often given outrageous sentences – and put to work building the colony. Their payment? Tots of rum! Rum was the currency used in Australia before coinage was introduced.
The first boatload to arrive in the new colony carried 1500 people. Half were convicts and the other half were soldiers and free settlers. Only 400 of that first boatload were women, which caused no end of problems!
Wealthy landowners Blaxland, Wentworth and Lawson were the first explorers to cross the Blue Mountains, opening up more farming land to the settlement.
When Europeans arrived in 1788, what is now the Olympic site at Homebush Bay consisted of extensive tidal wetlands. First known as ‘The Flats’, the area was used for salt making, horse and cattle production, the Homebush Racecourse, an armaments depot, the State abattoir and the State brick-works. Much of the wetlands were reclaimed through use as a garbage dump for much of Sydney’s household and industrial waste in the 1960s and 70s.
Distinctive Aussie legends began to emerge in the 1850s – gold rush towns and colourful characters of the time such as squatters, shearers, swagmen and bush rangers all became immortalised in poetry, songs and writings from the era.
There are around 2000 Aboriginal rock engraving sites in Sydney and its surrounding regions, and many of Sydney's suburbs have Aboriginal names.
Initially, the British were vastly outnumbered by Aboriginal people, who’d inhabited Australia for an estimated 40,000 years before the British arrived. Today, indigenous people represent 1.9% of the New South Wales population, compared with 2.2 for Australia.
New South Wales offers breathtaking beaches and coastlines, World Heritage National Parks, real Australia outback, snow-capped ski fields, lush farming country and the dazzling city lights of Sydney.
Against this stunning backdrop you will find a network of great dining, food and wine trails, adventure activities, historic country towns, entertainment & shopping, arts and crafts and a fascinating heritage and aboriginal culture.