Discover Tasmania’s History
Tasmania’s compelling convict heritage began for those involved, as a very real world experience to literally another dimension: of distance, climate, hardship and environment. There are many places to visit and we at Great Expeditions would love to share them with you, The history of Tasmania is fascinating albeit very sad.
The first British convicts arrived in New South Wales in 1788. By the end of that century Governor King of New South Wales needed somewhere to send incorrigible convicts – those who re-offended.
Convicts came from all walks of life. Most had little education, forced into crime to survive in a rapidly industrializing Britain. Many of their crimes were petty, such as stealing a sheep or some clothing. But there were also educated convicts, with skills that enabled them to be used as clerks or draughtsman, or with training in professions such as medicine, architecture, printing or building – all essential in building a new colony.
For about the first 10 years there were more convicts than free settlers. This meant that convicts, as well as doing hard laboring work such as digging new coalmines, had to fill positions of responsibility such as medical assistants or ’trusties’ in the gaols. Many, especially the women, were assigned to settlers as servants.
Male convicts, often in chains, tunnelled new coal mines, cut timber in the thick forests, quarried stone, built roads, made bricks, built ships. Many overseers were whip-wielding sadists. The authorities used punishments such as flogging, solitary confinement and bread-and-water diets to try to control misbehaviour and protests about conditions.
Convict Sites Now World Heritage Listed
Tasmania’s compelling convict heritage has been officially recognised by UNESCO. In July 2010 it was announced that 11 Australian convict sites are to be inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List, five of which are Tasmanian. The sites include Port Arthur and the Coal Mines Historic Site on the Tasman Peninsula; the Cascades Female Factory in South Hobart; Darlington Probation Station on Maria Island; and Woolmers and Brickendon Estates near Longford.
The sites are located in south and eastern Tasmania, offering some of the best-kept records of convict history anywhere in the world. Visitors to Tasmania, especially those from the UK many of whom have close links to the convict history, will be able to follow the convict trail and trace their ancestors back in time.