The Crown Colony of Western Australia was not established as a penal colony. However, juveniles from Parkhurst Prison who were meant to provide a cheap source of agricultural labour came as early as 1842. Farmers and successful merchants lobbied for the wider introduction of convicts, with a similar desire to boost the supply of available, cheap labour. A British Order in Council granted penal colony status on 1 May 1849. By this time, the eastern colonies had either stopped or were refusing to cooperate with transportation. Objections to transportation from the larger colonies meant that the practice stopped entirely in 1868.
Western Australia 's convict system differed from the eastern seaboard's schemes. WA refused to take female convicts and there was a lot more institutionalisation and less private assignment of convicts in the west. There was also a requirement to send younger convicts, with some being as young as 15 years and most no older than 24 years on arrival.
Historians dispute the exact numbers of convicts transported to Western Australia but the following list (from Chate) gives a fair indication of the extent of the practice in the years 1850 to 1868 when transportation ended:
Sources used to compile this entry: Chate, A.H; Graham, Bruce; Oakley, Glenda, Date it!: a Western Australian chronology to 1929, Friends of the Battye Library (Inc.), Northbridge, Western Australia, 1991; Millett, P.R., 'Convicts', in Gregory, Jenny and Jan Gothard [editors] (eds), Historical Encyclopedia of Western Australia, University of Western Australia Press, Crawley, W.A., 2009.
Prepared by: Debra Rosser
Created: 18 January 2012, Last modified: 21 August 2013