Postgraduate students research a broad range of topics across the School disciplines.
An Archaeological Investigation of Convict Lifeways in Regional Western Australia, 1850 - 1875
The convict period in Western Australia ran from c. 1850 to c. 1875. During that time approximately 10,000 convicts were transported, along with pensioner guards, military personnel and civilian administrators. Over these 25 years the population of the colony increased by 500% and significant capital was injected into the colony’s economy. Convict labour was also responsible for the development of a range of infrastructure within the colony. This research examines a number of aspects of convictism with particular focus on the regions of Western Australia. First it positions the Western Australian colony within the global British penal network. It models the development of this network over time showing how a global bureaucracy was applied equally in penal colonies across the world. It argues that the Western Australian system developed as a result of successes and failures in other penal colonies, and that the specific form of the WA system was the result of an intersection between the needs of the colony and the needs of the global system. Second it analyses the lay-out of convict sites to examine relationships between different groups (convicts, soldiers, pensioner guard, civilian warders) within the convict system. This analysis shows that although sites were designed based on a specific blueprint, individual agency affected the form and layout of these sites. It demonstrates considerable demarcation between these groups and that sites were laid out to reflect this. Third it uses historical documents and excavated material culture to examine convict lifeways in the regions. It shows that ticket-of-leave men were likely to be more healthy in regional areas and that they had access to a range of consumer goods. It demonstrates how the skills and experience of specific convicts contributed to the developing infrastructure within the colony.
The convict period was crucial to the survival and development of Western Australia. This research is important because it provides an understanding of aspects of the convict period that were previously not well understood. It is the first major archaeological investigation in Western Australia that concentrates on the day to day lives of convicts and that examines the position of Western Australia as part of the global convict network. This research also challenges orthodox beliefs about the convict period and the input of convicts into the development of the state of Western Australia.