On this day …….. 9th of January 1868

The Swan River colony, established on Australia’s western coast in 1829, was begun as a free settlement. Captain Charles Fremantle declared the Swan River Colony for Britain on the 2nd of May 1829. The first ships with free settlers to arrive were the Parmelia on June the 1st and HMS Sulphur on June the 8th. Three merchant ships arrived 4-6 weeks later: the Calista on August the 5th, the St Leonard on August the 6th and the Marquis of Anglesey on August the 23rd. Although the population spread out in search of good land, mainly settling around the southwestern coastline at Bunbury, Augusta and Albany, the two original separate townsites of the colony developed slowly into the port city of Fremantle and the Western Australian capital city of Perth. For the first fifteen years, the people of the colony were generally opposed to accepting convicts, although the idea was occasionally debated, especially by those who sought to employ convict labour for building projects. Serious lobbying for Western Australia to become a penal colony began in 1845 when the York Agricultural Society petitioned the Legislative Council to bring convicts out from England on the grounds that the colony’s economy was on the brink of collapse due to an extreme shortage of labour. Whilst later examination of the circumstances proves that there was no such shortage of labour in the colony, the petition found its way to the British Colonial Office, which in turn agreed to send out a small number of convicts to Swan River.

The first group of convicts to populate Fremantle arrived on the 1st June 1850. Between 1850 and 1868, ultimately 9721 convicts were transported to Western Australia. The last convict ship to Western Australia, the Hougoumont, left Britain in 1867 and docked at Fremantle in Western Australia on the 9th January 1868. It carried 108 passengers and 279 convicts.