Solo exhibition 2015: Convict mothers of Australia: transported women's experiences in early colonial times
Early Australian colonial history is both complex and fascinating. Original documents provide glimpses of life at the end of the C18th and early C19th in both Britain and Australia. They clarify the desperate poverty of many people in Britain at a time of great social changes, and the enormity of the task of establishing a new (penal) colony at the other end of the earth.
Over 160,000 people were transported to Australia- mainly to New South Wales and Van Dieman’s Land. Almost 25,000 of these were women. Women were sent to reduce overcrowding in British prisons, but mainly to become wives and servants of men, and thereby help to ‘civilize’ and populate the new country. These women were mostly young (average age 27) skilled or unskilled working class girls, whose stories have been relatively neglected in the narrative of early Australian settlement and development.
Once in Australia women were allocated to men as wives, or assigned to them (or the government) as servants. Until a Female Factory was built in Parramatta in 1821 there was little accommodation for them. Factories served as a holding depot, hospital and gaol, and continued the government’s intrusion into the lives of transported women. This included removing their children into Orphan Schools at age three.
Women were not passive victims, however, and found ways to resist and defy the institutions surrounding them. This series explores their stories and experiences. These experiences are presented in realistic, though generally symbolic, form. It is my attempt to imagine how life must have been for them, and how they tried to cope with their situation and respond with agency.