Born: Established: 1744
Michael Robinson, as the author of the first verses published in Australia, has been called the 'first Poet Laureate of Australia' and is considered by Miller and Macartney to 'provide the starting point of Australian literature' (p.407). He was also the first author to use 'Australia' consistently in his works. Educated at Oxford, he was a poet and practising lawyer in London when he was convicted on blackmail charges and sentenced to death. Part of the charge involved writing a poem, punning the name of his victim Oldham, 'Old Ham Fresh Drest (1796)'.
His sentence was changed to transportation to New South Wales, and on the voyage he made himself useful to the colony's new Judge Advocate. Soon after reaching Sydney, he was appointed to the position of Secretary and Chief Clerk to the new Judge Advocate, who arranged for a conditional pardon. Robinson was convicted of perjury involving abuse of his office in 1802, and was sent to Norfolk Island, but the sentence was suspended, as he had made himself indispensable. A short time later, he was convicted of forging permits and was removed from any opportunity to interfere in legal transactions in the colony.
Governor King suspected Robinson of sending complaining letters about the administration of the colony to England and in 1805 Robinson's satirical verses were judged to be promoting discords, along with Maurice Margot, Sir Henry Hayes and William Maum. Robinson was sentenced to a prison term on Norfolk Island in 1805. He was allowed to return early to Sydney in 1806 - an event which saw the recall of the officer in charge of Norfolk. Appointed first clerk in the Government Secretary's Office by Governor Macquarie, he also began writing his series of odes on the royal birthdays in 1810, and Governor Macquarie gave him a free pardon in 1811. He was recognised for his services to the colony as 'Poet Laureate' in 1818 and 1819 with the granting of two cows from the government herd.