Australia in the 1830s

Port Arthur penal settlement

In 1830, a penal colony for secondary offenders was established on the Tasman Peninsula on the east coast of Van Diemen's Land. It was called Port Arthur and was named after Lieutenant-Governor George Arthur (1784–1854). The sentenced convicts built the prison consisting of hard labour yards, facilities for constant surveillance and solitary confinement cells. It was well known for its harsh treatment of convicts. In 1833 coal was discovered, and convicts worked in the mines known as the Convict Mines. In 1834 shipbuilding was introduced, but only convicts who were well behaved were to be trained to work at the dockyard, as carpenters, blacksmiths, caulkers, coopers and shipwrights. By 1835, there were 800 convicts working in numerous chain gangs. A chapel was built in such a way that the convicts could not see each other but the minister could see each prisoner. By 1838, the convicts were making shoes and other items that could be sold. Railway lines, built by the convicts with chains around their ankles, carried these commodities and passengers to various points across the island.

Point Puer, also on the Tasman Peninsula, was a prison for boys between 9 and 18 years of age. By 1837 there were more than 400 boys at Point Puer, who mainly worked in labouring gangs. They were given minimal schooling, but some of the lucky ones were taught a trade. Those who disobeyed orders could be given the lash. Typical of a daily routine was to rise at 5 am for Bible reading and prayers, breakfast at 7 am, and practical trades or work in labouring gangs till midday. The boys then washed, ate lunch and returned to work until 5 pm. They washed again and had supper, which was followed by schoolwork, evening prayers and scripture reading. They were in bed by 7.30 pm.

A New Penal Settlement_1830

A snapshot of 1838

  • January
    • John Pascoe Fawkner (1792–1869) founded the Melbourne Advertiser, the first weekly newspaper published in Melbourne. It was originally handwritten on four pages until a press and type arrived from Tasmania.
    • The 50th anniversary of the colony of New South Wales was held.

  • June
    • The Myall Creek massacre of 28 Aboriginal men, women and children occurred.

  • November
    • Pastor Kavel brought about 200 German dissenters escaping religious persecution in their own country to South Australia.
    • The Melbourne Cricket Club was founded.

  • December
    • Melbourne's first school opened at Batman's Hill.
    • The Jenolan Caves were discovered.


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