Images of convict life | State Library of New South Wales

Images of convict life

Convict discipline was harsh and often arbitrary. For those convicts who committed further offences in the colony there was a variety of brutal punishments awaiting them. Chief among these was the cat o'nine tails. Fifty lashes was a common punishment, enough to strip the skin from a man's back, but this could be increased to more than 100. Equally dreaded was a lengthy stint on a chain gang where, shackled on each ankle with irons or chains weighing ten pounds or more, convicts were employed in the back-breaking work of making new roads.

By day the prisoners were supervised by a military guard assisted by brutalized convict overseers and at night they were locked up in small wooden huts behind stockades. Transportation to a more isolated penal settlement was another fate awaiting secondary offenders. At remote places such as Norfolk Island, Port Macquarie and Moreton Bay discipline could be so severe that some convicts preferred death.

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