Foundation Day

by Norfolk Island Escapes

Generally speaking, Foundation Day refers to a date that a state or nation celebrates to mark its founding. Most of the time, countries that came about without a real need to gain independence to begin with celebrate this day. However, older countries may also use this day to celebrate their national day or another event that is especially significant to them in some way.

On Norfolk Island, Foundation Day is celebrated in March to commemorate the day on which Lt. Philip Gidley King arrived on the island in 1788, establishing the very first European settlement there. He left Post Jackson earlier that year on the Supply along with 22 people, 15 of whom were convicts.

Before sailing for the island in February 1788, Lt. King addressed all of the convicts on the boat and told them that they would be rewarded for all of their hard work in the end as long as they followed his orders on the island. He also promised them that life on the island would be much more enjoyable compared to life in Port Jackson, in general. Other promises that he made included not making them work too hard and setting them free after they finished their terms. This meant that they could either go back to Port Jackson or stay on the island if they preferred to.

Although Norfolk Island is mostly known to be home to descendants of the mutineers from the Bounty, historical circles and a lot of travellers know that it is also a place that knows how to preserve its ruins and convict era buildings. Although the majority of the Georgian buildings found on the island come from the second settlement of convicts that arrived, the first settlement of convicts was the one that provided some of the foundations of those buildings, such as the foundation of the Government House found there today.

Without a doubt, the second settlement was also able to benefit a lot from the luscious gardens that the convicts and free men in Norfolk Island were able to develop before 1814. In fact, most of them were still being developed when the second settlement arrived in 1825.

Unlike the second settlement, the first settlement had to work much harder at establishing an identity and a home on Norfolk Island. Although the soil was definitely rich, there were inconsistencies in the seasons. Plus, a ton of different pests ate up some of the first crops. Aside from that, the convicts weren’t gaoled. Instead, they worked in the farms and the gardens that they made without getting paid for their hard work. In return for their work, they were simply given land as rewards instead – and this was only given to them if they behaved themselves well.

Because of all of this hard work that was put into establishing a life on Norfolk Island, a lot of the descendants of this first fleet still gather on the island to this day from all around the world to celebrate this Foundation Day.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Annette Hill August 15, 2017 at 6:40 pm

We have just recently discovered connections on the first fleet to arrive in Norfolk Island, a Marine named Charles Heritage. We are interested in going back for the 2017 celebrations. Could you tell me more about them Annette Hill


Norfolk Island Escapes August 16, 2017 at 10:17 am

Hi Annette,
Thank you for your enquiry regarding a visit to Norfolk Island for Foundation Day – we will send some information to you by email shortly.
Regards, Meg


Galvin Miller August 6, 2018 at 12:11 pm

What Date Is Foundation Day Next Year, As I Am There From The 6-3-2019 To 20-3-2019.


Norfolk Island Escapes August 10, 2018 at 11:02 am

Hi Galvin,
Thank you for your enquiry. Norfolk Island celebrates Foundation Day on 6 March each year. I hope that you have a lovely time on the Island.
Regards, Meg


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