A Natural Hulk: Australia’s Carceral Islands in the Colonial Period, 1788-1901
journal contributionposted on 21.02.2018, 10:13 by Katherine Roscoe
During the British colonial period at least eleven islands off the coast of Australia were used as sites of “punitive relocation” for transported European convicts and Indigenous Australians. This article traces the networks of correspondence between the officials and the Colonial Office in London as they debated the merits of various offshore islands to incarcerate different populations. It identifies three roles that carceral islands served for colonial governance and economic expansion. First, the use of convicts as colonisers of strategic islands for territorial and commercial expansion. Second, to punish transported convicts found guilty of “misconduct” to maintain order in colonial society. Third, to expel Indigenous Australians who resisted colonisation from their homeland. It explores how as “colonial peripheries” islands were part of a colonial system punishment based around mobility and distance, which mirrored in microcosm convict flows between the metropole and the Australian colonies.