Australasian Anti-Transportation League

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Australasian Anti-Transportation League
AntiTransportation League Flag.svg
Flag adopted by the Anti-Transportation League
Region served
South Eastern Australia and New Zealand

The Australasian Anti-Transportation League was a body established to oppose penal transportation to Australia.[1] Beginning in Van Diemen's Land (Tasmania) in the late 1840s, it had branches in Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney, and Canterbury (New Zealand). The Colonial Office abandoned transportation to eastern Australia in 1852.[2]

Transportation to New South Wales (then, the colony covering the eastern Australian mainland, modern New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland) had ceased in 1840 and the number transported to Van Diemen's Land increased sharply. A two-year suspension of the transportation of male convicts to Van Diemen's Land was implemented in May 1846. It was the intention to resume transportation under new arrangements but that decision was conveyed to the local colonial administrator, William Denison in the following terms: "it is not the intention that transportation should be resumed at the expiration of the two years"; the words "under the present system" were omitted. The dispatch, taken to mean what it said on its face, was made public before the imperial authorities corrected their error.[1]

By 1851, it had developed into the Australasian League for the Abolition of Transportation with branches on the mainland. In Tasmania's first partially elective Legislative Council, its supporters won all 16 seats up for election.[3] The Legislative Council subsequently voted 16 to 4 to request Queen Victoria to revoke the Order in Council, permitting transportation to Tasmania and Norfolk Island in spite of the strong opposition of Lieutenant Governor William Denison. The Victorian gold rush, commencing in the same year, led the British Government to discontinue transportation, because it was seen as an incentive for criminals to be transported to eastern Australia, and the last convict ship to be sent from England, the St. Vincent, arrived in Tasmania in 1853.


The League had its own flag, the Union Jack with the Southern Cross which was created before 1851 by John West,[4] a Launceston congregational minister, author and newspaper editor.[5]

2010 – 12 research project[edit]

The Australian Research Council has funded a research project, Liberty, Anti-transportation and the Empire of Morality by Professor Hilary Carey, The University of Newcastle with Professor David Roberts, The University of New England.[6] Outputs include Carey's Empire of Hell, published by Cambridge University Press in 2019.[7]


  1. ^ a b C. H. Currey, "Denison, Sir William Thomas (1804 – 1871)", Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, accessed 17 September 2011.
  2. ^ John Hirst, "Anti-transportation" in Graeme Davison, John Hirst and Stuart Macintyre, (eds)The Oxford Companion to Australian History, (Oxford University Press, 2001), via Oxford Reference Online, Oxford University Press, accessed 17 September 2011.
  3. ^ McLaughlin, Anne (1995), "Against the -Tasmanian Anti Transportation- League: fighting the 'hated stain'", Tasmanian Historical Studies, 5 (1): 76–104, ISSN 1324-048X
  4. ^ Brady, Veronica (1996), ""To set the people free": Conviction and conscience. John West at the end of the twentieth century. [Edited transcription of The Examiner - John West Memorial Lecture delivered at the University of Tasmania at Launceston on 8 March 1996]", Papers and Proceedings (Launceston Historical Society), 8 (1996): 9–15, ISSN 1034-1625
  5. ^ Alex Druce, "Flag flown high as origins are remembered", The Examiner Newspaper (Launceston, Australia), 4 September 2011, p 8, via factiva accessed 17 September 2011. "recognised as the precursor to the Australian national flag, which was designed and flown for the first time in 1901."
  6. ^ Julian Burgess, "Rewrite for newspaper man West's legacy", The Examiner Newspaper (Launceston, Australia), 8 July 2011, p 12 via factiva accessed 23 September 2011.
  7. ^ Carey, Hilary M. (2019). Empire of Hell: Religion and the Campaign to End Convict Transportation in the British Empire, 1788–1875. Cambridge University of Press. ISBN 9781107337787.

Further reading[edit]

  • A. G. L. Shaw, Convicts and the Colonies (1966, London)