No one knows for certain why the British government decided to make a settlement in Australia. Life in 18th century Britain was harsh and many people were very poor and had no government help. To survive, many turned to crime resulting in jails becoming overcrowded. In fact, the prisons were so overcrowded that old ships called hulks were moored in rivers and turned into jails.
On 13 May 1787, the British Government sent a fleet of 11 ships under the command of Captain Arthur Phillip to start a colony in New Holland (Australia) at Botany Bay. Six of these ships were convict transports carrying a total of 756 convicts. About 200 of these convicts were women.
Between 1777 and 1868, the British Government shipped approximately 165,000 convicts to Australia. These convicts were imprisoned in a strange land more than 22,000 kilometers from their home. If they wanted to return home at the end of their sentences, they had to pay the fare themselves. Most convicts could not afford it.
Sheppard, B. (2001). Convicts. Melbourne, Vic. Echidna Books, pp. 4-5
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