The Probation System was introduced in Van Diemen's Land for female convicts in 1843–1844, a few years after it was introduced for men. The main differences of this system over the Assignment System were:

  • - convicts spent 6 months on probation upon arrival in the colony—for female convicts this was on the Anson Probation Station, and, after its disbandment, New Town Farm.
  • - after serving their 6 months probation, convicts were classified as probation passholders and hired out, for an annual wage, to employers.


Regulations of the Probationary Establishment for Female Convicts in Van Diemen’s Land (July 1, 1845).

This resource is part of Libraries Tasmania’s collection and can be viewed online:



NB: Page numbers were not transcribed. Words in [] were cut off at the centre fold and have not been verified.


Regulations of the Probationary Establishment for Female Convicts in Van Diemen’s Land.












GO33-1-52P0763-64 65


July 1st, 1845


The following Regulations of the Probationary Establishment for Female Convicts in Van Diemen’s Land, have been approved by His Excellency the LIEUTENANT-GOVENOR, and are to be strictly carried out by all persons employed in this branch of the Convict Department.



  1. —ALL Female Convicts arriving in Van Diemen’s Land will be placed under probationary restriction and discipline for at least six months previously to becoming Pass-holders.
  2. —In this first Stage of probation the attainment of two objects is contemplated, “punishment and reformation.” The first will be secured by the due application of coercive labour and restrictive discipline—the second, it is hoped, will be attained by means of religious and moral influences, and by the careful inculcation of industry and regularity.
  3. —The systematic employment of such means instruments of reformation, it is expected, will prepare the women for a gradual restoration to freedom with benefit to themselves and advantage to society; but they must understand that, until they have afforded satisfactory evidence of amendment and improvement, they will not be permitted to emerge from this Stage of probation into that of Pass-holders, in which they will have an opportunity of obtaining wages in private service.
  4. —The entire management of the Establishment will be guided in accordance with these principles, and it will be impressed upon the women that the coercive and restrictive discipline they are undergoing, is the consequence of the misconduct; but that at the same time, the lasting benefit is the object in view.
  5. —Discipline will be most effectually enforced by calmness and firmness on the part of the various Officers of the Establishment. Reproachful and harsh language can never be attended with advantage, and must be carefully avoided. [Kindly] treatment and mild language are perfectly compatible with strict and systematic discipline.
  6. —One uniform system of discipline and treatment must prevail. Women of humble [attainments] and capacity are not on that account to be more rigorously dealt with than those [of] superior acquirements; but women of a [restless] disposition will be placed at such description [to] work as requires the closest and most unvarying attention, and be kept under the separate system, whenever such can be enforced.
  7. —No female convict whilst under probationary restriction will be entrusted with power or authority over the others, nor be employed in any permanent situation of ease or trust on account of her ability and usefulness, or from motives of expediency.
  8. —This regulation will not prevent the employment of women as hereafter pointed out in the performance of the daily duties of the establishment, or as servants to such officers of the Establishment as are allowed attendance.
  9. —All articles of indulgence such as tea, tobacco, &c., are strictly prohibited. Nothing in addition to the rations and clothing supplied by the Government, which are ample, will be allowed.


  1. —The discipline of the Establishment—the efficacy of the system—and the present as well as the future comfort of the women, depend much upon proper classification. To this object, therefore, the utmost attention must be given to the Superintendent and Matron, who in their arrangement into classes of the women when first received into the Establishment, will be greatly [aided] by the reports made by the Surgeon-superintendent, as to the general character and conduct of each woman whilst under his charge.
  2. —There will be three classes— the first will be composed of the best conducted women who have been longest in the Establishment, and who are therefore nearest to emergence; the second of those, who, although generally well conducted, [but] not so regular as the women of the first class, and have not been so long in the Establishment; and the third will consist of the disobedient and intractable. The Superintendent is hereby ordered to follow this plan, and not on any account to classify by ships’ companies.


  1. —Each class will be divided into messes of ten. The women of the 1st and 2nd classes will be allowed to select their own mess associates. One woman of each of the messes will have charge of its details and will be responsible for them to the Warden in charge of the class.


  1. —As a general rule, the women will perform every description of work for themselves and for the advantage of the Establishment which they can accomplish. They are to be kept in constant employment, and at such work as may be from time to time provided. In its performance the Officers under whose superintendence the women immediately are, will see that they are industrious and pains-taking, and that no intermission of work is allowed during the hours allotted for that purpose.
  2. —The women employed in the daily duties of the Establishment, such as cleaning, washing, scrubbing, &c., which can be performed by the women generally, will be changed weekly. Bakers, cooks, hospital attendances, store assistants, and servants will be selected from such women as have been classed as Pass-holders. In the event of Pass holders not being found for such employment, women who have finished two-thirds of their term of probation in the Establishment, with uninterrupted good conduct, and who are in the 1st class, may be employed.
  3. —Servants will not be allowed gratuitously to the Superintendent, Matron, Religious Instructor, or Medical Officer. A charge of 6d. a day will be made for such of the women as they employ as servants. The other Officers will be allowed attendance, selected as already directed, in the proportion of one female servant for every two Officers.
  4. —The Officers, however, will respectively be allowed washing according to the scale appended; the same being performed by the women employed in that duty. They will also be allowed to employ women at the rate of 1s. a-day for each woman so employed.
  5. —Beyond this, the women are not to be employed in any manner whatever, for the profit or advantage of any Officer of the Establishment, nor of any other individual. The entire proceeds of their labour will be for the advantage of the Convict Service alone; and all moneys received for work done for private individuals, according to the scale annexed, will be paid monthly by the Superintendent to the Assistant-Comptroller.
  6. —The afternoon of Saturday will be devoted to a careful inspection of the clothing of the women and of the messing utensils and other articles of bedding and furniture—The women will besides repair their clothing, and otherwise prepare for Sunday, so that it may be kept holy and as a day of rest.
  7. —All women who cannot read and write with [tolerable] ease and accuracy, will attend the schools, as will such others as may desire to do so. A cheerful obedience to the school regulations will be required, and great care will be taken that the ignorant are never so employed as to prevent their receiving daily school instruction.


  1. —The women will go to bed at 9 o’clock in summer, and 8 o’clock in winter, getting up throughout the year at sunrise.


