Australia’s Convict History at Port Arthur

February 4, 2013 by

Sightseeing, Things to Do, Top Attractions

Tasmania's Port Arthur

Tasmania’s Port Arthur

The country of Australia wasn’t exactly founded by convicts, but it may be more practical to say that it was built by them.

Initially, Australia was used primarily as a convict settlement. The worst of the worst of British and Irish convicts were sent by boat to live out their days in the land Down Under – particularly in the region of where Sydney lies today. During that time, convicts built local buildings and structures, and some even gained freedom and took up normal life in the new country.

Port Arthur, in the state of Tasmania, also possesses a rich convict history, starting its role as a penal colony in 1833. Port Arthur became a second destination for convicts, especially ones who caused too much trouble in other prisons or who got out and committed more offences. The reason behind this move was the strict and revolutionary structure of the Port Arthur prison system, known as the “Separate Prison System”. Because of its harshness and psychologically taxing punishments of the system, the government thought this the best option for previously unreachable souls.

In addition to these new ideas brought into a penal system, Port Arthur, as surrounded by water, was said to be inescapable. In other words, those who visited this prison often gave up hope of ever experiencing life outside of barred windows.

After the Port Arthur prison shut down in 1877, tourism slowly grew in the scenic surrounds. Today, Port Arthur is an UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of 11 Australian Convict Sites. It is one of Australia’s best historical destinations, and with 250,000 visitors each year, it is Tasmania’s most popular attraction.

Visitors to this site are able to walk in the open air museum and explore the compound that was once one of the strictest and harshest in the Commonwealth. Explore more with a Port Arthur Historic Site 2-Day Pass.

Brooke Schoenman

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