2021 marked the 200th anniversary since the establishment of Port Macquarie as a penal settlement.
Council acknowledges that this caused suffering and displacement for the traditional owners, the Birpai people.
Our region’s history is as fascinating as it is diverse, spanning well beyond the 200 years, with our culture formed by our traditional owners of the land, the Birpai people, as well as early British settlers and multi-ethnic migration.
Determined to be an ideal spot for a penal colony by John Oxley and the then Govenor of NSW, Lachlan Macquarie, our first European arrivals in 1821 were rather reluctant ones, in the form of convicts sent to the Port Macquarie penal settlement for secondary offences. Port Macquarie was one of the earliest penal settlements in Australia, and was infamous for its hard labour and conditions.
Interaction with the traditional owners of the land, the Birpai, were fraught, with a number of massacres of Birpai, as well as diseases like Smallpox resulting in many deaths.
Open to free settlers from 1830, the penal colony remained until 1847, at which point there was an influx of free settlers. From the late 1800's, word was getting around that Port Macquarie was a beautiful place to visit, and from the early-mid 1900's, Port's popularity grew exponentially. The Port Macquarie Museum is a great spot to visit for all ages, and is a prime source of information for European Settlement. They also host an online exhibition 'Tourists Paradise', a fascinating look at our recent history as a visitor favourite.
The Birpai people are the traditional custodians of our local country, and have been for thousands of years. The following timeline only acknowledges some of the key dates & events from a European settlement perspective.
Our once sleepy holiday town is now a thriving regional city (and with a population
approaching 90,000, is one of the fastest growing regional areas in Australia).
We’re also one of Australia’s favourite holiday towns, so from a European settlement
perspective, it really has been from ‘Prison to Paradise’!