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Well the British ships got there first, then the Navy, and then the convict ships, but yes they were, and today any Australian who can claim ancestry from the convicts is roughly equal to the American pilgrims.
About 600,000 Brits were consigned to penal servitude in OZ during the period, many of them for minor offenses.
What a country they built! - by deporting their problems, they lost some of the most hardy and ingenious people they had.
Lots went to N. Zealand, Canada and S. Africa as well, which is why English is so widespread. We sowed the seeds in the States, except American English (spelling) is stuck in the 18th Century. Still, it's not all bad. At least we understand them
We used to send them your way. Just be glad you went your own way and left Jolly George behind. We had to find somewhere else to send them before the jails burst their seams. Someone had a sparkler of an idea after our man Cook laid claim to Van Diemen's Land on behalf of the crown. We sent shiploads of not only convicts but settlers as well. Troopers, Redcoats and a raft of legal administrators went with them, plus their families. The relationship of legal settlers and 'minders' to convicts was probably at least five-to-one. It had to be. The settlers, or squatters, paved the way beyond the Blue Mountains on the western edge of the colony. Pioneers like Edmund Burke pushed the bounds, out into the central desert area and a new generation of migrants followed after the discovery of gold, opals and other minerals.
Not all convicts were vagabonds and thieves, either. Some were found guilty of organising labour in England, such as the Tolpuddle Martyrs from Dorset who tried to gain rights for farm labourers. Some came back, more never saw England again.
So that's the make-up of Oz. If your great-great grandad was a 'lag' (slang for convict), he was in a sizeable minority, but by no means representative of the country. Many in the last 50 years went to escape unemployment here, as some I went to school with... Such as Bryn Carman, now a self-made millionaire as a result of his pastime, sea angling. Many others escaped the carnage in the Balkans in the 1980s.
The 'Founding Fathers' thing is part of America's creation myth and just sounds weird in relation to Australia. For one thing, women were involved, which apparently they were not in the US.
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