5 – British colonisation of Australia began with a huge orgy of rape
” What with the stinking Fish-Oil with which they seem to besmear their Bodies, & this mixed with the Soot which is collected on their Skins from continually setting over the Fires, and then in addition to those sweet Odours, the constant appearance of the Excrementitious Matter of the Nose which is collected on the upper pouting Lip, in rich Clusters of dry Bubbles, and is kept up by fresh Drippings; I say, from all these personal Graces & Embellishments, every Inclination for an Affair of Gallantry, as well as every idea of fond endearing Intercourse, which the nakedness of these Damssels might excite one to, is banished.” George Worgan, ship’s surgeon on the Sirius
Among the 1000 or so convicts transported on the First Fleet, women made up around 200. The criminal class which so obsessed Georgian England was just as likely to be female as male and there was a whole litany of crimes that were alleged of women – prostitution being the highest allegation amongst them, though the majority that sailed on the First Fleet were actually petty thieves. The British realised that, were the colony to be successful, women would be necessary to propagate it and thus a substantial number were transported, though the men still outnumbered them 6 to 1.
Once the fleet had landed and the men been set to work on the land, the women were finally allowed to disembark. They had been cooped up on the ship for almost two weeks from the first landfall on January 26 until February 6, and as the day advanced, they were gradually allowed out occupy the shacks that had been constructed for them by the male convicts. “Some few among them might be said to be well dressed,” wrote Arthur Bowes Smyth, a ship’s surgeon, of the female convicts, many of whom had worn their finest clothing for the occasion.
As the last descended at around 6 in the evening, a terrible storm whipped in from the Pacific, undoing all the work that had been done to house the women. The ramshackle houses blew away and the rain turned the soil to mud, leaving the women disorientated and stumbling around. The convict men set about them, chasing the women around with the intent of raping them. Some of the sailors, encouraged by the extra rations of rum that they had been given to celebrate the success of the colony and the arrival of the women, joined them in their pursuit. Thus was the new colony christened.
The next day, Captain Arthur Phillips sat at a folding table on the shore of what is now Circular Quay to do the same, though officially this time. He made the official proclamation of the colony to the ranks of squatting convicts, gun-toting guards and assorted naval figures that made up the newly named Sydney. Thus Captain Arthur Phillips became Governor Phillips, the first leader of New South Wales, empowered by the King to make a new outpost for the empire in the Antipodes. They raised the flag, fired a volley of musket shots and sat down to a luncheon of mutton, which they discovered to be filled with maggots.
The formalities over, Phillips harangued the convicts and the sailors for their behaviour the night before, warning them starkly that life in this new land would require the utmost of discipline and the hardest of work. Anyone who was not up to the task would find themselves dead. The job of the First Fleet, now the New South Wales colonists, was to prepare the settlement for the arrival of the Second Fleet, which they were reliably informed had departed while they had been at sea.
Little did they know what a sorry affair that voyage had become…