  1. —The position of the Superintendent and of the Matron of the probationary Establishment for females is one of very great responsibility and trust. The beneficial effects of probation depend chiefly on their judicious and careful management. Their whole time and attention therefore should be devoted to the duties of their respective situations. The introduction and maintenance among the women, and generally throughout the Establishment, of habits of industry cleanliness, order and obedience, require the zealous and unceasing care. In the performance of their duties they have the aid of able Assistants, who must cheerfully obey and zealously co-operate with them.
  2. —The Superintendent will receive his instructions through the Comptroller-General. These are to be fully and fairly carried into effect, and no departure from them will be allowed.
  3. —The Superintendent and Matron must not be absent from the Establishment during the night and should avoid being absent together during the day. In the event, however, of necessity requiring them to be so by day, their absence must not exceed three hours.
  4. —The Superintendent will prevent any communication with the women by unauthorised persons. He will also prevent letters or parcels being sent or received by the women through any other medium than himself or the Matron.
  5. —In any unavoidable absence of the resident Religious Instructor, the Superintendent or the Matron will read morning and evening prayers; but no Minister or Layman, excepting the authorised Religious Instructors, will be permitted to officiate, or to afford instruction without special authority.
  6. —The Superintendent and Matron will visit the school daily, and afford every assistance to the Religious Instructors in conducting them. They will also conjointly make minute monthly reports of the conduct and disposition of each of the women according to the form annexed. To this point great attention is required to be paid.
  7. —Any misconduct on the part of the Officers of the Establishment, which the Superintendent cannot himself properly settle, will be reported by him to the Comptroller-General, for the Lieutenant-Governor’s information.
  8. —All orders given by the Superintendent on [points] of discipline and management, are to be entered in his daily order book; and all matters of importance connected with the health, discipline, and employment of the women in his Journal. In the Journal of misconduct also, are to be entered [fully], all instances of minor misconduct which he or the Matron may themselves, deal with; but the Superintendent will be careful not to inflict any punishments illegally. These books will be laid before the Visiting Magistrate whenever he visits the Establishment, and an extract from them, and from the Magistrate’s Visiting Book will be forwarded by the Superintendent to the Comptroller-General on the last day of each month.


  1. —The Superintendent will specially request the attention of the Religious Instructors and Medical Officer to the case of any woman whose condition, mental or bodily, requires particular attention; and, where the treatment or discipline in any case is found by these Offices to be attended with injurious effects, it may be modified, a report being immediately made to the Comptroller-General and Principal Medical Officer.
  2. —The Superintendent or Matron will visit once at least, every twenty-four hours, every ward division, separate apartment, and cell in the Establishment, and enter such visit in their respective journals. The Superintendent will satisfy himself daily, that the provisions furnished for the use of the women are good in quality and correct in quantity, immediately reporting any deficiency in either to the Commissariat.
  3. —The Superintendent and Matron will frequently [both] visit the women whilst at their [meals] and see that the provisions are of the full allowance, wholesome and well-cooked.
  4. —The Superintendent will ascertain that [the] several branches of the Establishment are securely locked up at nine o’clock at night in summer and at eight in winter, and the keys deposited with him; and these are to remain in his possession till sunrise the following morning.
  5. —During the night, in cases of emergency, ingress to the women’s wards is to be allowed to the Medical Officer, or Religious Instructors, but on such occasions, the Matron, or one of her Assistants, is to be present. These visits, and the circumstances rendering them necessary, will be recorded in the Superintendent’s Journal Book.
  6. —The illness of any of the women is to be immediately notified by the Superintendent to the Medical Officer, by whom, daily lists of the sick will be furnished. The Superintendent’s daily lists of women under separate treatment, or in solitary confinement, will be furnished by the Superintendent to the Medical Officer, as well as the Religious Instructors. In the event of the dangerous illness, or death of any woman, the Superintendent will make an immediate report to the Principal Medical Officer and Comptroller-General, and if the death be sudden, to the Coroner of the district.
  7. —The Superintendent will read and explain weekly to the women under his charge, those parts of the regulations which immediately [affect] their condition. He will also have the [orders] suspended, printed in legible characters, [for] each of the divisions and wards of the Establishment. Lists of Pass-holders, and their respective classes will also be suspended for the [information] of the Public.
  8. —All articles of provisions, stores, bedding, [?&c] are under the general charge of the Superintendent, and he is responsible for the same. The immediate care of the stores will rest however with one of the Officers, to be named by the Superintendent.


  1. —The Superintendent will afford every facility to the Officers of the Commissariat and Ordnance Departments when their duties lead them to visit the Establishment.


  1. —The Assistants, Teachers, Warders, and other Officers will strictly conform to the rules of the Establishment —obey the directions of the Superintendent and Matron, and zealously assist them in maintaining order and discipline. They are not to be absent without leave from the Superintendent, and then only during the day, and never for more than four hours.
  2. —The general and special duties of each Assistant and other Officer will be determined by the Superintendent, and will be entered in a book to be kept by each Officer for that purpose.
  3. —Written reports will be made by the Assistants and Warders daily in a report book—which they are all to be provided—on such [subjects] as may be necessary to be brought [upon] the notice of the Superintendent, more particularly as regards the conduct of the women immediately under their charge. In cases of emergency verbal reports will be made, but these [must] afterwards be recorded.


  1. —Divine service will be performed by the respective Religious Instructors in the morning and afternoon of every Sunday, Christmas-day, and Good Friday, at such hours as may be determined on by the Superintendent. Prayers are also to be read daily in the morning and evening by the resident Religious Instructor.
  2. —The Religious Instructors will have the general superintendence and interior management of the daily and Sunday schools, in which they will be aided by the School Assistants.
  3. —The Religious Instructors are to make themselves acquainted with the women of their respective flocks individually, in order that they may be enabled to judge of the nature of the instruction each may require; and with the same end in view, they will keep a record book of the age, occupation, condition, education, character and conduct of the women, and of such other particulars as they may find useful towards the discharge of their duties.
  4. —The fundamental parts of the education alone are to be taught; and, as the probation of the women may be for so short a period as six months, it should be a main object to teach those to read who cannot already do so. All such women must receive instruction regularly in school.
  5. —The women in hospital, in separate apartments, and in cells, are to be visited, and instructed daily by their respective Religious Instructors, who will enter their visits in their journals of duties performed.


