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‘The Scum of French Criminals and Convicts’: Australia and New Caledonia Escapees



Convicts were sent by Britain to Australia from 1788 until the end of the 19th century, but few Australians are aware that France also established a penal colony, New Caledonia, about the same time that transportation to the Australian colonies on the eastern seaboard finally ended. Today, the arrival of boat people in Australia attracts media attention and political grandstanding, but in the final decades of the 19th century, the boat people were often escaped convicts from New Caledonia. Examining this largely forgotten episode draws attention to Australian border control history, imperial rivalries and epic sea voyages, as well as the part the escapees played in Australian history in general.