The convict

[Episode 20 | 1818 : Charles]

Charles brings Liam some bread but only agrees to bring boots if Liam agrees to help him finish the fence. Liam tells Charles the story of how he ended up as a convict and of his dreams for the future.


The Australian curriculum: History

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The Australian Curriculum: History aims to ensure that students develop: 

  • interest in, and enjoyment of, historical study for lifelong learning and work, including their capacity and willingness to be informed and active citizens 
  • knowledge, understanding and appreciation of the past and the forces that shape societies, including Australian society 
  • understanding and use of historical concepts, such as evidence, continuity and change, cause and effect, perspectives, empathy, significance and contestability 
  • capacity to undertake historical inquiry, including skills in the analysis and use of sources, and in explanation and communication.

History activities [2]

Activity 1: Convict clothing
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Subtheme(s): Character; Historical events

Convicts transported to the colonies of Australia experienced many hardships, including inadequate clothing. Shortages in the supply of penal uniforms made it hard for governors of New South Wales to regulate convict dress and as a result it was often hard to distinguish convicts from free working settlers. Socks were in such short supply that convicts - and soldiers - devised 'toe-rags' to ease the discomfort of state-issued shoes made without distinguishing between the right or left foot. No wonder the escaped convict Liam is so keen to get a pair of boots from Charles!

  • Ask students to research the provisions supplied to convicts. They could research using the web or books from the library. As a starting point, refer to the websites below:
  1. Convict Creations, 'Descriptions of Convict Life',
  2. Convicts to Australia, 
  3. Pilot guides, 'Pilot Destinations', Convict Australia: Convict Life,
  • As a class, ask students to list the good and bad aspects of life for a transported convict in Australia.

  • Ask students to work in small groups and undertake a web quest. A web quest is where you search for images and descriptions of articles of clothing, noting the URL source of the image. Ask students to consider why each item of clothing was issued to convicts, and why it was designed to appear as it did. As a starting point, refer to the websites below:
  1. Powerhouse Museum, 'Convict',
  2. Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, 'Tasmanian Convict Costume',
  • Ask each group to present the images they have found in a slideshow presentation to the class.


Activity 2: The emancipist debate
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Subtheme(s): Character; Relationships; Social order and education

In this clip, the escaped convict, Liam, dreams of a life farming land beyond the Blue Mountains. The fate of convicts, after they had served their term or been pardoned, was a controversial issue in the early days of settlement. Such convicts were known as 'emancipists' and not all members of the colony agreed on whether this group of ex-convicts should be allowed to hold land, or indeed whether they should be readmitted into society. Some influential landholders and military officers, known as the 'exclusives', thought that emancipated convicts were a disruptive element with no place in polite society. Others, including Governor Macquarie, believed that the emancipists could be rehabilitated and had an important role to play in the future prosperity of the colony.

  • As a class, have students view the clip 'The emancipists and opposition debate' from the website listed below and take notes so they are ready for discussion about the two sides of the issue.
  1. State Library of New South Wales, 'The Governor: Lachlan Macquarie 1810 to 1821', Elevating the Emancipists,
  • Have students conduct further research into the issue at the school or local library, or online. They should write notes to assist with their own points within the debate.

  • In small groups, ask students to discuss and explore the issue of whether the emancipists should have been rehabilitated.
  • The class should select six speakers, three for each side of the debate. Divide the class into six groups where each group is attached to a speaker. The group researches elements of the argument for their speaker. Each speaker presents on a different point of the argument - for or against. Each speaker can present their argument in whatever means they wish, such as speech, PowerPoint, video, audio, or poster.


Student Activity Sheet H20.4: The emancipist debate

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