CARIBBEAN CONVICTS IN AUSTRALIA

Synopsis

While working as a guide at Hyde Park Barracks in Sydney, Jamaican-Australian novelist Sienna Brown discovered several convict indents of men from the Caribbean. This was at odds with the largely Anglo-Celtic story about convicts that fill our history books. This discovery sent her on a decade-long quest to learn more about them and to reimagine the lives they lived.

In the Caribbean Convicts in Australia podcast, the listener follows Sienna on her research journey, as she discovers the presence of these Caribbean men in the convict database at Hyde Park Barracks. As the research deepens, Sienna discovers that the men were slaves and takes the listener into the world of life on a British sugar cane plantation.

 

Coming full circle, Sienna uncovers what their lives were like while serving their convict sentences, until in some cases their evidential freedom and mergence into rural Australian life. Throughout the program, Sienna also reflects on her own passage from Jamaica to Australia a hundred and fifty years later.

The men’s lived experiences of slavery and convict-hood, are brought to life using layered archival material from the period, interviews with experts and descendants, on-location soundscapes and descriptions, along with, excerpts from Brown’s award-winning historical fiction novel Master Of My Fate to give voice to the convicts’ inner lives.

The story of progressive discovery gives the program a strong narrative arc, but its main purpose is to immerse listeners in the world of these convict men so they can imagine for themselves what life might have been like as slaves and convicts and come to understand the challenges they faced in becoming masters of their destinies. It also allows for reflection on how this might change our view of Australia’s early colonial history.

The full draft script of the program has been prepared with funding support from the Writing and Society Research Centre at Western Sydney University and is available on request.