Tasmania’s fascinating convict history

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Tasmania has a long and interesting history, including stories of convict sites that were set up as prisoners arrived to the state in its early days.

In July 2010, 11 Australian convict sites were added onto the UNESCO World Heritage List, five of which are in Tasmania. These are the sites at Port Arthur, the Cascades Female Factory, Darlington Probation Station, Woolmers Estates and the Brickendon Estates.

These sites offer a comprehensive look into Australia's convict history, with many people coming to the island – especially from the United Kingdom – to follow the convict trail and track back to some of their ancestors.

The Darlington Probation Station located on Maria Island functioned as a convict station first, and then evolved into the business of probation. The convict station operated between 1825 and 1832, with the probation statement operating from 1842, closing in 1850.

This was an ideal location for these purposes as it was away from the free population and had a lot of natural resources for the convicts to labour on. As well as this, its island location made prisoner escapes difficult. At its peak, the number of convicts totalled 492.

Prisoners were divided into three separate classes, determining their working conditions, type of labour, food and sleep. If a prisoner's behaviour was good, they could rise through the classes and end up having better living arrangements and more privileges. Routine and regime was strictly enforced and any disorderly convicts could be sent into solitary confinement.

If this kind of intriguing history takes your fancy, head to Maria Island and have a wander. There are still 14 convict buildings on the island, some in a state of ruin which are fascinating to explore. Most buildings have been left true to the era, so be prepared to feel a bit spooked as though you've stepped right into the past.

Accommodation options on the island use heritage buildings - Image Credit: Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife

Great walking on the island - Image Credit: Marisisland-dot-com

Millers Cottage Maria Island - Image Credit: Marisisland-dot-com

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