John West Memorial Lecture 2024

Sunday 17 March 2024, 2 pm
at the Meeting Room, Queen Victoria Museum, Inveresk

Guest speaker Associate Professor Kristyn Harman

will present the thirty-sixth lecture on

 A Good Riddance: The Inception of Criminal Deportation in Colonial Australia

Over the past decade, many Australians have become familiar with the concept of criminal deportation. In December 2014, the Australian government amended Section 501 of the Migration Act to provide for the cancellation of visas of people with criminal records on the grounds of bad character, and to enable these people to be deported to their countries of origin. More than 3,000 so-called 501 deportees have since been deported from Australia, with around 60% being returned to Aotearoa New Zealand.

Criminal deportation has a long history in the former Australian colonies. It dates back beyond the time at which John West was railing against the evils of convict transportation. For West, Tasmania’s convict population comprised the ‘Thousands of British offenders’ who ‘trod almost alone the first stages of Austal colonisation’.[1] However, unknown to most present-day Australians, hundreds of formerly free people were deported from mainland colonies to Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania) as well as within the island colony itself following criminal trials. Some of these people were men, women, and children who had arrived free in the Australian colonies. Others, including both colonial and Aboriginal people, were born free here. What they all had in common was freedom prior to their colonial convictions and sentences to transportation.[2] While West’s focus on the British Isles was understandable, this was far from the full picture of Australian convictism.

In this lecture, I examine the lives of some of these formerly free people who were criminally deported to or within Van Diemen’s Land in the 19th century. I also explore the wider socio-legal contexts that facilitated their deportation, situating this longstanding practice within the wider arc of criminal deportation from early modern England to present-day Australia.

Associate Professor Kristyn Harman

Kristyn Harman (PhD) is the Associate Head of School (Research) and an Associate Professor in History within the School of Humanities, and the Deputy Chair of Academic Senate, at the University of Tasmania. A social historian, Kristyn is an award-winning expert on cross-cultural encounters across Britain’s nineteenth-century colonies with a particular focus on law, punishment, and incarceration. She is a member of the Australian Dictionary of Biography [ADB] Editorial Board and Chairs the ADB Tasmanian working party. With Dr Vicky Nagy, Kristyn is currently working on an Australian Research Council-funded project ‘The Inception of Criminal Deportation in Colonial Australia’ DP230100267 (2023-2025). This significant research project builds on her earlier work, including her award-winning monograph Aboriginal Convicts: Australian, Khoisan and Maori Exiles, and her follow-up book, Cleansing the Colony: Transporting Convicts from New Zealand to Van Diemen’s Land.

[1] John West, The History of Tasmania with copious information respecting the Colonies of New South Wales Victoria South Australia &c., &c., &c. ed. AGL Shaw (Sydney: Angus & Robertson, 1971), p.335.

[2] I acknowledge the generosity of the Australian Research Council in funding this Discovery research project DP230100267 The Inception of Criminal Deportation in Colonial Australia.

Read the written version of the 2024 John West Memorial Lecture by Kristyn Harman.

All welcome

This is a free event for Launceston Historical Society members, visitors $5 

  Organised by the Launceston Historical Society in partnership with the QVMAG