1789 Smallpox breaks out in Sydney

Categories: Lesson 4 | Lesson 6

Distant view of Sydney and the Harbour, by Joseph Lycett

Smallpox has been one of humanity’s deadliest diseases, though it is now eradicated in the wild.

Europeans, including the colonists who arrived in Sydney in 1788, had developed some resistance through earlier exposure to the disease. However the local Aboriginal people had not.

There is still debate over how smallpox broke out in the Sydney area in 1789.

Its impact on Aboriginal people across Australia was devastating.

Read more at the National Museum of Australia