Convicts Prevention Act

There existed, however one drawback to the discovery of gold in Victoria ; for the attractions of the gold fields had drawn from the neighbouring colonies and more especially from Tasmania, great numbers of that class of convicts who, having served a part of their time, had been liberated on condition of good behaviour.

Bushrangers

The convicts crossed over by hundreds and soon gave rise to a serious difficulty; for, in the confused and unsetttled state of the colony, they found it too great an opportunity, to revert back to  their criminal activities and perverted talents. Being by no means charmed with the toilsome life of a gold miner, many of them became bushrangers. There were in 1852, several bands of these lawless ruffians sweeping the country and robbing in all directions. As the gold was being conveyed from the diggings, escorted by bands of armed troopers, the bushrangers lurked around the roads, treacherously shooting the troopers.

On one occassion, their daring rose to such great heights that a band of bushrangers boarded the ship Nelson whilst it lay at anchor in Hobson's Bay, overpowered the crew and removed the gold to the value of £24,000 - remarking ,as they handed the boxes over the side of the vessel, that this was the best gold field they had ever seen.

Convicts Prevention Act

To prevent any further introduction of these undesirable immigrants, the Legistature, in 1852, passed what was called the "Convicts Prevention Act" , declaring that no person who had been convicted and had not received an absolutely free pardon, should be allowed to enter the colony; and that all people who came from Tasmania should be required to prove that they were free, before being allowed to land. Any ship captain who brought a convict into the colony was fined £100 for the offence.

 

History of Australia