  1. —In the performance of these duties much is of necessity left to the discretion of the Religious Instructors, on whose zeal and prudence every reliance is placed.
  2. —The respective Religious Instructors will issue books on religion to the women under their care. The management of the General Library will rest with the Resident Religious Instructor, and the books composing it be under his care.


  1. —The particular duties of the Medical Officer have already been laid down by the Principal Medical Officer; but it may be added that he is to visit the women in separate or solitary confinement daily, and twice a-week to inspect every part of the Establishment, reporting upon every circumstance which may be necessary as to clothing, diet, warmth, ventilation, &c., on which the health either of mind or body may depend, and which may require, in his opinion, revision or alteration.
  2. —When necessary, he may direct an increase of clothing and diet, as also of the time allowed, morning and evening, for exercise in the open air, to women who are in separate or solitary confinement; but on every such occasion he will immediately report the circumstance to the Principal Medical Officer.
  3. —Once a month at least, in presence of the Matron, the Medical Officer will examine into the health of the women, on the strength of the Establishment.
  4. —On every point of duty he will make a record in his medical journal for future reference, if necessary.
  5. —In all cases of death a special medical report will be required.


  1. —The probationary Establishment will be visited by this Magistrate at least twice in each week.
  2. —He will investigate all charges brought against the women, and award punishment, as sanctioned by law. In the discharge of this duty care will be taken to regulate the description and amount of punishment by the temper, disposition, and understanding of the offender. The description of punishment, which to one would be trifling, to another would be severe. Want of attention in inflicting punishment on this principle frequently renders it unequal and unjust.
  3. —A distinction is also to be drawn between offences: some in their nature are criminal, whilst others are mere breaches of discipline or of regulation; and it is not too much to expect that, under a strict system of personal superintendence on the part of the Officers, offences will not be frequent, and severe punishment seldom required.
  4. —Advice, admonition, and kindness, will in most cases be found effectual; but if these fail, and it should be found necessary to resort to punishment, extension of the allotted period of probation—or separate or solitary confinement—will, it is hoped, in most cases, be found sufficient.


  1. — It will however at all times be the Magistrate’s duty to explain the grounds of sentence patiently and calmly, and with clearness, and to point out the folly of persevering in a course of conduct, the inevitable consequence of which must be, to delay the period of the offender’s emergence from probation, even—if rendered necessary by her own misconduct—to the termination of her sentence of transportation.
  2. —The Magistrate, accompanied by the Superintendent, or Matron, will occasionally inspect the various wards, hospital, separate apartments, solitary cells, the school, the messes, and the rations. He will likewise examine into the general management, and take care to ascertain that no illegal punishments occur. A correct record of his trials of offenders will be kept, and a proper return of all the proceedings in each case, authenticated by himself, will be made to the Comptroller-General weekly.
  3. —He will record his visits in the Magistrate’s visiting book, with his remarks upon any irregularities which may come under his notice or within his knowledge. He will also record and report all deficiencies, and every circumstance necessary to be brought under the Lieutenant-Governor’s notice.
  4. —The Visiting Magistrate is authorized to require the perusal of all communications addressed by the Comptroller-General to the Superintendent.
  5. —He will—accompanied by the Medical Officer—once a month at least, inspect every branch of the Establishment; he will see that cleanliness, due ventilation, and order are attended to, and that all the arrangements are complete.
  6. —He will also with that Officer muster the women on these occasions, and record in the visiting book his opinion of their general appearance and health.
  7. —With the interior and moral discipline and arrangements of the establishment the Visiting Magistrate will not interfere; but he will do everything in his power to uphold the authority of the Superintendent and Matron. His duties generally will be to see that all orders are fully carried into effect, especially as regards proper classification—that the women are properly worked and not employed except in accordance with regulation, and for the public benefit alone; that moral and religious instruction is duly and regularly imparted, that the schools are regularly attended; and that the women are advised and admonished by those under whose immediate charge they are. Information on each of these points will be included in his monthly report to the Comptroller-General.
  8. —The Visiting Magistrate will at all times suggest to the Comptroller-General any alterations or improvements considered desirable in the Establishment.


  1. —The charge of issuing the rations will rest with an Officer specially appointed by the Superintendent for that purpose. No more than one day’s supply of flour and meat will be issued on any one day. The officer to whom the duty of issuing rations is entrusted will see that the various articles of provisions are fairly and justly distributed; that they are good and wholesome, and of full weight, and according to the contract quality.


  1. —The various mess-rooms are to be regularly visited at meal-hours by Officers appointed by the Superintendent for that purpose.
  2. —The duty of these Officers will be to see that the provisions are equally distributed to the several messes—that they are of the full allowance, wholesome, and well cooked, and that the conduct of the women at their meals is regular. On these points, as well as on any complaints made by the women as regards diet, daily reports will be made to the Superintendent. These reports must be so full as to enable the Superintendent to judge of the duty having been properly performed.
  3. —The various wards, dormitories, and places of confinement must be frequently visited during the day by the chief Assistant, who will be particularly careful that proper ventilation is attended to, and that there is no damp.
  4. —This Officer will also inspect the bedding at least once a week; and whenever the weather permits, have it hung out in the open air.
  5. —The messing of the women and all mess utensils and furniture will be under this officer’s general superintendence. The immediate charge will rest with the officers of the several wards.


  1. —In the management and issue of clothing and stores the strictest economy must be exercised, and due care must be taken to have everything which admits of mending properly repaired. All articles will bear the mark of the Establishment and be numbered from No. 1 onwards.
  2. —Unserviceable stores, when condemned by the Superintendent and Visiting Magistrate, will be received into store and remain for survey and disposal by the Ordnance authorities.
  3. —The Officer in charge of stores will be allowed the assistance of one or more of the women, waiting to be hired, when requisite; but the Superintendent will limit the number to what may be absolutely necessary.


  1. —All communications to the Comptroller-General, from Officers of the Establishment, will be forwarded through the Visiting Magistrate, who will enquire into the points referred to, and will request the Superintendent to transmit the necessary information respecting them. In any case of urgency a statement may be made to the Comptroller-General direct.
  2. —Visitors to the Offices of the Establishment must be furnished with an order of admission from the Lieutenant-Governor or the Comptroller-General. They will enter their names and address in a book to be kept for that purpose. They are not to go over the Establishment unless accompanied by an Officer. Visits made to the Superintendent, Matron, or Religious Instructor, by their personal friends, are not included in the regulation rendering previous permission necessary; but the names and address of such visitors are to be recorded in the book referred to.


