Prior to the arrival of Captain James Cook in 1770, New South wales was inhabited by Indigenous Australians for at least 40,000 years. The First Fleet, comprising 11 ships and around 1,350 people, was dispatched to the unknown continent – the only information about New South Wales was that from Cook’s voyage of 1770. From these records it was decided the first settlement would be at Botany Bay, and a second settlement would be established at Norfolk Island to provide wood for ships and masts.

However, on arrival at Botany Bay on 18 January 1788, Captain Phillip decided the site was not suitable and resolved to look for another. He decided upon Port Jackson, the site of modern day Sydney, and the people of the First Fleet established Australia’s first settlement on 26 January 1788.

The Fleet consisted mainly of convicts with officers to guard them. Few people in the Fleet had any experience of cultivating the land and this, combined with poor soil in the area, lead to severe food shortages. The fledgling colony eagerly awaited on the arrival of the Second Fleet in 1790.

26 January is the Day on which Australians commemorate the founding of the modern Australian nation. Flag-raising ceremonies, citizenship ceremonies, barbecues, fireworks and regattas are just a few of the events which take place.

For many Indigenous Australians, however, 26 January is not a day of celebration but one of mourning and protest. For indigenous Australians, the founding of the modern Australian nation led to the disruption of their traditional way of life.

By 1820, Australia was beginning to look prosperous and sentiments of Australian patriotism were being expressed at gatherings of ex-convicts. The sense of belonging to a new nation must have been encouraged in 1817 when Governor Macquarie recommended the adoption of the name ‘Australia’ for the entire continent instead of New Holland. By 1847 the convict population of Sydney accounted for only 3.2 percent of the total population.

Australian Federation occurred in 1901 and the Commonwealth of Australia was declared in a ceremony in Centennial Park.