"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 overcrowded prisons. Traitors, arsonists, grave robbers, petty thieves, debtors
, and anyone else who found himself convicted by the (in)justice system of the time 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.
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.
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- 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.
- The Little Convict was a 1979 Australian film about a young boy named Toby Nelson transported to Australia, and what happened to him and his fellow convicts.
- 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.
- Kydd: In Command Kydd captains a transport ship full of convicts to Australia during the Peace of Amiens.
- 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 Star Trek: The Original Series episode "Space Seed", Khan Noonien Singh'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.
- In the Inspector Morse episode "The Wench Is Dead, Part 2", Morse is forced to go on sick leave and busies himself by reinvestigating a murder case from Oxford during the 1860s, which he suspects resulted in three wrongful convictions. The men were sentenced to hang, but one found religion in prison and became a model inmate. For this his sentence was commuted at the last minute to transportation (presumably to Australia given the time period).
- Great Expections: The Untold Story was 1987 telemovie which follows the adventures of Abel Magwitch (from Great Expectations), the escaped convict who forced the young Pip to hide and steal for him in the first part of the story. Then it settles to Magwitch's wonderings through Europe and his journey to Australia where it shows the means he used to become a wealthy gentleman and the reasons he decided to become Pip's benefactor.
- 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
- 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.
- 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).