Monday, February 4, 2013

Port Arthur

It's a world heritage site and one of the greatest tourist attractions of Tasmania. It has a lot to do with the colonization of the country. From the early eightteen hundreds the British courts sentenced thousands of their citizens to be transported to the new colonies New South Wales, Victoria and van Diemen's Land. So two goals were served, putting an end to the overcrowding of British prison cells and populating the new colonies. Often the sentence was for minor offences as stealing a loaf or so. In Britain small crime was high during these days. It was the beginning of the industrial revolution, many people took to the cities to find (very poorly paid) jobs and in the same time more and more machines replaced their labour. Enormous poverty was the consequence and this led to more small crime. Many of the people caught ended up in the new colonies. Sydney was a notorious place and so there were many. Not all convicts were sentenced for minor offences. Some were real criminals and repeat offenders. For those Port Arthur was established. It is an isolated spot on a peninsula from which the landbridge was guarded by a chain of watchdogs. Escape virtually impossible. Until transportation stopped in 1853 thousands of convicts have lived here, together with their guards, regular soldiers from British regiments, and administrators and clergy. It was like a regular community, that developed into a highly productive centre, with even a shipyard. The detention and disciplanary methods that were used makes one shiver. Leg-irons from 8 to 18 kgs, isolation cells, lashing (whipping) were regular practice.
At this moment the site is very beautiful and serene, but it makes the visitor aware of the need and value of a classless, independent and humane judicial system.

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