  1. —No female convict is to be allowed to leave the Establishment, unless under a contract for service, without the Lieutenant-Governor’s sanction being previously obtained.


            The following books will be kept by the several Officers respectively:-



                Daily Order Book.

                Prison Register – Names, Description, Offences, &c.

                General Daily Account Book.

                Provision Book—Receipt and Distribution.

                Prisoners’ Misconduct Book.

                Visitors’ Book.

                Return of Work done Private and Public.







                Character Book.

                List of Library Books.




                Register of Prisoners’ Health.

                The DAILY RATION of all OFFICERS will be according to the following Scale:—

                 1¾ lb. of 12 per cent. Flour, or 21/8 lb. of Bread.

                  ¾ lb. of Fresh or Salt Meat, or 8 oz Salt Pork.

                  ¾ lb. Vegetables.

                  ½ oz. Salt.

                 1  of a pint of Yeast.




The DAILY RATION for the WOMEN will be according to the following Scale:—



                4-5ths lb. of 12 per cent. Flour, or 1 lb. of Bread.

                  ½ lb. of Meat.

                  ½ lb. Vegetables.

                  ½ oz. Salt.

                  ¼ pint Oatmeal.



                 1½ lb. of Bread.

                  ½ oz Soap.



The CLOTHING for the Half-year, in addition to the Articles in possession of the Women on arrival, will not exceed—


1 Jacket.

1 Cap.

1 Petticoat.

1 Pair Stockings

1 Shift.

1 Apron.

1 Pair Shoes.

1 Handerkerchief.




1 Hammock.

1 Flock Mattrass.

1 Flock Pillow.

1 Blanket.

1 Rug.



SCALE of WASHING to be performed for the Officers of the Establishment:—


                Superintendent and Matron              ..              4 dozen.

                Religious Instructor (Resident)          3 dozen.

                Assistants ................................          1 ½ dozen each.

                Warders ...................................          1 dozen each.


[The following Returns have been transcribed separately]


GO33-1-52P0782  NOMINAL RETURN of FEMALE CONVICTS at the Probationary Establishment—ANSON

GO33-1-52P0783  NUMERICAL RETURN of Females attending the School








Gentlemen’s Shirts



Full Bosom.





Night do.




Boys’ do



With collars.

Boys’ Pinbefores




Ladies’ Garments




Night ditto



Full trimmed.

ditto   ditto







For morning.








For Infants.




















Ditto, trimmed.




Ditto, plain.

Night Gowns







per pair.

Gentlemen’s Collars








Capes, Cardinal




Collars, muslin





Sewing on Habit Shirts


Shirts, Habit


Cuffs, Ladies’


Shoes, Infants


Goffering per doz. yards


Caps, full trimmed





Scale of Prices to be charged for the undermentioned Articles

of Work when performed for the Trade:


Men’s Collars, per doz.


Trowsers & Jackets each


Men’s Shirts, ditto



do 6[?]

Ladies’ Garments do






The Articles sent are to be cut out, and thread and trimming

provided by the parties, or when not furnished a charge will [be]

made by the Matron, for such quantity of either or both [as]

may be used.





There were regulations for hiring probation passholders, issued on 1 July 1844 (ref: The Courier, 26 July 1844 p3).


Regulations for hiring Probation Pass holders in Van Diemen's Land.  Convict Department, 1st July, 1844


REGULATIONS for hiring Probation Pass holders in Van Diemen's Land.

Convict Department, 1st July, 1844.

  1. Pass-holders are divided into three Classes.

In respect to Pass-holders of the 1st Class, the consent of the Lieutenant-Governor must be obtained by the master previously to the completion of any engagement or contract with such Pass-holder. In the case of Pass-holders of the 2nd and 3rd Classes, there will be no interference previously to the contract being entered into, except that such persons as have not already had Convicts in their employment must obtain permission from this office to that effect.

  1. All contracts must be according to the accompanying form, and must be written or printed on foolscap paper. Blank forms, if required, may be obtained at the Depots, Gangs, and Factories, on payment of sixpence for each form.
  2. Every engagement will be for a fixed term of not less than a month, but may be terminated before the expiration of that period by ten days previous notice in writing of an intention so to do, given either by the master to the Comptroller-General, or by the Comptroller-General on behalf of the Pass-holder to the master; which notice must specify the Depot, Barrack, or Factory to which such Pass-holder will, in accordance with the 6th Section of these regulations, be sent. It may be here observed, that the contract being made with the Comptroller-General, the Pass-holder has no power to break the engagement thus entered into by giving or receiving notice personally. The master may, if he prefer it, pay a sum equal to ten days' wages to the Registrar of the Convict Department, in lieu of giving such notice. An engagement will also be annulled by any higher indulgence than a Probation Pass being granted to the convict for whose services it may have been made. A summary power, moreover, rests with the Lieutenant-Governor to cancel any such contract or engagement at His Excellency's pleasure. Should a Pass-holder agree to remain in any service after the expiration of the term specified in the con-tract, a fresh contract must previously to that period be transmitted to this office for approval.
  3. No engagement to be annulled, as a matter of course, by any misconduct on the part of the Pass-holder; but in all cases where the master is desirous of cancelling the engagement, on account of misconduct, the circumstances must be reported to the Comptroller-General, who will lay the case before the Lieutenant-Governor, and communicate His Excellency's decision to the master.
  4. No engagement is to be voidable, at the pleasure of the employer, on account of the inability of the Pass-holder for whose service it is entered into to perform any particular description of work, of which such Pass-holder may have at the time of hiring professed to be capable : such cases must be reported, if the master be desirous of cancelling the contract, in the manner directed as to misconduct. Pass-holders will, however, be liable to be punished by a Magistrate for misconduct in so misrepresenting their capacities.
  5. Whenever such engagements are terminated, in the manner specified in the three preceding Sections, the male Pass-holders, if Probationers, are immediately to be sent by the masters under a pass to the nearest hiring Probation Depot, as the case maybe,—if old Convicts, to the Prisoners' Barracks at Oatlands, Hobart Town, or Launceston, which-ever may be most convenient to their residences. Female Pass-holders are to be returned, under proper charge, to the Factory at Hobart Town or Launceston, whichever may be nearest.
  6. Passholders of the 3rd, or highest, Class will receive from their masters the whole amount of their wages ; those of the 2nd Class two-thirds of that amount ; and those of the 1st, or lowest, Class one-half the amount.
  7. The proportion of wages thus kept back from Pass-holders of the 1st and 2nd Classes must be paid quarterly by their employers to the Registrar of the Convict Department, to be paid by him into the Savings' Bank at the Derwent Bank, Hobart Town, on account of such Pass-holders respectively. If the service be terminated before the end of a quarter, then whatever amount of such proportion may be due must be paid at the time of the Pass-holder's discharge.
  8. The wages payable to Pass holders themselves may be paid either weekly, monthly, or quarterly, as agreed on ; and the whole amount due must be paid to them at the time of their being discharged, or to the Registrar when the engagement is terminated whilst the Pass-holder is under magisterial sentence. In the event of this not being done, or of the regulated portion of wages as before mentioned not being paid to the Registrar, the employers will render themselves liable to be proceeded against legally for the same.

