Tuesday, 21 November 2017


Arrival of the first convicts to Australia, National Library Australia

 Western Australia received it's first convicts in 1826. They were sent to King George Sound, on the south west coast of what we now know as Western Australia. The sound was initially called King George the Third's Sound, rather a mouthful I would think. Common usage prevailed...

Twenty three convicts, with troops, were sent there to establish a settlement, remaining for around four years, till November 1830, when they were transferred to Swan River Colony, which had been a free settlement. Having convicts arrive wasn't popular with the free settlers, and as the articles from TROVE will show, there were mixed reactions over quite some time. While the labor force was welcomed by some to establish roads and structures, others would have preferred to remain a free settlement.

Swan River settlement

You can read more about the early days at 


Convict Records of Western Australia 1838 – 1910 | Australian ...

The following article appeared in several papers, this is the clearest version ... There was quite some unrest still in 1856...

Please click to enlarge.

Courier (Hobart, Tas. : 1840 - 1859), Thursday 3 April 1856, page 2

National Library of Australia http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article2501388 

Not all felt that the convict presence was in error...

Empire (Sydney, NSW : 1850 - 1875), Friday 24 April 1857, page 3 

National Library of Australia   http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article60277261 

Just a couple of months later it was decided that accepting female convicts would be beneficial, in many ways.

Perth Gazette and Independent Journal of Politics and News (WA : 1848 - 1864), Friday 5 June 1857,  

National Library of Australia  http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article2930036 

First page only, the rest is transcribed for convenience.

Perth Gazette and Independent Journal of Politics and News (WA : 1848 - 1864), Friday 5 June 1857, page 3

Introduction of Female Convicts
to Western Australia.
[From the Inquirer.]
The following is a copy of the resolu-tions passed at the meeting of the inhabi-tants of Fremantle, held in the Court House on the 23rd May, and of the me- morial agreed to be presented to His Ex-cellency the Governor. Thomas Brown, Esq , Police Magistrate, in the Chair :-
1st. It was moved by Lionel Samson, Esq., and seconded by Mr John Wellard :-" That from the great disproportion of the sexes in Western Australia, causing, doubtless, not only much present immorality amongst the penal population, but, if allowed to exist, en-tailing greater and open horrors in future years, it is the opinion of this meeting, after seven years' experience of the working of male transportation, that the objects of gene-ral industry would be promoted, and the growth of good morals throughout the colony
be advanced, should a limited importation of selected female convicts annually take place.
2nd. It was moved by C. A. Manning, Esq. and seconded bv Daniel Scott, Esq. :- " That in order to realise the great benefits arising from a properly organised system of trans-portation of females, and to remove from the minds of the colonists any idea that the intro-duction of female convicts into domestic ser-vice would unduly tend to contaminate the young and rising generation, or any others with whom they might come in contact in pri-vate life, this meeting regards it was requisite that similar measures be adopted for establish-ing a period of colonial probation for females prior to passiug into private service, as have been established with such signal success in reference to males since the commencement of the penal system in Western Australia."
3rd. It was moved by Mr John Wellard and seconded by Mr Nicholas Paterson :--'That although female emigration to this co- lony has to some extent taken place of late years, it must nevertheless be apparent to the most casual observer that it has entirely failed to realise the anticipations of the settlers with regard to it, inasmuch as a great majority of the females proceed to the more attractive Australian colonies as soon as they have saved sufficient money to defray the cost of their passage thither.
4th. It was moved by Mr Paterson, and
seconded by Mr J. J. Harwood:- "That this meeting immediately memorialize, His Excel-ency the Governor of Western Australia on the topics embraced in the preceeding resolu-
tions, forwarding at the same time a copy of such resolutions, with the view that His Ex-cellency may forthwith represent in the most earnest terms to the Imperial Government the decided opinion of the memorialists that the object of penal colonization can alone be reali-sed by rendering the transportation of females, though in small numbers, an indispensable adjunct to that of males."
'6th. It was moved by ¡Lionel Samson, Esq., and seconded by Daniel Scott, Esq. :-" That the following memorial embodies the senti-ments of this meeting on the sabjoct of fe| male transportation to Western Australia,
and that this meeting adopts it accordingly .; and that the Chairman bo requested to sign it on behalf of the meeting, and present it to His Excelloncy the Governor."
The Memorial of the inhabitants of Fre-
mantle in Public Meeting Assembled:
That your memorialists,"in submitting the foregoing resolutions to your Excellency, cannot but express it as their opinion that those of their fellow-colonists who would op-pose the introduction of female convicts to Westem Australia, while at the same time advocating that of males, show themselves alike forgetful of the experience afforded by the Southern penal settlements and of the fun-damental requirements of civilized life.
That the political object of transportation is colonization; and while maintaining a due re-gard to the necessity of abating any tendency to preponderance on the part of the penal po-pulation as compared with the free, your me-morialists are convinced that it is impossible ever to equalize the sexes of this colony by any limited importation of female emigrants, such as that which from time to time takes place.
That the experience of every person practi-cally acquainted with the subject under con-sideration cannot contemplate any system of transportation as affording the prospect of per-manent utility if females are not comprehended therein ; and the evidence adduced before a Committee of the two Houses of Parliament in 1856 plainly demonstrates that a large ma-jority of female convicts become eventually, in the land of their expatriation, both exem-plary wives and mothers-in fact after the lapse of a few years, as large an average of virtuous women are found amongst them as amongst an equal number of unconvicted fe-males belonging to a similar grade of society,
That your memorialists, taking a broad and Catholic view of this question are warranted in anticipating a rapid opening of new paths of industry, and an accelerated absorption of
That since the commencement of the penal system, the population of the colony, not from the importation of prisoners and emigrants alone, but also from those increased powers of natural enlargement which are always found attendant on a condition of prosperity, has advanced from 5,000 to 14,000.
That if during the next seven years the co-lony remain influenced by causes identical to those which have subsisted during the last seven, the population of Western Australia would reach from 40,000 to 45,000, maintained in all the staple articles of food from resources within isself but the probabilities are that under the operation of improved political and social measures, and from a speedy reduction in the price of land as recommended by a re-cent Committee of the House of Lords, the ratio of increase will be much greater.
That from a consideration of these grounds, your memorialists, anticipating the develop-ment of a new career of prosperity to Western Australia as a penal settlement, are anxious to adopt every material and available resource for insuring that object, and are firmly con-
vinced that no better means could be devised
for promoting tho permanent welfare of the penal population, and as a natural consequence of the colony at large, than that proposed in the accompanying resolutions.
That your memorialists in conclusion would beg to impress upon the mind of your Excel-lency that, although they urge the introduc-tion of female convicts, they nevertheless trust that the importation of free female emigrants will be continued simultaneously, your memo-rialists being of opinion that the small number of well-conducted female convicts eligible for transportation hither would not be sufficient to meet the requirements of the colony.
That your memorialists would respectfully pray your Excellency to represent these views strongly to the Imperial Government, sub-mitting at the same time the request, that if the Home Administration does accede to the wishes of the meeting, the first selection be made from those female convicts of exemplary character at present located in the reforma-tory establishment at Fulham.
Signed on behalf of the Meeting,
THOMAS BROWN, Chairman. To His Excellency the Governor of
Western Australia, &c, &c.

