ARTICLES

TASMANIA'S CONVICT HISTORY

They might not be pretty, but Tasmania's convict stories are a compelling and vital part of Australia's history. To early British settlers, Van Diemen's Land (as they called Tasmania) was the end of the world – an ideal location for some of their government's largest and most notorious penal colonies. Thinking of Australia as a place to transport their over-sized prison population, the British sent more than 165,000 convicts to the colonies during the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The first Tasmanian jail was built at Risdon Cove in 1803, but in 1804 the prisoners were moved to Sullivans Cove – soon to be known as Hobart. After a decade or so, the Macquarie Harbour penal colony was established as a work house on Tasmania's west coast where convicts logged the Huon pine forests for ship building and furniture making. Renowned even among Britons at the time as a particularly harsh prison, it's remembered as the site of doomed escapes by convicts who drowned, starved or resorted to cannibalism in the surrounding bushland.