Between 1788 and 1868, 162,000 convicts were transported from Great Britain to Australia to serve their penal sentences. Some of these convicts were criminals while many others were small-time thieves or political rebels.
The Royal Mint of Australia recently released three new coins to mark the 230th anniversary of the First Fleet’s arrival in 1788 and the 150th anniversary of the voyage of the Hougoumont where the last of the convicts were transported to Australia in 1868.
The coins were released in gold and silver. Both versions feature the same reverse design. The reverse features Australia as a tree with its roots below the ground. An outline map of Australia is also depicted. Chains represent the convicts who were brought to Australia as prisoners. Another inscription reads AUSTRALIA’S CONVICT ERA 1788 – 1868. The obverse depicts the common effigy of Queen Elizabeth II.
15,000 sets of four $1 9 grams Uncirculated Aluminum-br coins were released. The 11.6 g $1 .925 Silver Proof coin has a mintage limit of 5,000 pieces while the 3.10 g $10 .999 Gold coin has a mintage limit of 1,500 pieces. The interesting stories of three convicts are illustrated on the packaging.
Stories of convicts and their transformation have become a part of Australia’s history and folklore. Mary Wade was one of the earlier convicts who was sentenced to death when she was 11 years old. However, her sentence was changed to transportation. Today, thousands of Australians are a part of Mary’s family of 21 children. Even Prime Minister Kevin Rudd belongs to this family. John “Red” Kelly from Ireland was transported for pig-stealing and became a farmer in Victoria. His son Ned Kelly went on to become a famous bushranger who was influenced by Kelly’s strong political views. Forger William Henshall went on to design and mint Australia’s very first coins — the holey dollar and the dump.
Image Courtesy: The Royal Australian Mint