It is a public holiday here today.We are celebrating our nation's birthday today. In 1788, 11 ships under the command of Captain Arthur Philip, arrived in Sydney Cove carrying convicts from England.
The First Fleeters arrived with very little resources to set up a fully operational colony and so it was that after settling in Port Jackson the colony faced many years on the brink of starvation as it waited from supplies to arrive from the mother country.
It is also on this day that we remember that it was essentially the first time that the indigenous population came into contact with white man, to tragic consequences.
In spite of this difficult start, we celebrate what Australia has become as a nation: a diverse society with a rich but sometimes harsh landscape. Many migrants choose to become Australia citizens today, and across the nation the plan is to celebrate with BBQs and a trip down to the beach followed by fireworks.
For a wonderful eyewitness account of the settlement of Sydney you can't go past Watkin Tench's Sydney's First Four Years (Sydney, 1961). In prose easily understood he recounts life in the new colony. It is also a sympathetic account of the interaction between Europeans and Aborigines. I thoroughly recommend it.
Happy Australia Day!
Images: William Bradley, Charles Meere