The Role And Impact Former Convicts Had On Australian Society

1945 words - 8 pages

The thousands of convicts that were transported to Australia during the late 18th and early 19th century played a large part in shaping Australian society today. However, can the average Australian identify this as the case, or are they embarrassed of our penal colony past? Transported convicts made up most of the population of Australia in its early years. So why are these people neglected as to playing a large role in shaping our Australian history, culture, and identity? Should we be proud of Australia's convict past, should we reject and be ashamed of our convict origins, or should we look at the complexity of convictism in the early days and not fall into either of these categories? It is true that the assumptions and values about convicts have gone through some drastic changes. But how do we view convicts and convictism today? It is without a doubt that convicts had a large positive impact and role in shaping Australia today. Australian's have also had a very misleading view on them when they are very important to the establishment of our country. To support this idea I will be looking at some misleading views of convicts; the history of convictism and how the convicts labour helped establish the new found Australian colonies; what parts of the convicts culture have now been left behind such as folk songs, slang, and sport; the different views of convicts over the years; and how the majority of Australians feel about convicts today.In 1788, the eleven ships of the first fleet landed in Botany Bay in New South Wales with 780 British convicts. Two more convict fleets arrived around 1790 and 1791. From 1788 to 1823, the colony of New South Wales was officially a penal colony comprised of mainly convicts and marines. A common misunderstanding of the convicts is that they were invaluable assets to Australia, as they had little intelligence and skills. However, it is now evident that the proportion of convicts in the skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled occupational categories was roughly the same as the percentages of each skill class for the English workforce in 1841(Nicholas 1988). The diverse range of skills was well suited to building a new colony. Three-quarters of the transported convicts who arrived in New South Wales could read and/or write. Their literacy level was higher than that found in many parts of the underdeveloped world today. The greatest value convictism brought was to provide cheap labour to the new colony. The convict establishment involved Imperial expenditure and interest and an official population which was of great assistance to the development of colonies (Shaw 1984).The convict economy was now established in New South Wales, with convicts producing food on government farms and clothing in government factories as well as constructing building and roads. Many believed that the labour provided by convicts was not efficient, but they used them because it was cheap. However, this is another very stereotypical and...

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