Monday 21 October 2013

Child Convicts

Our Stories: Child Convicts by Janette Brennan (Walker Books)
PB RRP $ 16.95
ISBN 9781742032238
Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

A great deal of Australian history from the convict era and the discovery of Australia is portrayed in this title. But it is the heart-breaking, tales about children, especially those from poor families, that is the most moving.

Mechanisation caused many people to lose their jobs in Britain in the 1700s. They moved to the overcrowded cities to find work, but it was ‘steal or starve’. Death tracked the poor everywhere as the death penalty applied at times for stealing even the slightest thing. It is reported that children as young as four were forced to work or steal to stay alive, until Botany Bay’s penal colony absorbed most of the prisoners from the overcrowded jails and floating prisons.

This book contains history before and after the settlement of the penal colony and focuses on the many child convicts, their crimes and punishment, and how their lives evolved. It also touches on the governors and their roles, and the great changes that Australia underwent during that era up to the ‘end of transportation’.

Our Stories is a marvellous series and one from which a great deal can be learnt about our early development as a nation. They are books of only 32 pages but which present so much valuable information in a minimalistic and easily absorbed way. There are archival pictures throughout to accompany the text and give it visual support.

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