At school, I was taught that Australia was colonised by Britain along these lines:

“The reasons that led the British to invade Australia were simple. The prisons in Britain
had become unbearably overcrowded, a situation worsened by the refusal of America to
take any more convicts after the American War of Independence in 1783.”
(“The British Invasion of Australia. Convicts: Exile and Dislocation’ Sue Ballyn (2011) in

‘Lives in Migration: Rupture and Continuity’)

An online search shows this idea is still widely circulated.

 

I no longer believe this line of reasoning.moonings
It is somewhat akin to suggesting that we send scientists to Antarctica because we have too many scientists.
Governments throughout history have used prisoners as convenient cheap or free labour to perform public works, and continue to do so today.
I suspect (and I hope that some more eminent historians have already written) that the main motive for the colonisation was that British sought to claim the vast continent of Australia for potential economic and strategic advantage, ahead of their Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch and French counterparts. The 1500s saw the start of European colonisation in the Americas; colonisation in Asia was in full-swing from the 1600s. Having lost America, it only made sense for the British to seek fresh fields.
Later, additional colonies were established in distant reaches of the Australian continent–far from the first settlement in Sydney (Tasmania, Western Australia, Queensland). This makes more sense strategically than practically. Furthermore, maintaining the status of colonies as penal settlements for as long as possible allowed Britain to maintain tighter control.
“How will we convince our people to move to Australia?” politicians may have asked.
“Encourage them to do it for the glory of Britain, to hedge off our French rivals!” might not convince many potential settlers.
The modern day equivalent is moving to Mars. Brave people might volunteer, but in contrast, convict labour is cheap, plentiful and compliant.
I’ll leave my supposition here, as it is personal conjecture, and I have not been able to find sources to back up my argument.
So Aussie children continue to learn that “Britain needed to send prisoners somewhere, so they chose to colonise Australia”, as a form of justification. Replacing the word “colonise” with “invade”, if the real motives remain obscured, perpetuates a dangerous myth.
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