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Convicts In Australia


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Convicts In Australia

  2. 2. CONTENTS Page 1- Contents Page 2,3 - Reason for Convict Transportation & Settlement Page 5,6 – Conditions Aboard Convict Ships Page 7 – Role Of Convicts Page 8 – Good Behaviour: Ticket Of Leave Page 9 – Women Convicts & Female Factories Page 10 – Bibliography
  3. 3. REASON FOR CONVICT TRANSPORTATION & SETTLEMENT Convict transportation emerged in 1717 as British prisons became unbearably overcrowded - a situation worsened by Americas refusal to no longer accept convicts post the American Revolution in 1783. Likewise, the nations crime rates (mainly petty theft, counterfeiting coins and clandestine marriage) upsurged, while mass population movement from rural areas to industrial cities occurred, where unemployment ran high, as machines replaced man power. Britain had looked at numerous geographical areas with regard to establishing penal colonies. The west coast of Africa appeared promising, however it was later deemed unviable as the waters were particularly dangerous and the risk of convict escape was high. Additionally, early contact of indigenous populations revealed that the coast could be bellicose, therefore it would be imprudent to settle as a penal colony. Concurrently, aboriginals in Australia were seldom seen, and those who were seen were of ‘friendly nature’. British Convict Ships
  4. 4. “The Botany Bay Debate” argues that the British settled in Australia with regard to the possibility of acquiring resources, the need to protect trade routes with China, and in order to consolidate Cook’s possession of the continent for Britain. Regardless the debate, there is no doubt that the need to relocate the burgeoning convict population was the reason which prevailed over others. Between 1788 and 1868, 165,000 convicts were transported from Britain to Australia. Transportation was an alternative to the death penalty and therefore applied to the more serious crimes including arson and highway robbery. Murderers and rapists, reprieved from hanging, we among those transported. However, the majority of convicts were political protestors, poachers, rioters, advocates of Irish Home Rule or Trade Unionism and petty thieves. It was common for those whom committed trivial of dubious offences to be sentenced merely to generate cheap labour. The average sentence was 7 or 14 years, however in rare cases, the sentence could last till death. There was no procedure for convicts to return to Britain after the sentence expired. Prisoners were sent to remote areas to prevent escape and discourage their return. Only a handful ever returned to Britain, despite the varying lengths of their sentences. Aboriginals in Botany Bay
  5. 5. CONDITIONS ABOARD CONVICT SHIPS Convicts were housed below decks, restrained in shackles and chains, and often further confined bars. Fresh air and exercise was limited, although not totally deprived as convicts were needed for labour. Although the convicts of the first fleet arrived healthy, many of the convicts that followed were a subject of cruelty, harsh discipline, and diagnosed with scurvy, dysentery and typhoid which resulted in a huge loss of life. As the 19th century progressed, conditions began to improve. By the 1840s, the routine was more enlightened. Surgeons were no longer in the pay of the ship’s master and their sole responsibility was the well being of convicts. Ship charterers were additionally paid a bonus for the safe landing of convicts. John Acton Wroth, a literate convict described the ship layout as “…bunks along either side of the deck, each separated from its neighbour by a ten inch high board. Four berths of the lower and upper tiers formed a mess, constructed so that four men could sit round a table. The men occupying mid ship slept in hammocks, slung up each night over the tables. Younger men had these. Each bed had a mattress, pillow and two blankets. The hammock had two blankets only.” Convict quarters aboard convict ship “Success”.
