This very week, UNESCO's World Heritage committee met in Brasil and accepted eleven convict sites across Australia, including Hyde Park Barracks in Sydney, Port Arthur near Hobart, Norfolk Island penal settlement and Fremantle Prison in Perth. The Weekend Australian (7/8/2010) noted that these 11 sites provided a complete representation of all the significant elements of Australian convictism in 1788-1868. They covered penal stations, gang labour, assignment, female factories and the Tasmanian probation system.
Port Arthur Penitentiary, Tasmania
Guard tower, Port Arthur
looking over the penitentiary below
The UNESCO World Heritage committee also insisted that there had to be a universal significance in Australia's convict history. This was easily done, in two ways. Firstly the range of citizens caught up in the convict services (white Britons, Australian aboriginals, West Indian blacks, Greeks, Malays, Chinamen etc) was much broader than expected. Secondly the committee examined the international debate on how criminals should be treated in the mid 19th century.
Port Arthur now combines history and scenic beauty with innovative interpretation to tell the stories of the harsh discipline and determined industry of the settlements during the convict era. The boulevards of towering oaks and English elms, the charismatic ruins set amid expanses of lawns and convict-era gardens contrast the natural bushland setting on a stunning harbour and the harsh discipline of its past.
Situated on the Tasman Peninsula near Saltwater River, the Coal Mines Historic Site was Tasmania’s first operational mine. Developed both to limit the colony’s dependence upon costly imported coal from Sydney, as well as serving as a place of punishment for the worst class of convicts from Port Arthur, the mine was operational for over 40 years. Today, the Coal Mines offers visitors the chance to discover among the ruins and scenic vistas an integral part of the colony’s penal system, only 25-minutes drive from Port Arthur.