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Sentenced to Down Under
"Australia: Bet you wish YOUR great-great-great grandfather stole a loaf of bread."
— Seen on a T-Shirt

When the British colonized a South Pacific continent of Australia in the 18th century, they established it as a dumping ground for their trash. As their prisons were becoming overcrowded, thieves, arsonists, grave robbers, traitors, debtors, and anyone else society considered a "lowlife" were sentenced en masse to the Land Down Under simply to clear backlogs. Men, women, and children of all ages found out the hard way that it was very easy to score a one-way ticket beyond the seas. This was possibly the original source for the term "Kangaroo Court".

This trope is for instances of this special punishment. More often than not, this comes up in period pieces, due to this practice ending in the Victorian era.

Modern works, especially Science fiction or Space Opera, may revive the idea of a far-off colony/world only suited for depositing troublemakers and make direct allusions to the original.

Sub-Trope of Penal Colony. Compare Trading Bars for Stripes, where the prisoner is put into the military instead, and Reassigned to Antarctica, when it's not a prison sentence but the effect is the same.


Examples:

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    Fan Works 
  • Given an oblique reference in The Headhunt. The first Starfleet vessel to respond to the break-in at Facility 4028, a Federation supermax prison, is the USS Brisbane. Brisbane was one of the Australian prison colonies.

     Film — Live-Action 
  • In a rare American occurrence, a scene in Django Unchained has Stephen summarily sentence Django to servitude in an Australian mining company, where he'll be worked literally to death and then buried in a mass grave, just for shooting up his recently deceased master's plantation. Unfortunately, these particular Australians are more gullible than Stephen had anticipated, and Django deals with them before returning to the plantation to pick up where he had left off during his Roaring Rampage of Revenge.
  • Zu neun Ufern (a.k.a. To New Shores and To a Distant Shore) is a 1937 German film about a singer in Victorian London who takes the blame for her aristocratic lover's forging of cheques and who is sentenced to be transported to Australia. It is largely a propoganda piece designed to attack the British aristocracy.

     Literature 
  • This is the Artful Dodger's final fate in Oliver Twist.
  • Happens to Magwich in Great Expectations.
  • This seems to be a common stock fate for characters in the novels of Charles Dickens; in fact, it almost happens to Kit in The Old Curiosity Shop thanks to the machinations of Mr. Quilp, but Dick Swiveller manages to prove his innocence in the nick of time.
  • In the Temeraire series, Laurence and Temeraire get booted to Australia at the end of the fifth book. Not bad, considering that they started that book under death and breeding-ground sentences respectively for treason.
  • The Dinotopia novel Windchaser starts with the wreck of a prison ship heading to Australia. One main character was a prisoner from the ship and one was the son of the ship's doctor.
  • For the Term of His Natural Life by Marcus Clarke (originally serialised between 1870 and 1872) is a classic Australian novel on the subject. The story follows the fortunes of Rufus Dawes, a young man transported for a murder that he did not commit. The book clearly conveys the harsh and inhumane treatment meted out to the convicts, some of whom were transported for relatively minor crimes, and graphically describes the conditions the convicts experienced.
  • This practice was referenced during a Bat Deduction by Vizzini in The Princess Bride and its film adaptation, who mentions that Australia is entirely populated by criminals.
  • This is what happened to an embezzler in Sherlock Holmes story "The Adventure of the Gloria Scott". However, he and his fellow convicts rebel and seize control of the ship before they reach Australia.
  • Not Kydd himself - though he does captain a transport ship full of convicts to Australia during the Peace of Amiens in Command.
    • Renzi, however, joins Kydd's transport as a free-settler passenger, because he wants to impress Kydd's sister, Cecelia, by starting up his own estate. This doesn't work out very well for him, though, but luckily, Kydd's there to take him home.

     Live-Action TV 
  • On The Young Ones, one bit scene featured two convicts on a ship bound for Australia. While one was irate about his sentence, the other was rather pleased to go where his son and daughter-in-law had been sent years earlier.
  • In the original Star Trek, Khan's ship was the SS Botany Bay, specifically as an allusion to this.
  • Since Escape of the Artful Dodger is a sequel to Oliver Twist set in Australia, both the Artful Dodger and Fagin are transported to the show's setting this way.

     Music 
  • U2's song "Van Diemen's Land" (after the original name for Tasmania) is about the Irish freedom fighters who were transported. It's specifically dedicated to the poet John Boyle O'Reilly, who was deported to Western Australia in 1868 for rebel activities as a member of the Irish Republican Brotherhood.
  • "Botany Bay" is all about this trope. Final verse:
    Now all my young Dookies and Dutchesses
    Take warning from what I've to say
    Mind all is your own as you toucheses
    Or you'll find us in Botany Bay
  • The '70s Irish song "The Fields of Athenry" is about a young man being sent to Australia.

     Stand-Up Comedy 
  • Bill Hicks thought being sent to Australia from Britain wasn't much of a punishment.
    "Let me get this straight: You keep the shitty weather and shitty food, while we get the Great Barrier Reef and lobsters the size of canoes? ...I'm Jack the Ripper."

     Theatre 
  • In Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, this happened to Benjamin Barker, the man who would become Sweeney, who was transported for life fifteen years ago because the corrupt Judge Turpin wanted his wife Lucy for himself.
  • The play Our Country's Good is about a bunch of people sentenced to Australia.

     Real Life 
  • During the late 18th century and the first half of the 19th, this was very much Truth in Television. Interestingly, it was considered the merciful option, since it was available as an alternative to hanging (not that hanging was being used mercifully, as All Crimes Are Equal notes).

Self RestraintPrison TropesShipped in Shackles
Old British MoneyUsefulNotes/AustraliaShiny New Australia
Self RestraintCrime and Punishment TropesSerial Killings, Specific Target

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