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Australia, or New South Wales as the eastern coast was then known, was originally a penal colony, meaning it was a colony for convicts from Great Britain.

Australia was first colonised by the British in order to relieve the overly full British prisons. However, only relatively small parts of Australia were used as penal settlements. Indigenous Australians inhabited the rest of the continent as well. As well as Sydney (the first settlement in New South Wakes), convict colonies were begun in Victoria, Moreton Bay (Queensland), Hobart and Newcastle. The colony of South Australia was never a penal settlement. Swan River (Perth) began as a free settlement, but convicts were sent there later as free labour.

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Australia was founded as a British colony, but it was not specifically for any one group of people. Initially, the colony housed convicts from Great Britain, but there were also large numbers of officers and marines, as well as the wives and children of some of the marines.

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