A female gaol

[Episode 21 | 1808 : Sarah]

Sarah is punished after she introduces herself to some local Aboriginal people. After she accidentally breaks a plate while doing the dishes, Alice blackmails Sarah into taking her outside.


The Australian curriculum: History

Show curriculum details

The Australian Curriculum: History aims to ensure that students develop: 

  • interest in, and enjoyment of, historical study for lifelong learning and work, including their capacity and willingness to be informed and active citizens 
  • knowledge, understanding and appreciation of the past and the forces that shape societies, including Australian society 
  • understanding and use of historical concepts, such as evidence, continuity and change, cause and effect, perspectives, empathy, significance and contestability 
  • capacity to undertake historical inquiry, including skills in the analysis and use of sources, and in explanation and communication.

History activities [2]

Activity 1: Punishment for convicts
Show details
Subtheme(s): Culture; Historical events

What punishment could be used to deter convicts who had already been transported to the colony from committing further misdemeanours? Convicts who perpetrated crimes in the colony could be flogged, but floggings were not as arbitrarily meted out as is popularly thought. In My Place Episode 211808: Sarah, Mrs Owen and her daughter Alice often threaten Sarah with being sent back to Sydney Town if she is disobedient or does something wrong. If assigned convicts like Sarah committed crimes or tried to run away, they could be returned to government control and would probably then be put to work in leg-irons as part of a road gang or sent to a penal colony such as those at Newcastle or Port Macquarie. The worst cases were sent to Norfolk Island settlement.

  • Ask students to research the punishments that were used to keep the convicts in check. Students should list at least four forms of punishment, detailing descriptions and images of these punishments. Some punishments to start with are the stocks, cat-of-nine-tail floggings and solitary confinement, among others.

The following websites may be useful:

  1. Female Convicts Research Group (Tasmania), http://www.femaleconvicts.org.au/
  2. National Archives of Australia, 'Women Transported: Myth and Reality', http://www.naa.gov.au/whats-on/audio/women-transported.aspx
  • Ask students to research some of the common crimes of the 19th century and list the punishments that were typically imposed for each type of crime.
  • Ask students to fill in the Y-chart in the Student Activity Sheet H21.3 Punishment for convicts for one of the forms of punishment they have researched.

Note to teachers: these activities may not be suitable for younger primary students due to the graphic nature of the content being discussed. Please use your discretion.

  • Ask students to imagine they are writing to the local newspaper arguing for better treatment of convicts. Have students brainstorm everything they know about convict treatment.
  • Then conduct a debate with different class members forming the speakers for both sides: those for better treatment of convicts and those against better treatment.


Activity 2: The Parramatta female factory
Show details
Subtheme(s): Culture; Historical events; Politics

The Parramatta Female Factory, a 'special gaol for women and girls', was established in 1821. It replaced Australia's first female factory, the 'factory above the gaol', which was also located in Parramatta, and it was designed to accommodate up to 300 women, combining elements of a prison, a factory and a workhouse. During its history, the precinct of the Parramatta Female Factory has accommodated an asylum, an orphanage, a girls' home and a women's prison. The precinct is located in present day Fleet Street, Parramatta, NSW, and a campaign has been launched to list the area as a National Heritage site.

  • Ask students to research the history of the use of the site of the Parramatta Female Factory. Students can create a timeline of the use of the site. Students can conduct research in the school or local library, or online. As a starting point, teachers can refer to the resources listed below:
  1. Free Settler or Felon?, 'Parramatta Female Factory', http://www.jenwilletts.com/female_factory_parramatta.htm
  2. Parramatta Female Factory Precinct, http://www.parragirls.org.au/

  • Ask students to pretend they are addressing a committee formed to decide whether the Parramatta Female Factory Precinct in Fleet Street, Parramatta, should be designated a National Heritage site. In small groups, they must create a short presentation, accompanied by PowerPoint slides or a poster, explaining the historical importance of the site and why the committee should support National Heritage listing.


Student Activity Sheet H21.4: The Parramatta Female Factory

{tpl region name=footerbottom}