No wages will, however, be demandable for any portion of the term of hiring during which the Pass-holder may have been under punishment.

  1. Masters paying Pass-holders of the 1st and 2nd Classes the proportion of wages required by Section 8 to be paid to the Registrar will, not-withstanding such payment to the Pass-holders themselves, be called upon to fulfil the regulations, by paying to the Registrar whatever proportion of wages should, according to their classes, be placed in the Savings' Bank, notwithstanding the amount so overpaid to them. But when a Passholder shall be indebted to any master for money so overpaid, or for articles supplied by him at the Pass-holder's request, such master may pay himself, by deducting the amount from the proportion of wages which, in accordance with the regulations, may be payable to the Pass-holder.
  2. It is to be understood that the sums so paid to the Registrar will be liable to deduction for any claims substantiated by the masters to the satisfaction of the Comptroller-General at the period of the Pass-holders respectively becoming entitled to their savings.
  3. Masters will in every case be required to provide suitable lodging and bedding tor their servants, without making any deduction from their wages on that account. They will also be required to supply their servants with a sufficient quantity of wholesome provisions and soap, according to the following scale of daily Rations:

1 lb. Meat

1 1/2 lbs. Bread, or

1 lb. Bread and 2 lbs.


1 oz. Sugar.

1 oz. Roasted Wheat.

1/2 oz. Soap.

1/s oz. Salt.



Pass-holders having received wages will be liable to be tried for misconduct should they neglect to provide themselves with proper clothing.

  1. Medicine and Medical attendance when requisite must also be provided by the master :but when proper attention has been paid by the master to any Pass-holder who may fall sick in his service, the Comptroller-General will, in cases of protracted illness, recommend that such servant may be received into hospital, and the agreement cancelled.
  2. Pass-holders are to be sent by their masters to the District Master of Pass-holders on the first Sunday of each month, unless exempted by the Comptroller-General.
  3. Whenever there is a place of Worship within two miles of the usual place of work or residence of Pass-holders, they must attend Divine Service at least once every Sunday.
  4. Masters are required to send a written notice to the Comptroller-General of the date of arrival of Pass-holders at their residences to enter upon service, and also the date of departure from their services, immediately on either of such occurrences taking place ; and a similar notice to the Police Magistrate of their several Districts.
  5. Pass-holders in private service are amenable to Convict Law only.
  6. It is to be expressly understood, that the Comptroller-General is not to be considered responsible for any loss or damage occasioned by acts either of omission or commission on the part of the Pass-holders; the remedy of their employers for the same being confined to the mode prescribed in Section 11.
  7. Until an engagement expires, or is terminated in one of the modes hereinbefore specified, the employer will be liable for wages according to the terms of the contract, notwithstanding he may have dismissed the Pass-holder from his service contrary to regulation.
  8. No contract will be invalid on account of any mistake which may be made in inserting the name, ship, number, or class of the Pass-holder for whose services it is entered into, or in omitting any of the three latter particulars, as any errors or omissions of this nature may be corrected by the Comptroller-General, or other proper Officer :provided that in case of any alteration in the class, notice in writing of the class to which the Pass-holder actually belongs be sent to the employer.
  9. Should a Pass-holder be no longer required by any master in whose service he may at the time be employed, and another master be willing to engage him, on the prescribed contract being previously transmitted to the Comptroller-General by the new master, accompanied by a written memorandum from the first employer expressing his consent to the transfer, the Pass-holder maybe allowed to enter into such service pending His Excellency's approval.
  10. In like manner when any engagements are terminated by the prescribed notice, or payment in lieu thereof, the Pass-holders may be hired on their road to the Depot, Barrack, or Factory, as the case may be; provided the prescribed contract be transmitted by the hirer within one week to the Comptroller-General, as directed in the preceding section, for His Excellency's approval.

M. Forster




The Regulations for the Hiring of Probationary Ticket of-Leave Holders were again updated in November 1850, following on from an update in female convicts' Ticket-of-Leave regulations for period of service, earlier in the year:


Regulations for the Hiring of Probationary Ticket of-Leave Holders.


Persons who may wish to hire Convicts of this class must obtain the sanction of the Lieutenant-Governor through the office of the Comptroller-General; and it is desirable, to prevent delay in the consideration of the application for authority to hire, that it should be sent through the Police or Assistant Police Magistrate of the district in which the applicant resides.

As it is intended that these Convicts should generally be distributed in Country Districts, His Excellency's special authority must be obtained in each case before they can be hired in Hobart Town or Launceston.

2. Convicts of this class can only be hired at the Prisoner's Barracks, Hobart Town, and such other Government Establishments as may be hereafter notified in the Gazette, for some one of the following periods:—

1 year and a-half | 3 years,

2 years,                | 4 years,

And 5 years, according to the length of their original sentence; each period being, however, subject to a diminution of one-fifth for continuous service, without offence ; and on completion of these periods they will be no longer subjected to the restraint of having to work for a particular master, but will be eligible for a Ticket-of-Leave, with the privileges now attached to that indulgence by Law and Regulation. Any failure on the part of the Convict in fulfilling his engagement, will render him liable to punishment, and defer the period of his becoming eligible for higher indulgence.

