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Between 1788 and 1868, the British government transported around 162,000 convicts from Britain and Ireland to serve their sentences in various penal colonies in Australia. A penal colony (or an exile colony) is a settlement used to exile prisoners and separate them from the general population. This is done by transporting them to a remote location (usually an island).
See the fact file below for more information on the convicts in Australia or alternatively, you can download our 20-page Convicts in Australia worksheet pack to utilise within the classroom or home environment.
Key Facts & Information
HISTORY OF CONVICTS IN AUSTRALIA
- In 1770, James Cook charted and claimed possession of the east coast of Australia for Britain.
- In 1787, Australia was chosen as a penal colony site, as the British thought the French would soon begin expanding into Australia.
- Within months, 11 ships (collectively known as the “First Fleet”) set sail for Botany Bay and arrived on January 20, 1788.
- There were several reasons for Britain’s decision to transport criminals to Australia:
1. The population of England and Wales began rising considerably after 1740, which severely overcrowded London.
2. Poverty, social injustice, and poor living conditions led to an
increase in crime, particularly in large cities like London.
3. British cities didn’t have police forces to monitor the rise in crime rates effectively.
4. The industrial revolution led to an increase in petty crimes, which carried harsh penalties and led to overcrowded prisons.
- Lawmakers realized that the demand for space in prisons was exceeding the capacity for prisoners; they needed to find an alternative or change the laws.
- They decided that they still wanted punishments, but instead of sending prisoners to jails, they would transport them to a penal colony, and Australia was the perfect place for that.
THE SIX SETTLEMENTS
- There were six main settlements for penal colonies in Australia: New South Wales, Norfolk Island (off the east coast of New South Wales), Tasmania (then known as Van Diemen’s Land), Victoria, Queensland, and Western Australia.
NEW SOUTH WALES SETTLEMENT
- New South Wales was agreed upon as a penal settlement in August 1786; a colonization party of convicts, military, and civilian personnel would be sent to Botany Bay under the command of Admiral Arthur Phillip.
- There, Phillip would act as the Governor of the colony and would be responsible for the 775 convicts aboard the six ships.
- The other five ships included crew members, military, and other necessary items with which to colonize the area; in total, these ships became known as the “First Fleet.”
- The ships arrived at Botany Bay on January 20, 1788; a few days later on January 26, they established the first permanent European colony, named New South Wales.
- A second fleet came to the rescue of the first when they realized they didn’t have enough food or supplies to keep everyone alive; unfortunately the second fleet turned out to be a disaster and actually worsened the situation.
- As a result, convict transport was suspended in 1840 and eventually abolished in 1850.
- If a convict was well-behaved he could be given a ticket of leave.
- If he behaved poorly, he might have been sent to a place of secondary
THE REMAINING SETTLEMENTS
- Norfolk Island was one of the places where poorly behaved prisoners would go for secondary punishment.
- A penal colony was established in Tasmania in 1803; when the convict station on Norfolk Island was abandoned in 1807, the remaining convicts were transported to Tasmania.
- In 1825, Tasmania became a colony separate from New South Wales, and the Macquarie Harbour penal colony was established in 1820 due to its advantage of being close to valuable timber as well as being almost impossible to escape from.
- In 1830, the Port Arthur penal settlement was established to replace Macquarie Harbor; solitary confinement was the preferred method of punishment there.
- The penal colony in Victoria saw many convicts try to escape into the bush; there were many changes in the exact location of settlements here due to poor soil, water shortages, and communication issues.
- The colonies of Western Australia and Queensland were established later on, but generally followed the same structures as the ones in other parts of the country.
LEGACY OF THE SETTLEMENTS IN AUSTRALIA
- In 2010, UNESCO listed the 11 Australian Convict Sites on their World Heritage List due to the fact that they were good examples of large-scale convict transportation and colonial expansion during that time period.
- Many of the convicts gained fame from their experiences in the penal colonies, making their way into famous novels, poems, and films, including Great Expectations, The Broad Arrow, The Playmaker, and several other works.
Convicts in Australia Worksheets
This is a fantastic bundle which includes everything you need to know about the Convicts in Australia across 20 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use Convicts in Australia worksheets that are perfect for teaching students about the period between 1788 and 1868, when the British government transported around 162,000 convicts from Britain and Ireland to serve their sentences in various penal colonies in Australia. A penal colony (or an exile colony) is a settlement used to exile prisoners and separate them from the general population. This is done by transporting them to a remote location (usually an island).
Complete List Of Included Worksheets
- Convicts in Australia Facts
- Portrait of a Convict
- Convicts Crossword
- The Rum Rebellion
- Opinion Piece
- Prison Terms
- Fighting Back
- Letter from a Convict
- See, Think, Wonder
- Life as a Convict
- Convicts Wordsearch
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Link will appear as Convicts in Australia Facts & Worksheets: https://kidskonnect.com - KidsKonnect, July 21, 2020
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