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RAHS Day Lecture – The Convict Orphans of Van Diemen’s Land

Event Date & Time: Wednesday 6 December 2023 @ 1.00 pm – 2.00 pm

Event Location: Online via Zoom

Cost: Free

Event Description:

One of the largest convict establishments in Van Diemen’s Land housed children. Between 1828 and 1879 some 6,000 children passed through the Orphan Schools, most ‘orphaned’ not by the death of their parents but by the convict system. They were convict orphans. Unless they were retrieved by their mothers or by another family member before they were about 12 years old, they left the Orphan Schools as indentured ‘apprentices’. During the final two decades of the orphanage, almost a thousand children were sent out as unpaid workers under conditions like those of assigned convicts. Once they turned 18 and were free to leave the colony, many sailed across Bass Strait to make new lives for themselves elsewhere in Australia and New Zealand. Only in recent years have their descendants begun to uncover the stories of these children who concealed from their families the stigma of growing up a ‘convict orphan’.

About the speaker:

Lucy Frost is Emerita Professor of English at the University of Tasmania. She has long been interested in the experiences of women and children in colonial Australia, beginning with her first book, No Place for a Nervous Lady: Voices from the Australian Bush. Since moving from Melbourne to Hobart in 1997, her research has focused on the experiences of convict women and their children. During her years as a director of the Cascades Female Factory Historic Site, she co-founded the organisation thriving today as the Female Convicts Research Centre, of which she was the founding president. At present, she is Chair of Digital History Tasmania, dedicated to preserving Tasmania’s historical records and heritage and promoting access.