Why would a ship, a ship’s port and an entire penal colony be labelled as a brothel by historians?


Perhaps early colonial records of prostitution were read incorrectly. Or they were purposely used as a political weapon to promote an economic and moral ideology back in England. In any case, women arriving by ship in Botany Bay like those aboard the Lady Julian (Juliana) were viewed as the source of a badly-behaved, disorderly and immoral influence on the new colony.


Viewed through the eyes of Sian Rees (2001) in her description of female convicts aboard the Lady Julian (Juliana) penal records were hopelessly inaccurate. The Transportation Register lists 172 women passengers, but some had already received a pardon, a few escaped, and several had died while still in a London jail. Of those jailed outside London, none of the women – girls really – were listed. John Nicol, the steward on the Lady Julian perhaps had the most accurate headcount of 245. The ship set sail in July 1789.


We must place these young women in context – England, city or countryside – fell into an economic crisis when a disbanded army of 130,000 males descended upon cities and shires. Not a promising outlook. Jobs and food were a necessity for an out of control population. The first wave of the disenfranchised to hit the streets were injured veterans, crippled or amputees from the lost American colonial war. The second wave occurred more slowly: when able-bodied men returned, they were unemployed. Women were employed. ‘Giving women’s jobs to men and sending the women home is a familiar post war story’ (Rees 2001). But in this case, many of the women did not have a home to go to. Most turned to domestic labour to earn and to keep them out of extreme poverty. Then, Prime Minister Pitt in 1785 proposed a tax on all maidservants over the age of 15. The following year, The Times estimated that 50,000 common women – read prostitutes – were on the streets.



Put out of appropriate or legal employment. Taxed if she did have domestic employment. Often without family support, ‘her name had been sullied’ after some romantic interlude. Women survived either by stealing or seducing. Jailed and hauled up before a court to be labeled, they were finally transported to Australia. Society could not acknowledge or perhaps even understand the cause of her crime might be outside of her control. Rehabilitation was out of the question in the late 1700s. She was disgraced, her character destroyed, never to be retrieved ‘…whereas disgraced males ‘after many errors, may reform and be admitted into that same society.’ (Rees 2001)



Onboard the Lady Julian (Juliana) the women were late teens or twenties. Sailors were the same age and the officers only a little older. The women arrived malnourished, debilitated and inadequately clothed. Some were ill from disease-bearing lice though we have read in other sources that women were hosed and combed before boarding.


Every seaman and every officer was entitled by law to the woman of his choice to serve him as ‘mate’ for the duration of the voyage.(Rees 2001). She, on the other hand, was ‘to oblige’ sailor or officer who chose her. Coercion or consensual – we can only guess of her attitude towards men, whether onboard or on the streets of London. Men as a species could not possibly engage in a relationship. Perhaps. Men believed in ownership, so for these young women engaging in serial monogamy was the only way to survive.


Yet, according to Rees’ research, the treatment toward women onboard The Lady Julian was a humane one; ‘it was an interlude of tranquility and care before arriving to the hardships of Sidney Cove’. According to legends of other convict ships – brutality was the norm.


Once onshore at Sydney Cove, she was again without protection. As she was the most disadvantaged and economically vulnerable, she immediately sought another partner for survival. Cohabitation was seen by society as immoral. And through religious eyes, she was to blame for she could not be rehabilitated. Hers (prostitution) was a terminal illness. (Daniels 1998)


So, the reputation of floating brothels continued with subsequent ships carrying female convicts. By 1832, in pamphlets written for the literate population, Anglican Archbishop Richard Whatley – who had never been to New South Wales nor had he met any convicts – denigrated all things Botany Bay and warned of the risks posed to Britons should any [convicts] be returned. (Smith 2008).


In 1838, a committee chaired by Sir William Molesworth to investigate transportation extended the disgraceful reputation to include Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania). Again the subject of women prisoners was examined by the Committee under the guise of choice, not of circumstance. The moralists back in England merely recycled the 1812 findings of the Reverend Samuel Marsden ‘with the same exclamations of horror as had occurred at many intervals since Botany Bay was established’. (Smith 2008).



From ship… to port… to an entire colony, the branding held firm…



6AM -- For the early risers who often run, trot or meander through beautiful Parramatta Park around dawn, this Australia Day (weather cooperating) the skies will light up with more hot-air balloons than you can remember from past celebrations.

FOOD VENDORS -- those mobile eateries that seem to be at every event -- will provide many options for breakfast. We haven't checked in with the Parramatta Park Cafe folks, but we're confident breakfast will be smashing.




We checked the BOM forecast for the 26th and while it may 'rain on our parade', often Mother Nature delays, so lets hope for the moderate temperatures and only overcast skies. 




CARnival opens at 11:30 and the display of beautifully restored vintage cars, bikes and trucks continues through the day. This year original racing cars from the 1950s racing circuit are among the display.



The Kids' Crescent opens up at 12 noon with music, kids' rides and workshops. Lots of entertainment will keep the 'ankle biters' dancing and entertained through the day until 6pm.

The Crescent & Fireworks will be the piece d' resistance as always. Who doesn't love the best Aussie rock or hip hop, a picnic, ice cream and massive fireworks. Hopefully the sun will breakthrough in the late of the day and the spectacular fireworks will light up the night!


     The Crescent musical hot spot



    Aussie, Aussie, Aussie  oi, oi, oi!  Long may she hold forth!