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The Making of Australia - Essay Example

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The Irish convict references in the source clearly has undergone a tremendous change in his quality of life. He was "tor[n] from [his] aged parents/And from the maiden whom [he] adore[d]." He has always worked in chains, and he finds that "[e]xcessive tyranny each day prevails." His regular routine has included the wearing of heavy leg irons, regular floggings, and the watching of his fellow prisoners die of malnutrition.
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Download file to see previous pages Generally, the voyage from Britain to Australia lasted eight months, two of which were spent in various ports awaiting repairs and supplies (Inglis, p. 6). The voyage took its toll on the convicts, many of whom perished on the way. One of the voyages of the Second Fleet was especially dangerous: from Britain to Australia, 26% of the prisoners had died, and 488 others had dysentery, scurvy, or other infectious diseases (O'Brien, p. 168). It was a regular occurrence for convicts on ships to be seen "lying, some half and others nearly naked, without either a bed or bedding, unable to turn or help themselves" (O'Brien, p. 169). Ironically, many convicts who survived the voyage to Australia often fainted when they arrived and came into contact with the fresh air, only to die in the hospitals for prisoners, which provided slipshod medical treatment at best.
In our own time, rehabilitation is often seen as the key to change convict behavior for return to society. In the era of penal colonies in Australia, though, punishment was used as the primary modifier of behavior. The most common method of punishment was flogging. The tradition of "punchgut" grew out of the practice of flogging a prisoner and then leaving him in the harbor to get extremely hungry (Inglis, p. 6). Punishment was not only reserved for prisoners who had committed crimes or offenses; instead, a convict's fate in Australia depended largely upon how "docile he was and on many things over which he had no control" (Inglis, p. 8). In New South Wales, "between 1833 and 1836, one male convict in every four was flogged each year, receiving an average of more than forty lashes" (Inglis, p. 8). More serious crimes could result in hanging; these crimes generally involved the murder of another inmate, or of prison personnel. Murder among the convicts was common, as knives became a popular way to gain revenge for thefts (Lagrange, p. 180). The guillotine was another popular method of execution, and it was common for executed prisoners to have their headless bodies rowed out to sea and dropped into the ocean, where the sharks would eat the corpse; in fact, this became known as the "standard form of burial of a convict" (Lagrange, p. 180). Punishment was how the convicts were kept as docile as possible in the colonies.
There are some who argue that the convicts had a life similar to slaves in some of the crueler systems. However, there are others that argue that the convicts were not sent to Australia arbitrarily; rather, the convicts had to have committed a crime to be sent on the long voyage halfway around the world. Clearly, in the last century and a half, sensibilities about the proper treatment of prisoners have changed dramatically, and it is now only those societies that are considered backward or uncivilized that have such cruel prison conditions. Moreton Bay was selected as a site for those convicted of the most heinous crimes, and so the harshest conditions were reserved for these prisoners. The physical discipline went to new ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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