First Fleet ship given National Heritage status

By AAP with AG Staff 26 October 2011
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The wreck of a First Fleet ship which once carried Governor Phillip has been given National Heritage status.

THE WRECK OF THE HMS Sirius, the mother ship of the First Fleet, has been given National Heritage Listing.

Announcing the listing at Sydney’s National Maritime Museum, Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke said the arrival of the First Fleet in 1788 was the most significant moment in the history of Australia.

Speaking to primary-school students from Parramatta and Norfolk Island, he emphasised the importance of conserving historical sites and objects in order to piece together the story of Australia.

Heritage listing recognises Australia’s history

The history of the Sirius, which was lost off Norfolk Island in 1790, was not just the history of the English, he said.

“If you look at the people who were on the First Fleet, you find a massive spread of different nationalities and religions, similar to what you find in Australia today,” the minister said. “We can’t imagine a story that has all the special parts of how our nation came to be, without including the flagship of the First Fleet.”

The curator of exploration at the National Maritime Museum, Nigel Erskine, said the Sirius played a key role in the journey to Australia.

Sirius the First Fleet flagship

“If you can imagine eleven vessels on a nine-month journey from England to Australia, the Sirius was rather like Mother Duck (keeping the other vessels under its wing),” Nigel said.

The Sirius was the flag ship of the First Fleet, which sailed from Portsmouth, England to Port Jackson in 1788. Aboard was Captain Arthur Phillip who would later go on to be Governor of New South Wales, the first European colony in Australia.
Although the wreck of the Sirius is now all but disintegrated, Nigel says the listing acknowledges the significance of the site, offering scope for fund-raising and greater awareness.

A few weeks after arriving at Botany Bay the Sirius set sail to establish another settlement at Norfolk Island. She was wrecked on a small rocky outcrop on March 19, 1790.