Mapping Convict Landscapes

The convict system has left a mark upon Tasmania. From societal long term impacts, to the formation of its criminal justice system, the administration and management of the men and women transported from across the British Empire has formed a key part of the foundation upon which modern Tasmania still rests.

This is particularly so in the way in which British settlement in the colony played out. A new mapping project seeks to show the extent to which the management of the colony’s convicts has impacted – and still continues to impact – Tasmania’s landscape.

The mapping project, Convict Landscapes: Locating Australia's Convicts, 1788-1868 - Van Diemen's Land, is an initiative led by Dr Richard Tuffin and Professor Martin Gibbs of the University of New England, in collaboration with Esk Mapping & GIS. It maps nearly 270 places where convicts were incarcerated and engaged in forced labour by the government (not inclusive of private assignment).

The project maps  the convict stations, gangs, institutions and parties from every year between 1804 to 1877, providing the user with the ability to easily visualise the extent of the system’s impact in the colony. Each place has also been categorised according to the department administering it, as well as where its funds were drawn from. The underlying data is also downloadable, providing a resource for other researchers and statutory managers in identifying these places.

This is a living dataset as the locations of existing places get refined and new ones added. The next step is to hopefully incorporate places like watch houses and courthouses – integral places to the operation of the convict system – incorporating data from the allied research of Hamish Maxwell-Stewart. Beyond that, the assignment system and private use of convict labour beckons. In the end, the hope is to generate an atlas of convict Tasmania that will facilitate further research and encourage ongoing protection of these important places.

For more information visit

With thanks to author, Dr Richard Tuffin

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