Alexandra Hasluck Books

Unwilling Emigrants

An account of the convict system in WA published by Oxford University Press in 1959 and as a paperback in 1978. Reprinted by Fremantle Arts Centre Press in 1991
by Alexandra Hasluck

Publication Details:
Fremantle Arts Centre Press, 1991
Paperback 146 pp
ISBN: 0 949206 94 6

Cover notes from 1978 first paperback edition:
"In this book Dame Alexandra Hasluck deals with the little-known period in the history of Western Australia. Within twenty-one years of its foundation, the colony at Swan river - the first free colony in Australia - petitioned to become a penal settlement, at a time when the eastern colonies had either ceased to take convicts or were seeking to end transportation to their shores. What happened during the eighteen years of the convict period, and after, is told with particular reference to one convict, William Sykes, whose letters from his wife were discovered in 1931. These letters tell a tale of heart-break and longing which must have been true of many a convict's wife.

William Sykes is treated as the prototype of the many convicts who came out to the colony of Western Australia. Sentenced to penal servitude as a result of a night's poaching during which a gamekeeper was killed, he came to know the long sequence of privations and toil, first in the Convict Establishment at Fremantle and, later, on various road parties in the districts around York and Toodyay. Like his fellow convicts his only memorial is the list of public buildings, roads and bridges erected in the colony during those years of transportation. His story, and that of his fellow ticket-of-leave men in Western Australia in the 1860s is told by Dame Alexandra with imagination and understanding."

<< back