Port Arthur, Tasmania – Part 1

 

In February, just before the current Coronavirus restrictions were put in place, I visited Tasmania. This is the first of three short pieces on places that I found of considerable interest.

Previously, I was a frequent visitor to Tasmania through involvement with an Oyster Farm down in Dover, about an hour south of Hobart.

Port Arthur is a very important part of the story of forced migration and settlement in Australia. It was much more than a prison, but a complete community. Home to convicts, military and civilian officers and their families. The convicts worked at many industries producing goods and services for use locally. The military and civilian officers looked after security and administration.

The present site contains more than 30 historic buildings, extensive ruins and beautiful grounds and gardens. The penal station was established in 1830 as a timber getting camp using convict labour. Then in 1833, it was used as a punishment station for repeat offenders. It was built on a philosophy of discipline, punishment, religious and moral instruction. By 1840, more than 2,000 convict soldiers and civil staff lived there, and it produced a wide range of goods and materials, from worked stone and bricks to furniture, clothing, boats, and ships. It was an extremely harsh life as a convict and many men were broken by it, while others, were rehabilitated, educated and skilled. Interestingly, the ships they built were of  good quality.  Because convict labour was free, they were able to be sold so cheaply, that the shipwrights based in Hobart and elsewhere in Tasmania, petitioned the Government to close the convict ship building as it was sending them bankrupt.

If you visit Tasmania, in my view, this is a must see. It lies about an easy hours’ drive from Hobart.

I acknowledge the tourism brochure which contains much useful information.