Beth is a child convict, caught stealing on the streets of London and sent to Australia on the First Fleet. Through Beth’s story, we discover the unbearable hardships those first convicts suffered, not only on the long journey to Sydney Cove but also in the two years of near-famine following their arrival. The story also explores the new arrivals’ relationship with the Indigenous population, and the devastation that the Europeans brought with them.
But through Beth’s experiences we also see the sense of hope that many in the new colony held for the future, and how they survived – and in some cases thrived.
This moving story, illustrated with Mark Wilson’s beautifully crafted and evocative artwork, was inspired by the experiences of Elizabeth Hayward, the youngest female convict with the First Fleet, and the journals of naval officer William Bradley and Arthur Bowes Smyth, the surgeon and artist from the First Fleet vessel ‘Lady Penrhyn’.