First Contacts – Early Australian Settlement

Program Description

An LHA presenter plays the character of Lord Rochester, an 18th Century Magistrate who will explain the problems in England brought about by the Industrial Revolution. Two students will then be brought on to the stage to help recount the tale of two youngsters accused of theft. The Magistrate will outline the circumstances that led to their crimes and take them briefly through the process of an 18th Century trial. When sentence is passed on the two unfortunates the Magistrate will describe what the immediate future holds for them when they are sent off to serve time aboard an overcrowded prison hulk until a more permanent solution can be found for them.

Convict leaving the ship

Daniel Fletcher, a Naval Captain portrayed by one of our presenters, will bemoan the arduous task of transporting a cargo of convicts from England to the penal colony of New South Wales. With the criminals locked safely away he will rely upon his trusty young Midshipman, Jenkins (played by a student) to keep discipline amongst the crew during the long voyage. Students will gain insight into life on board a transportation vessel by listening to the Captains discussions with Jenkins about the best way to house the convicts, keep them healthy on the journey and how keeping them busy and productive might help them maintain control over this unruly mob.

Some new student ‘Convicts’ will assist in depicting the plight of the Convict Colonists and the unique challenges and experiences facing them on their arrival in New South Wales. Not only do they have to survive the cruel conditions of life as a prisoner, but they also must come to terms with being far from all that they have ever known. In a daunting new land with strange plants and animals, a harsh climate and unfamiliar cultures, can they survive their sentences and maybe start a new life here or will this frightening situation break their spirits and ultimately take their lives?