Convict history of Tasmania

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Tasmania has a convict history?

How did convicts come to be in Tasmania?

It all started with a problem the British government had, back in the early 19th century. So many people to put behind bars, so few prisons. Or rather - prison facilities were simply inadequate.

What brilliant solution did they come up with?
You guessed it!

"Let's send them to the colonies!"

This is how penal stations came to be established in many Australian settlements which were British colonies at the time.

First arrivals

In 1788, the first convicts arrived in Australia (New South Wales).

In total, about 162,000 ended up coming to Australia. Around 75,000 were sent to Britain's most remote penal colony of Tasmania, then known as Van Diemen's land.

(The above figures can be found at the Culture Portal run by the Australian Government Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts.)

Convict labour was used to develop the infrastructure of the colonies - roads, bridges, public buildings and hospitals. Many convicts were also in the employment of landowners.

Transportation ends

In 1868, the last of the transported convicts arrived in Australia. Transportation (the term used to describe the sending of convicts to colonies) had finally come to an end.

Van Diemen's land was officially renamed Tasmania, after Abel Tasman, the Dutch explorer who was the first European to sight Tasmania in 1642.

The legacy of the convicts

Even today we can admire convict craftmanship in the many structures designed and built by convicts.

And each and every convict life is remarkable, for example:

James Blackburn, convict and architect

Daniel Herbert, convict and stonemason

Matthew Brady, convict and bushranger

Alexander Pearce, convict and suspected cannibal

Martin Cash, convict and charmer

Ikey Solomon, convict and dealer

William Buckley, convict and interpreter

Interested in learning more about Tasmania's convict history?
Port Arthur Historic Site is considered by many to be the best place to visit to learn about the island's convict past.

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