The Convict Records of Australia

"In the 80 years between 1788 and 1868, some 165,000 people, convicted in Britain of certain crimes regarded at the time as serious (though sometimes trivial by today's standards), were sentenced to transportation to Australia where they were subjected to regimes of forced labour for the period of their sentences until they were, in most cases, released back into the mainstream of Australian society. These convicts were mostly young, and mostly from the labouring classes in Britain. Scrupulous records on these men and women were kept in Australia, detailing not only their crime and sentence, but also such things as their trade, literacy level, behaviour in Australia, marital status and even physical appearance. These records survive today intact and in excellent condition. These time-expired convicts in time became the bedrock of the developing Australian society – even today many Australians proudly claim descent from a convict ancestor. These Australian convict records are a unique collection. In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, it was very difficult to find any European documents which gave details as full and as clear as these convict records about the lives of working-class men and women. The treatment of transported convicts in Australia varied from period to period as ideas about crime and punishment changed, and these changes were documented clearly in these records. The Australian convict records are thus not only crucial to our understanding of the rise of Australia as a modern state, but are also vital to our understanding of working-class life in Britain and the changing views of crime and punishment in this period. This documentary heritage was inscribed on the International Memory of the World Register in 2007. "

International Register



The records are housed today in State Records New South Wales, the Archives Office of Tasmania and the State Records Office of Western Australia. ~ 1. State Archives and Records Authority of New South Wales 2. Archives Office of Tasmania 3. State Records Office of Western Australia