Of course, where there are prisoners, there are always attempted, and some successful, at least for a time, escapes...

Courier (Hobart, Tas. : 1840 - 1859), Thursday 3 March 1859, page 3 

National Library of Australia  http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article2467267 

Please click to enlarge...

The following particulars are related by a
cabin passenger from Fremantle, by the
Francis, which arrived at Adelaide on
Saturday, 19th ult. About seven days
prior to the departure of the above
named barque, the inhabitants of Fremantle
and Perth were thrown into a state of alarm
by the intelligence that five of the most des-
perate convicts had escaped from the Stock-
ade, which unfortunately turned out to be too
true, and their well-concerted plan of escape
had up to the time of the departure of the
Francis succeeded in evading their recapture.
It appears that shortly after they cleared the
Stockade, escaping the usual vigilance of the
guards, they managed to make themselves
master of a whaleboat then lying on the
beach, and without hesitation ran her up to a
small island known by the name of Garden
Island, eight miles from Fremantle, which
is inhabited by only one man, his wife, and
family ; the man's name is James Reed ; he
holds some office under Government. On
reaching this place the villains securely lashed
the man and his wife, and after regaling
themselves on the best the house afforded,
they decamped, having first secured a
caronade which they placed in the bows of the
boat, also taking a good supply of ammunition,
provisions, Colt's revolvers, muskets, and side
arms. They steered in a northerly direction.
Shortly after their departure from Garden
Island, the Water Police called there on their
way in search of the absconders from Fre-
mantle, and on being informed that the objects
of their search had just taken their departure,
the police, instead of following up, turned tail,
and went back to Fremantle, from thence on
to Perth. It is much feared by the authorities
at Western Australia that these bolters, being
well armed, will make themselves masters of
some vessel employed in the coasting trade, so
as to carry out their views of escape. One of
these convicts was the mate of the Lady Stir-
ling. They are all very determined ruffians,
and bloodshed, it is anticipated, will be caused

by their escape from captivity.

Headlines were written all around Australia, when just as there was beginning to be an acceptance that convict transportation might be ending, another suggestion was put forward...

Wallaroo Times and Mining Journal (Port Wallaroo, SA : 1865 - 1881), Wednesday 6 June 1866, page 6
 National Library of Australia  http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article110102848 

Some of the most interesting items I came across were letters from one of the Fenian convicts...

Freeman's Journal (Sydney, NSW : 1850 - 1932), Saturday 27 June 1868, page 6 (2) 

National Library of Australia  http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article119442314 

Please click to enlarge..

and another... copies of these letters were well circulated.

Mount Alexander Mail (Vic. : 1854 - 1917), Thursday 5 November 1868, page 3 

National Library of Australia  http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article200522954

This is just a small portion of all that is available re convicts transported to Western Australia... for further reading...


Inquirer and Commercial News (Perth, WA : 1855 - 1901), Wednesday 4 November 1868, page 3
National Library of Australia  http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article69386825 

"Governor Hampton states in his annual report that the number of convicts in Western Australia at the close of the year 1867 was 3,220, being 85 fewer than at the close of 1866; but the number was increased by 279 on the arrival of the Hougoumont on the 9th of January, 1868........."

This was to be the final lot of convicts sent to Western Australia...


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