Port Arthur Penal Colony

20 Apr 2004

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Down on the Tasman Peninsula, Port Arthur was once a convict penal colony which was inhabited by the worst of the worst convicts, those who were sent to Australia and re-offended. The area started life as a timber station and was named after former Tasmanian Lieutenant Governor George Arthur. Port Arthur made a name for itself because convicts were given physical punishment and mental and psychological punishments.

Originally a flour mill the penitentiary at Port Arthur housed many convicts. After the closure of the site as a penal colony attempts were made to knock down many of the buildings and eradicate Port Arthur from existence and memory. However, some of the buildings were saved and remain a reminder of the past. Given that the area of Port Arthur is now a major tourist attraction much of the area is well tendered park land with a number of the original buildings, some built by convicts themselves still standing. Tourism started up almost as soon as the last convicts had left, supplying the new residents with a source of income, part of its undoubtedly due to its unsavoury past, and the ghost stories that accompany it.

The area was deemed ideal for housing convicts. Three sides of the peninsula which Port Arthur exists on is surrounded by shark infested waters while connection to the rest of Tasmania is through an isthmus which was well guarded. That didn’t stop convicts trying to escape though.

Part of Port Arthur was a penal colony for boys, Point Puer was the first British penal colony for boys who were treated in the same way as the men, punished in the same way and expected to do the same work as the men. For the more daring visitors to Port Arthur can take a tour of the site at night. The ghost tours are well run, using no special effects either with lighting, actors or sounds. It’s all in the story telling and the chilling stories themselves.

More information at the Port Arthur Website

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