Monday Morning Brief | Australia’s convict past

May 3, 2021, 7 AM

Scott catalog new-issues editor Marty Frankevicz discusses Australia’s penal colony roots and new stamps that commemorate the 150th anniversary of the end of convict transport to the Australian colonies.

Full Video Transcript:

Good morning and welcome to the Monday Morning Brief for January 15, 2018.

Some American colonists journeyed across the Atlantic to escape religious persecution in Britain. Other colonists came to seek profit. But not every British citizen came to America willingly. For many years, the British found Maryland, Virginia and Georgia ideal places to flush out their penal system. But when the 13 Colonies fought for and won their independence, the British jails became jam-packed once again.

In 1786, the British chose Australia to be the perfect dumping ground for their undesirables. In January 1788, the First Fleet of convicts arrived on the shore of Botany Bay and were immediately put to work building — from scratch — the first Australian penal colony, a place that grew up to become the city of Sydney. Additional penal settlements were later set up in other places down under because Britain had a lot of convicts and Australia was a big, empty, out-of-sight, out-of-mind continent.

Those transported by Britain were seldom originally convicted of heinous offenses such as murder, because convicted murderers were routinely executed quickly. Many of the prisoners committed crimes as petty as stealing a loaf of bread, while others were just a bit too active on the wrong side of politics. But early Australian prison life could become too harsh to bear. And if one rebelled, a prisoner could end up at an even worse hellhole being set up at the time on Norfolk Island.

Remarkably, the transportation to Australia of British prisoners, which brought about 165,000 people down under, continued for 80 years, finally ending in 1868.

On Jan. 16, 2018, Australia remembers its convict past by depicting on three stamps various items connected to the lives of convicts, and the convict barracks of Sydney, the Port Arthur, Tasmania penal colony, and the old prison building of Fremantle, Western Australia. UNESCO has declared these Australian Convict Sites to be worthy of conservation as World Heritage Sites. These stamps follow two stamps issued by Norfolk Island on Sept. 19, 2017 that depict the island’s prison colony history.

For Linn’s Stamp News and the Scott Catalogs, I’m Marty Frankevicz. Enjoy your week in stamps.