Following the American War of Independence, a new destination was sought for the transportation of convicts from Britain and Ireland 'beyond the seas'. The first fleet with a complement of convicts to arrive at Sydney Cove on 26 January 1788 marked the foundation of the colony of New South Wales. The first ship to sail directly from Ireland carrying convicts under sentence of transportation was the Queen, which arrived in Port Jackson on 26 September 1791.

Transportation from Ireland to Australia effectively came to an end in 1853. The last ship to carry convicts directly from Ireland to Australia was the Phoebe Dunbar, which sailed from Kingstown (now Dun Laoghaire) near Dublin and arrived in Western Australia on 30 August 1853. During the 62 years of transportation from Ireland to Australia, some 30,000 men and 9,000 women were sent as convicts for a minimum period of seven years - many more followed their loved ones as free settlers to a new life in the colony.