3. Two-thirds only of the wages at which the Convict is hired are to be paid to the Convict himself, at intervals not exceeding three months ; the remaining third to be paid by the Employer to the Comptroller-General on account of the Government. The payments to the Comptroller-General are to be made half-yearly, in the months of January and July. No wages will be payable during any period for which the employer may be deprived of the services of the Convict by misconduct or sickness.

4. Employers will be required to furnish suitable lodging on their own premises, with a proper supply of bedding, together with provisions and soap, in accordance with the following scale of daily ration:—

1 pound of Meat,
1-1/2 pound Bread, or 1 pound Bread, and 2 pounds of Vegetables,
1/4 ounce Tea,
1 ounce Sugar
1/2 ounce Soup,
1/2 ounce Salt.
The convict must provide himself with clothing.

5. During the term of engagement, the employer will be required, at his own, to provide the convict with requisite Medicines and Medical attendance, or he may be sent to the nearest General or Station Hospital, upon his employer undertaking to pay the regulated charge of one shilling per diem for any period not exceeding one month, should the term of  engagement not previously expire, after which he will remain in Hospital free of charge to the employer.

6. Employers will be required to forward to the Comptroller-General, in the months of January and July of every year a return of the convicts of this class who were in their service on the first dav of these months respectively, and a similar return to the Police Magistrate of the District in which they reside.

7. The Convict must attend Divine Service in accordance with his professed creed, at least once every Sunday, wherever there is a place of Public Worship within two miles, or other reasonable distance of his employer's residence. When there is not a place of Public Worship within such distance. he will attend any private meeting for Worship and Religious Instruction his employer may appoint, provided such Worship and Instruction be in accordance with the professed creed of the Convict.

8. No Convict of this class will be allowed to be employed in Whaling or other Vessels.

9. The Convict is under no circumstances to be permitted by his employer to work for his own benefit, or to be otherwise at large, or not .under proper control.

10. The arrival of the Convict at his place of service must be reported, by the employer to the Police Authority of the District, and should an employer have occasion to send the Convict to any other District, he must be supplied with a pass from the Police Magistrate.

11. No engagement can be broken or alterd by the Convict; but an employer may terminate an engagement and return the Convict to the service of the Government by forwarding him. under charge, to the nearest Hiring Depot or Police station, the employer sending in a written report to the Comptroller General as to the cause of his having thus concluded the engagement, and specifying what the conduct of the Convict has been up to the time of his discharge. Under such terminated engagement the Convict will be deemed to be entitled to wages up the period of his being returned to the Government.

12. Should the Convict be sentenced by a Magistrate to imprisonment, he will be returned to his service to complete the term of engagement after the expiration of the sentence, unless the employer states to the Magistrate or notifies to the Comptroller-General that he does not desire to receive him back again, and at the same time forward any balance of wages that may be due to the Convict at the period of his leaving.

13. A summary power will be exercised by the Lieutenant-Governor of terminating any engagement, if his Excellency shall be of opinion that such a measure is called for.

14. The Convict having any complaint to make against his employer will be at liberty to prefer such complaint before the Police or Assistant Police Magistrate of the District; for which purpose the employer shall, on application to that effect, furnish the Convict with a pass. The Convict must, however, bear in mind that he will be liable to punishment if his complaint be found to be either frivolous or groundless.

15. Police and Assistant Police Magistrates will have the power of withdrawing the Convict from his service upon any complaint being substantiated against an employer which renders the return of the Convict to the service inexpedient in the opinion of the Magistrate. Such withdrawal of the Convict will be subject to the final approval of the Lieutenant-Governor, on the report which will be transmitted through the Comptroller-General.

16. Probationary Ticket-of-Leave holders are amenable to convict Law only.

17. Should any Employer act in wilful contravention of, or refuse to comply with the foregoing Regulations, Convicts will not be allowed to continue in, or hereafter enter into, the service of such employer.

18. The wives and families of this class of Convict will be sent out to the Colony when half the cost of doing so has been paid bv themselves or their friends or parishes in the United Kingdom, and any sum paid by their Employers to the Government under the proceeding Regulations will be accepted as part of the contribution towards this object.


J.S. HAMPTON, Comptroller-General.
Comptroller-General Office,
21st November, 1850.


Regulations for the Hiring of Probationary Ticket-of-Leave Holders: The Irish Exile and Freedom's Advocate, Saturday 7 December 1850


Just as the newspapers ranted against the Assignment System, pointing out its weaknesses, they also ranted against the Probation System. The following article appeared in the Cornwall Chronicle on 22 April 1843 (p.3). The writer obviously opposed the Franklin administration and suggested giving female convicts their freedom on arrival!

FEMALE PROBATION.—It is asserted by the Panier Carrier, that the female prisoners in this colony, and those to arrive, are to be probationized!! At the recommendation of His Excellency. Now we have had some little experience with the class of women who, for the most part, comprise the prisoner population, having commanded a ship which conveyed into the sister colony a couple of hundred of them, and we are puzzled to know by what means His Excellency purposes to carry out his plan of probationism. Men may be made to submit to this new fangled system, but Sir John Franklin will find that females are not to be drilled into discipline, and coerced with the cat and irons. A probationary system for female prisoners is, in our opinion, a more Utopoian measure than Captain Maconcochie's at Norfolk Island. How are women to be probationized?—that is the question. If they cannot be managed in comparative liberty? We tell His Excellency the general opinion is, that the best means he can adopt to probationize the female prisoners would be to turn them adrift—by doing so he would save a considerable expense to the country, and assist in a trifling degree to equalize the sexes.—His Excellency would check the evils which exist in the Factory to a degree almost beyond credibility, and be discharging one of the first and chiefest duties of a Governor. The probationizing of women is humbug—the suggestion is worthy of Sir John Franklin's administration.


The hiring of female probation pass-holders from Brickfields Hiring Depot did not always occur according to the regulations, which may have prompted the need for the 1845  Regulations of the Probationary Establishment for Female Convicts in Van Diemen’s Land.


The following letter from Lord Stanley to Lieutenant-Governor Sir John Franklin, printed in the Examiner on 21 February 1844 outlines the vision held by Her Majesty's government for the implementation of the probation system in relation to female convicts.


