Female Convict Hunter Valley Premier Launch

Inspired by Roses from the Heart, an Australia-wide initiative of Dr. Christina Henri, stories of female convicts of the Hunter Valley was screened for the first time at Singleton Library last month.

Dr Henri began Roses from the Heart in 2003.  It is now a global public art project where embroidered bonnets are used as a metaphor for the convict women and children transported to Australia.

The documentary created by Maitland and Beyond Family History Inc. tells the story of seven women and their experiences that found them cast as convicts, their transportation to Australia and their lives thereafter.

Maitland and Beyond Family History Inc. Vicki Osborn has been pivotal in both the research of the female convicts and the bonnets that have evolved during the project which has quickly become an obsession for this family history buff.

“You hear lots of stories about the male convicts but few of the women,” Vicki said aiming to rectify the situation and expose the good, the bad and the challenges that faced the more than 25,000 female convicts that found their way to New South Wales.

“One of the challenges was we only had 20 minutes to tell these stories, from the time they were sentenced in England and Ireland, their ship transportation and what happened when they landed,” Vicki said.

“Some were sent to Parramatta Female Facility, some on assignments and some married men who rose to prominence.

“There were sad times, good times and many challenges as they raised families here in the Hunter.”

The documentary was filmed at Tocal Homestead and Vicki was among the colonially dressed women to feature.

They were filmed doing jobs of the time around Tocal while the story telling sounds over the visuals.

With the showing in Singleton and a second at The Barracks in Maitland, some 100 people have now seen the documentary and it has received nothing but praise.

The project has been supported by Mt Owen/Glendell community grant funding and Create NSW’s Cultural Grant Program.