No one knows for certain why the British government decided to make a settlement in Australia. Life in 18th century Britain was harsh and many people were very poor and had no government help.  To survive, many turned to crime resulting in jails becoming overcrowded.  In fact, the prisons were so overcrowded that old ships called hulks were moored in rivers and turned into jails.

On 13 May 1787, the British Government sent a fleet of 11 ships under the command of Captain Arthur Phillip to start a colony in New Holland (Australia) at Botany Bay.  Six of these ships were convict transports carrying a total of 756 convicts.  About 200 of these convicts were women.

Between 1777 and 1868, the British Government shipped approximately 165,000 convicts to Australia.  These convicts were imprisoned in a strange land more than 22,000 kilometers from their home.  If they wanted to return home at the end of their sentences, they had to pay the fare themselves.  Most convicts could not afford it.

Sheppard, B. (2001). Convicts. Melbourne, Vic. Echidna Books, pp. 4-5

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Reference Material

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Subject encyclopedia:

The Australian Encyclopedia. In the 6th edition, published in 1996, you will find information in the following volume

  • Convicts and Transportation: Vol. 3. pp. 866-874.
  • Macquarie Harbour. Vol.5 p.1995
  • Norfolk Island. Vol.6 p.2259-226
  • Port Macquarie. Vol.6 p.2470

 Women Convicts

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You can find material from newspapers, journals, diaries, people and organisations, pictures, photographs and objects, and best of all, Trove is yours, created and maintained by the National Library of Australia.



Port Macquarie

Moreton Bay

Point Puer


In November 1833 the Executive Council of Van Diemen's Land recommended that a boy's prison was to be established on the coast of the Tasmanian Peninsula. On January 10, 1834, 68 boys arrived from Hobart Town to take up residence.

When reading any of the material in our archives or in eReserve you should remember to take into account when and why the articles or the books were written. Peter MacFie and Nigel Hargraves point out John West's description of Point Puer as 'an oasis in the desert of penal government' has been uncritically repeated by some later historians". (MacFie, Hargraves, 1991)

MacFie, Hargraves, 1991, 'The Empire's first stolen generation: the first intake at Point Puer 1834-39' Tasmanian Historical Studies, vol 6, no. 2, p. 19.

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The Point Puer Convicts' list is from the work of Peter MacFie and Nigel Hargraves, 2000. Point Puer Boy Convicts’ Establishment Van Diemen's Land [Tasmania]. The first 68 boys, January 1834 (Includes: an appendix of names, index, sources). The Mary MacKillop copy of this document was generously provided by Mr. Nigel Hargraves (April 2012).


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If you would like to find more information about any boy sent to Point Puer you could start your search at:

Port Arthur


The Port Arthur Penal Settlement was named in honour of Lt-Governor George Arthur and began life in 1830 as a punishment-oriented station. With the progressive addition of further industries, tailored for heavy and light labour, Port Arthur held a key position within the colony's judicial system until its closure in 1877.

Port Arthur Settlement, in The Companion to Tasmanian History

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Sarah Island


The Sarah Island Historic Site is Tasmania's oldest convict settlement, operating from 1822 to 1833.

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Norfolk Island


There have been three distinct periods of occupation since 1788.  The first, commencing soon after the Foundation, was the establishment of a penal colony under the command of Lieutenant King, which was subsequently abandoned in 1814.

First Fleet Fellowship Victoria, Inc.

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The Australian Encyclopedia

In the 6th edition, published in 1996, you will find information in the following volume:


From the Australian Geographic:

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