The life course of Point Puer boys in Van Diemen’s Land

Alistair Scott -

History and Classics, School of Humanities

University of Tasmania

“Useful and worthy members of the Colony”? The life courses of Point Puer boys who remained in Van Diemen’s Land.

Situated on the headland across the bay from Port Arthur, the Point Puer Boys Establishment held an estimated 2,300 male juvenile convicts between 1834 and 1849. Historians have been divided on whether it was successful in reforming the boys and preparing them for life in the colony.

Alistair’s thesis is following the life courses of a study group of male juvenile convicts who were held at Point Puer between 1834 and 1849 and who then stayed in Van Diemen’s Land. It is examining their life courses from their early experiences in Britain to their incarceration on the hulk Euryalus, transportation, imprisonment at Point Puer and later lives.

The study group for the thesis is currently drawn from boys who arrived on two juvenile convict transport ships – the Frances Charlotte (which arrived in 1837) and the Hindostan (1841). This study group will in future be expanded to include other cohorts of boys held at Point Puer during its 15-year life - the first intake of 68 boys, boys who arrived on two other juvenile convict transport ships – the Egyptian (1839) and the Asiatic (1843) – and boys who arrived on various ships between 1844 and 1846.

The thesis is adopting a life course approach in considering the impacts of the life events and experiences of the boys on their later behaviour and lives. The treatment and experiences of the boys and their responses is being studied using genealogical records, official government and colonial records, the small number of personal accounts by boys who passed through Point Puer and records of the boys’ conduct and behaviour.