  6. 6. Convicts were provided with cooking and eating utensils, tin pint mugs, spoons and one wooden eight pint tin referred to as a ‘hub’. A knife and fork were issued each meal, although were immediately collected after to prevent possible rebellion – e.g an attack on crew members. If convicts disobeyed or misbehaved they were disciplined through whipping. In later days, they would get ‘boxed’ – put in a small confined space in the bows, in which a man could neither lie down nor stand. DAILY ROUTINE ABOARD CONVICT SHIPS – LINCELLES, 1862 4:00AM – Prisoner cooks admitted on deck. 6:00AM – One half of prisoners admitted for a ‘washing of their person’. 7:30AM – Ship company to commence washing upper decks and water closets. 8:00AM - Breakfast 8:30AM – One man admitted from each mess to wash their mess (cutlery) utensils. 9:00AM – All prisoners admitted on deck with the exception of the men in each mess who in turn, will clean and scrape dry the prison deck and bottom boards. 9:30AM – Prison inspected after which all the prisoners will be assembled on deck for prayers. 10:00AM – One half of the prisoners sent on deck for exercise. The other half are arranged in schools under the superintendence of the Religious Instructor assisted by monitors. 11:30AM – School to break up. 12:00PM – Dinner 12:30PM – One man from each mess to wash their mess (cutlery) utensils. 1:20PM – Deck to be swept up. 1:30PM – Half the prisoners to be admitted on deck. The remainder are arranged in school. 4:00PM – Down all beds and hammocks. 4:30PM – Supper 5:00PM – One man from each mess to wash their mess (cutlery) utensils. 6:30PM – Prayers 7:00PM – Petty officers of the day and night muster on deck. 8:00PM – Down all prisoners. 9:00PM – Rounds
  7. 7. ROLE OF CONVICTS Upon arrival, convicts immediately began work on infrastructure projects and farming. The first jobs involved clearing land and using the wood as building materials. Shrubs and bushes were cleared to prepare the ground for tilling and planting. Land clearing was strenuous work and the unsuitability of the English tools for Australia’s rocky soil made it even harder. Some of the convicts were assigned as servants of free settlers or officers. As the colony developed, the convicts worked in more skilled areas such as smithing or trade. Renowned architect, Francis Greenway was a convict, as was an unknown other who was given permission to establish the colony’s first newspaper. Others were eventually presented with land grants, where they became farmers, transmen, entrepreneurs or professionals. Few returned to England, as it was expensive, but primarily because of the poverty they were forced to endure back home. Convict Labour
  8. 8. GOOD BEHAVIOUR: TICKET OF LEAVE Well behaved convicts could qualify for a Ticket of Leave, Certificate of Freedom, Conditional Pardon, or even an Absolute Pardon. This allowed convicts to work independently. However, for the period of their sentence they were still subject to surveillance and the ticket could be withdrawn for misbehaviour. These licenses were primarily developed to save money, but later became a central part of the convict system which provided the model of later systems of probation for prisoners. Governor King (1800-1804) first gave Tickets of Leave to any convict who appeared capable and independent. The tickets were later used as a reward for good behaviour and special service. Gentlemen convicts were issued with tickets upon their arrival in the colony, although Governor Macquarie (1810-1821) later ordered that a convict must serve a minimum of three years to be eligible. Governor Brisbane (1821-1825) ruled the regulations for eligibility as – convicts that were normally sentenced seven year terms could qualify for a Ticket of Leave after four years, while those serving 14 years could quality after six years, and ‘lifers’ after 10 years. Those who failed eligibility were entitled to a Certificate of Freedom on the completion of their term. TICKET OF LEAVE
  9. 9. WOMEN CONVICTS & FEMALE FACTORIES Parramatta Female Factory Upon arrival in the colony, female convicts were directly sent to the female factory. Females were housed nearby and went to the factory every day for work. Many remained a day or so before being assigned to settlers to work as domestic servants, others didn’t even survive the factory. The government encouraged marriage between convicts as it was seen as a means of rehabilitation and more desirable that a de facto relationship. Many women were married shortly after arrival. The idea was that a man seeking a convict wife must apply for one. They were lined up at the factory and the man would drop a scarf of handkerchief at the feet of the woman of his choice. If she picked it up, the marriage was virtually immediate. Although some convict women were classed as prostitutes, others had domestic service in England and were transported for stealing from their employers or from shops. After arrival, many were forced to take up prostitution to survive and the system of selection of servants often meant that gentry and officers would choose the pretty, young convicts. Those who were hardened and troublesome were sent back to the female factory. Children of convict women either stayed with their mothers, were employed at the female factory or were moved to an orphanage. The first female factory was built in Parramatta, New South Wales in 1804 and initially consisted of a single long room with a fire place for the women to cook on. Women and girls made rope, span and carded wool. Their accommodation was basic, and their provided food was the bear minimum to survive on. In time, the work in the female factory became less difficult and needlework and laundry became their main duties. In 1828, a female factory, now known as the Cascades Female Factory was built in Hobart where women and girls were directly transported to from Sydney or England.
  10. 10. BIBLIOGRAPHY SITES: ay-life-convict convicts-in-australia convicts-and-the-british-colonies convicts-transported-australia BOOKS: A Concise History of Australia by Stuart Mcintyre The Making Of Australia: A Concise History by Robert Muarry