Arthur Phillip was the first governor of New South Wales. He was a naval officer and commanded the First Fleet, which landed at Sydney Cove on 26 January 1788. He governed the settlement until December 1792. He entered the navy in 1755 following training in the merchant service. He also spent several years farming in southern England. The knowledge he gained of agriculture was an important asset in his New South Wales commision.

On arrival in New South Wales, Phillip quickly dismissed Botany Bay as a site for settlement in favour for Sydney Cove in Port Jackson where the tank stream provided a ready source of fresh water and ships could anchor close inshore.

Governor Phillip had authority over every aspect of life in the settlement and he ruled with intelligence, justice and humanity. However, there were serious problems to contend with; unrest among convicts and their guards, some insubordinate officers, a lack of suitable building supplies and tools and, above all, dwindling food supplies aggravated by poor soil quality and inefficient labour. Famine struck the settlement within the first couple of years of arriving. Until further provisions arrived with the Second Fleet, Phillip rationed the available food equally among the colony, and it was undoubtedly due to his vigilance that the people in his care were saved from starvation.

Phillip laid out the settlement in four sections. He appointed a night watch, set up courts and established farms. He made grants of land to ex-convicts, and began a system of assigning convicts of good behaviour as agricultural labourers. He also carried out some minor exploration by land and water, travelling up the Hawkesbury River and Parramatta River. Phillip felt that to survive the colony should be based on free settlers, who would help make it self-sufficient. He urged that they be attracted by generous land grants.

Soon however, his health deteriorated and in 1792 he sailed for England. By 1796 he had returned to full naval service. Phillip retired to Bath in 1805 where he died on 31st August, 1814, three months after being promoted to full admiral.

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