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The Library has an unrivalled collection of original journals, logbooks, letters, paintings, prints, drawings and books that document the history of Australia from 1788.
Although these items record significant events in the colonial history of New South Wales, the Library is conscious of the impact these events have had on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, and of the need to critically examine and reinterpret these documents to bring a greater depth of understanding to the history we present to future generations.
The Library also recognises that the history recorded by this collection material is selective — it only represents the point of view of the colonisers.
What we now know as Australia had been inhabited by Indigenous peoples for thousands of years. Europeans saw the area as an unoccupied land ready for settlement and the expansion of British interests.
The arrival of the British First Fleet and establishment of the penal colony at Sydney Cove irrevocably changed the future of the country for Indigenous peoples.
The First Fleet
On 13 May 1787 a fleet of 11 ships set sail from Portsmouth, England under the command of Captain Arthur Phillip. This historic convoy, which later became known as the First Fleet, carried over 1500 men, women and children to the other side of the globe. Almost half of those on board were convicts sentenced to transportation; the rest were officers, crew and marines and their families.