Sir,—In my despatch of this date, No. I have communicated to you very fully the views of her Majesty's government as to the future conduct of the system of transportation in reference to male convicts; an equally important, and, in some respects, a more difficult subject, is the application of the same sentence to the cases of female convicts.

The difficulties are greater, inasmuch as those with whom we have to deal are in general as fully depraved as the male convicts, while it is impossible to subject them to the same course of discipline, and thus no alternative seems to be left but either to detain them in actual confinement, or to permit them to enter, in some mode or other, into the mass of the population, where the knowledge of their former characters subjects them to continual degradation; and having neither sound principles, nor feelings of self-respect to protect them, and surrounded by peculiar temptations arising out of the peculiar state of the population, it is hardly to be wondered that they be come, with few exceptions, at once reckless and hopeless, and plunge deeper and deeper into misery and crime

Looking to the alarming disproportion, which exists and  must continue to exist in Van Diemen's Land between the sexes, it would obviously be the policy and the wish of the government to carry into actual execution the sentence of transportation on females as generally as possible, but I cannot but feel that the government are bound, at the same time, to give to these unhappy beings every chance for reformation, and that they incur a serious responsibility by inflicting upon them a sentence which rather tarnishes additional incentives to vice, than encouragements and facilities for reformation; and I am compelled to express my fears that female transportation, as it has hitherto been conducted, has par taken more of the former than of the latter character.

According to the present system, it appears that on the arrival of a female convict ship, notice is given to parties desirous to apply for assigned servants; and that the females so applied for are immediately transferred to the service of their employers, while the remainders are detained in the female factory.

It may appear extraordinary, looking to the great scarcity of females, and the great demand for their services in Van Diemen's Land, that there should in ordinary circumstances be any "remainder" left upon the hands of the government, yet I am in formed that not only is this the case, but that great difficulty is experienced in disposing of these females. If this be so, it is it fact which marks most strongly the general feelings of the population, and the almost insuperable difficulties with which these poor creatures have to contend in the attempt, if ever made, to return to a better and more respectable line of life.

The system of assignments, in regard to male convicts, has been loudly and unequivocally condemned - I confess I think myself too loudly and too indiscriminately, though I am not insensible to the Many and obvious objections which may be urged against it. But whatever those objections may be, they apply, with at least equal weight to the case of females, aggravated, as it seems to me, by other and peculiar objections which will readily suggest themselves.

I have no doubt that the local government do their utmost to throw the shield of their protection around the women ; but the difficulty of obtaining admission for them into respectable situations is notorious; and assigned to the less scrupulous and less moral portion of the community, it is not unreasonable to suppose that they must be continually exposed to criminal solicitation, to grievous oppression, and often to personal violence; while from their previous character, little confidence is placed or can be placed in the truth of their complaints, if they should venture or be disposed to com plain to superior authority. Yet I am unwilling to believe that even among these Women there are some, perhaps even many, who may be capable of better things; on whom instruction, careful superintendence, and, above all, the stimulus of hope, might work beneficial effects, and make their sentence, instead of being a curse to themselves and to the colony contributory to the advantage and benefit of both.

But in anxiously considering this question with my colleagues, we are decidedly of opinion that no real amount of good can be effected without putting an absolute stop to the assignment of females, and I am therefore to convey to you the instructions of her Majesty's government, that you do not permit the future assignment of any female convicts who may arrive subsequent to the receipt of this despatch, or who may not have been already assigned.

I am aware that this may occasion, in the first instance, some and perhaps a consider able increase of expense; but her Majesty's government are of opinion that the interests involved are too important and too urgent to allow such considerations to interfere with the immediate adoption of a system recommended by motives of justice and humanity.

You will therefore consider yourself authorized, in respect of females who may hereafter arrive, either to hire buildings for their confinement and superintendence apart from those who are already in the colony; or, if that cannot be accomplished at a reasonable expense, to detain the convict 'ship in which they may arrive, and in which some arrangements will, have been made for their classification, and to allow them to remain on board until you shall be able to effect more permanent arrangements.

All accounts which I have received concur representing the state of the female factories at Hobart Town and Launceston as exceedingly discreditable; as crowded to such  an extent as not only to have rendered it necessary to abandon all attempts at employing the greater portion of the prisoners, but as defying all classification, and subjecting every class of offenders to the contamination of mutual bad example, in rooms so crowded that, according to very high authority, it has occurred that a portion of the prisoners have been kept standing while others rested.

In these factories are confined convicts who are unable to obtain assignments, together with those who have been returned from assignment for the purposes of punishment, and those who being with child from illicit connexions are thrown back on the hands of the government, and who, after their delivery and being attended to at the public expense, again go forth, leaving the children a burden on the public, through the whole period of infancy and childhood, to return again, in many cases, under similar circumstances.

This is a system which it is necessary altogether to remodel; while it continues, the evil which it engenders is constantly perpetuating and increasing itself.

No respectable person will take a servant out of such a school; those who go out from it, go out to all sorts of temptation and vice, and again return, adding, by their numbers to the crowds which render discipline impossible, and by their language and example, to the mass of vice which prevents the inmates from being healthily absorbed into the population. I proceed to state to you the manner in which her Majesty's government purpose to deal with a state of things so fearful and requiring so urgently a prompt and effectual remedy.

It is our intention that measures should be adopted, with the least possible delay, for the construction, in a healthy situation inland, and at a distance certainly not less than twenty miles from Hobart Town, of a penitentiary upon the most approved plan, capable of containing at least 400 female prisoners. Instructions have been given to the inspectors of prisons in England to prepare the plan of such a building, which will be constructed at the expense of the home government. Immediately on the receipt of this despatch, you will, in concurrence with your council, institute inquiries as to the best site for such a prison, taking into consideration the healthiness of the situation, constant and easy access to good water, facilities of transport of building materials, and especially the neighbourhood of stone and timber, but above all the former; when, in conjunction with your council, you will immediately report to me your selection, and the reasons which have influenced you in making it; but you will not think it necessary to await my approval before you commence such preparations as do not require that you should have the plan before you. It is necessary, therefore, that I should impress upon you the propriety of well considering every circum stance before you incur the responsibility of making a selection on which so much depends. When you shall have decided, you will communicate with the director of the probation gangs, and remove thither as large a number of convicts as can be safely housed and usefully employed, and occupy them in felling timber, quarrying stone, and all the more laborious work which will be required for the construction of the new penitentiary.

