Facts and Data

Official Unesco Page
The Official Site for Australian Travel and Tourism Australia
Australian Convict Sites on the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Populations and Communities website

Basis Data:
Unesco World heritage since: 2010
Size of heritage: 1,503 ha
- Buffer zone: 3,747 ha

Longitude: 150,994°
Latitude: -32,622°


The property includes a selection of eleven penal sites, among the thousands established by the British Empire on Australian soil in the 18th and 19th centuries. The sites are spread across Australia, from Fremantle in Western Australia to Kingston and Arthur's Vale on Norfolk Island in the east; and from areas around Sydney in New South Wales in the north, to sites located in Tasmania in the south. Around 166,000 men, women and children were sent to Australia over 80 years between 1787 and 1868, condemned by British justice to transportation to the convict colonies. Each of the sites had a specific purpose, in terms both of punitive imprisonment and of rehabilitation through forced labour to help build the colony. The Australian Convict Sites presents the best surviving examples of large-scale convict transportation and the colonial expansion of European powers through the presence and labour of convicts.

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Australian Convict Sites

The Australian Convict Sites are a collection of 11 penal sites located across Australia, recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site. These sites represent the forced migration and punishment of convicts during the 18th and 19th centuries, which played a significant role in shaping the nation's history.


During the late 18th century, Britain faced overcrowded prisons and a shortage of labor. As a solution, the British government began transporting convicts to Australia, establishing penal colonies to alleviate these issues. Between 1788 and 1868, approximately 166,000 men, women, and children were transported to Australia as convicts.

The Australian Convict Sites include a range of locations, such as penal settlements, convict-built infrastructure, and places of secondary punishment. These sites were established in various parts of Australia, including New South Wales, Tasmania, Western Australia, and Norfolk Island.

One of the most significant sites within this collection is the Port Arthur Historic Site in Tasmania. Established in 1830, it served as a timber station and later became a penal settlement. Port Arthur is known for its harsh conditions and strict discipline, housing some of the most dangerous convicts. Today, it stands as a well-preserved site, offering visitors a glimpse into the lives of convicts and the challenges they faced.

Current State

The Australian Convict Sites have been carefully preserved and restored to ensure their historical significance is maintained. These sites provide a unique opportunity for visitors to explore the nation's convict past and gain insight into the hardships endured by those who were transported.

Each site offers a different perspective on the convict experience. Some sites, like the Hyde Park Barracks in Sydney, showcase the living conditions and daily routines of convicts. Others, such as the Cascades Female Factory in Tasmania, focus on the experiences of female convicts and the challenges they faced in a male-dominated society.

Visitors to the Australian Convict Sites can participate in guided tours, explore the ruins, and engage with interactive exhibits. These experiences allow visitors to understand the impact of convict labor on the development of Australia and appreciate the resilience of those who endured such punishment.

The Australian Convict Sites are not only significant for their historical value but also for their cultural importance. They provide a tangible link to Australia's colonial past and the diverse range of people who contributed to the nation's development.

Recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2010, the Australian Convict Sites serve as a reminder of the nation's complex history and the enduring legacy of the convict era. They offer a unique opportunity for locals and tourists alike to engage with Australia's past and gain a deeper understanding of the nation's identity.

Overall, the Australian Convict Sites stand as a testament to the resilience of those who were transported and the lasting impact they had on the development of Australia as a nation.