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European Arrival

On those eleven ships were convicts - men, women and even children who had been convicted of crimes in Britain.

Their punishment was transportation to Botany Bay and their job now was to work for the government and build the new colony.

Feeding the colony

There were over one thousand people on the First Fleet and that is a lot of mouths to feed! The site where the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney is today is the same place where the British colony first attempted to farm. However, it was not a very successful farm. Poor soil and unfamiliar conditions meant the crops they tried to grow failed.

First colonial farm

Despite the First Colonial Farm being a failure in the 1700’s, we have a much better understanding of plants and gardening today. Our gardeners now grow lots of fruit and vegetables in the location of the first colonial farm! This garden is used to grow examples of the food plants that were brought over on the First Fleet. Have a look at what is growing in the First Colonial Farm at the Royal Botanic Gardens.

Life of a convict

Life as a convict was not easy. Many of them were not terrible criminals but rather people who had lost their jobs and had stolen things to support and feed their family. Now, for their small crime, they had lost their freedom and had to work for the government in this new foreign land. They were fed minimal food and were given extra punishments if they misbehaved. Have a look at the illustrations below to get a better idea of what life was really like for a convict.

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Activities - European Arrival

1. Food in the early Sydney settlement

Answer these questions after reading the excerpts from Jacqui Newling’s article, ‘Phillips Table: Food in the early Sydney settlement’:
  • What foods did the colony focus on growing to establish a supply?
  • When the crops started failing in Sydney Cove where did they move their farms to?
  • What native foods did the colonists start using?
  • How long was the food brought on the First Fleet supposed to last?
  • Why were they running out of food?

2. Foods in the first farm

Research the foods growing in the first farm that you saw in the 360VR. Create a poster showing where they originally come from and what conditions they need to grow.

3. Uniforms

Make your own convict uniform. Use the activity sheet to help you. 
Click here to access the 'Make a Convict Uniform' activity sheet.

4. Cooking time

Cook up some gruel! Follow the recipe, and make sure an adult helps you. 
Click here to access the 'Gruel Recipe' activity sheet.

5. Time to feast

Have a convict meal together – get dressed in your convict uniforms and eat gruel!

Page Banner Image
'Entrance of Port Jackson' 27 January by William Bradley.
Creator died before 1955
Image sourced from Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales

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