When the plans shall have been furnished to her Majesty’s government and approved by them, they shall be sent out, together with such persons as it may be thought proper to select here for the purpose of superintending their execution.

To this penitentiary, when completed, it is the intention of her Majesty's government that every female convict, on her arrival, without exception, shall be sent for a period of not less than six months.

It is hoped that considerable improvements has of late taken place in the management and discipline of female convict ships.

It will be the endeavour of her Majesty's government still further to improve the reformatory system on board, and to continue it, and keep alive the good feelings which, it may have produced after the arrival of the convicts on shore.

I shall, in conjunction with the Secretary of State for the home department, endeavour to engage the services of competent persons to undertake the superintendence of this new establishment, who will be furnished with detailed rules, for their guidance and for the conduct of the penitentiary, in which we shall endeavour as much as possible to surround the convicts with attendants of their own sex.

I have already stated to you the intention of her Majesty's government to apply to parliament without delay for an amendment of the act 2 and 3 Will. IV., which has hitherto prevented the issuing of tickets of-leave to female convicts, until the expiration of a considerable period of their sentence. We propose, when that act shall have been amended, that every female convict who shall have conducted herself properly on board ship, and during the six months of her imprisonment, shall obtain, not a ticket-of-leave in the first instance, but a probation pass, upon the same principles which I have already explained to you in reference to the male convicts; that the contract of service shall be entered into at the penitentiary itself with the consent of the convict, and subject to the approbation of the governor. It will be expected that in all cases the employer should, be bound to afford to the convict his personal protection in removing her to the place of her service.

During the whole period of the six months constant reports will be made, and retained, as to the conduct of the prisoners, and no prisoner will be allowed the privilege of a probation pass unless the conduct on the whole shall have been satisfactory.

It may be superfluous for me to add, that it is intended to regulate the gradual advance of the females, through the stages of probation passes and tickets-of-leave, on the same principles which are directed to be applied to male convicts; with the same inducements to good conduct, and similar penalties attached to bad, during each stage of the process.

It is hoped and believed that by regulations,—such as I have described, an incentive to good conduct will be held out to the convict from the very first, in the hope not only of escaping from the coercion of prison discipline, but in that, which she can hardly have in any case under the present system, of redeeming her character, and being readmitted, after a graduated system of probation, into respectable and virtuous society.

We hope also, that the knowledge of these precautions on the part of the government, will tend materially to diminish the reluctance of respectable colonists to engage the service of female convicts a reluctance which it is obvious, on the present system, nothing but absolute necessity can overcome-on the part of any persons with whom it may be desirable to place the convicts.

We are the rather led to indulge this hope, because we are informed on the high authority of the late Colonial Secretary, that there is even now no difficulty in obtaining employment for females with tickets-of-leave; and that the instances are very rare in which tickets-of-leave have been again forfeited by females who have been fortunate enough to obtain then.

However painful may be the condition of those unhappy women who may be undergoing the sentence of transportation, I feel it absolutely essential to the hopes of success under the new system, that no transfer should take place from the existing factories to the intended penitentiary. At the same time, I am very anxious that the inmates of the former should not be left in their present hopeless condition, and I have therefore to instruct you to cause an immediate inquiry to be made into the present state of the factories, both at Hobart Town and Launceston; and to endeavour to ascertain the practicability even in their present crowded condition of improving the classification, and effecting a more complete separation between those who may seem wholly irreclaimable, and those of whom better hopes may be entertained. You will be authorised to hold out to the latter, and even to the former, the hope that when the law allows it, probation passes, the nature of which you will cause to be explained to them, may be granted to them; but that such indulgence, and still more the higher one of tickets-of-leave, will be dependent wholly on their own conduct, and on their ability, consequent on such conduct, to obtain employment. If you shall succeed by these means in diminishing the existing pressure on the factories, you will endeavor by improved arrangements, to make them, what I fear they are not now in any degree, places at once of punishment, of employment, and of reformation; and you will constantly bear in your own mind, and endeavour to impress on those of the convicts, that while the degradation of assignment is finally put an end to, the privilege of employment in private service can only he the consequence, the reward, and the encouragement of good conduct.

When the new system shall be operation, it is to be understood that the penitentiary about to be built is to be devoted exclusively to the newly-arrived convicts; that the places of punishment will be the factories; and that those who having obtained probation passes, or tickets-of-leave, will, if they forfeit them, be returned, not to the penitentiary, but to the severer discipline of the factory; for the regulation of which, in such a sense, it will be necessary to provide.

Under the system which we propose, it is calculated that 600 females annually may be expected to pass through a penitentiary capable of containing 400 at one time; and should it happily succeed, as with God's blessing we may reasonably hope that it may, the government will act on the principle of carrying into effect almost universally the sentence of female transportation, in the belief that by so doing, under pro. per restrictions, they will be conferring a benefit on the colony, at the same time that they give to the convicts themselves the best prospect of regaining character; and stations, both of which, in this country, would be nearly hopeless, and I fear at present even more so in Van Diemen's Land.

I have not entered in this despatch into minute details.

I have rather desired to put you fully in possession of the views and intentions of her Majesty's government as to a system which cannot be brought into immediate operation, but for the adoption of which it is desirable that immediate preparation should be made; and I feel assured that the vital importance of the subject will render it quite unnecessary for me to Commend it to your immediate and anxious attention.

I have the honor to be, sir, your most obedient humble servant, (Signed) STANLEY.


Further Resources

The convict probation system, Van Diemen's Land 1839-1854 : a study of the probation system of convict discipline, together with C.J. La Trobe's 1847 report on its operation and the 1845 report of James Boyd on the probation station at Darlington, Maria Island / commentary and notes by Ian Brand ; edited by M.N. Sprod.






Please acknowledge our work, should you choose to use our research.  Our work may be subject to copyright therefore please check our Copyright Policy, and Disclaimer policy.

For academic referencing (suggestion only) Database: [http address], FCRC Female Convicts in Van Diemen’s Land database, entry for xxxx ID no xxx, accessed [date].

For academic referencing (suggestion only) Website:  Female Convicts Research Centre Inc., accessed [date] from [http address].