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Betty King
Betty King

Photographs supplied by Diane Watson

The memorial, erected over the grave, commemorates Betty King who was the allegedly the first European woman to set foot in Australia and the last known female survivor of the First Fleet. A plaque was added to the memorial by the Fellowship Of First Fleeters in 1988. 

Betty King was a convict, who was sentenced at Manchester on May 4, 1786 to seven years transportation for stealing two black silk handkerchiefs and three others. She was then known as Mrs Elizabeth Thackeray.

She was aboard the First Fleet vessel Friendship but she proved troublesome and at the Cape of Good Hope she was transferred to the vessel Charlotte. On 26th January 1788 the fleet arrived in Botany Bay. There is no documented evidence to state that Betty was the first European woman to set foot on Australian soil but she states that when the ship arrived in Botany Bay she was a lady’s maid to the officer’s wives.

She said that the officer’s wives were supposed to be the first European women to land but they did not like the look of the surf and thought they might get drenched so they asked that Betty be carried ashore first as a rehearsal. From Sydney, King was transported to Norfolk Island and by 1800 she was free and purchased land.

Like many Norfolk Islanders she arrived in Van Diemans Land and was given a land grant at New Forfolk and 1810 married Samuel King. There is no official documentation that she was the first European woman to set foot in Australia but she was however the last known female survivor of the First Fleet.

Mr. E. S. Smithurst writes to the "Sydney Morning Herald:-"In the course of correspondence with Mr. Ellis Dean, chairman of the Board of Advice, of the Education Department  at New Norfolk, Tasmania (in connection with an exchange of flags with Norwich, England), Mr. Dean says:-"I am proposing the erection of a monument in the Back River Cemetery here to the memory of "Betty King" - the first white woman who landed in, Australia - the monument to be on the spot where she was buried. There are those living who remember her, and I have obtained the following information. It was arranged that the Governor's wife should be the first woman to land, but this had to be done on the back of a sailor or marine. The lady, however, was afraid of the surf, and of this novel means of transport, and in consequence Betty took her place. She married a marine or a soldier-a marine, I think, named King in Sydney. They were afterwards moved to Tasmania about the time that the Norfolk Islanders came here, and had a small grant of land at the Back River, where they lived for years. Mr. R. W. G. Shoobridge now has this land. Of course, there were probably   Dutch women who may have landed long before, on the west coast of Australia, or elsewhere, but "Betty King" seems to have been the first in connection with British settlement."
Mercury (Hobart), 31 December 1910.


Address:49 Lawitta Road, Back River Methodist Cemetery, Lawitta, 7140
GPS Coordinates:Lat: -42.766292
Long: 147.033112
Note: GPS Coordinates are approximate.
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Monument Type:Grave
Monument Theme:People


Front Inscription

Plaque :

Elizabeth (Thackery) King

Arrived First Fleet 26. 1. 1788
Died 7. 8. 1856

Fellowship of the First Fleeters


Plaque :

Near this spot was laid to rest Berry King

The first white woman to set foot in Australia.

Source: MA
Monument details supplied by Monument Australia - www.monumentaustralia.org.au