Michelle Roberts

Michelle Roberts

Minister for Housing and Works; Indigenous Affairs; Heritage; Land Information

    Twisted past revealed on Descendants Day

    2/06/2008 12:00 AM

    Ten Western Australian families attending Fremantle Prison’s Descendents Day discovered that they had convict and pensioner guard ancestors.


    Housing and Works Minister Michelle Roberts today presented official certificates to more than 90 people who had family links to WA’s convict past.


    “While it is not unusual for Western Australians to claim links to either convicts or pensioner guards, research is now finding many families have links to both sides of the law,” Mrs Roberts said.


    “In fact, it is quite conceivable that family members guarded other family members.”


    At this year’s ceremony, Derek Donegan will receive recognition for his links to pensioner guard John Donegan as well as George May, convict No. 2904 who arrived in 1854 aboard the Sea Park.


    Derek’s wife Joy is also a recipient; her convict ancestor, Richard Ashby No. 2654, also arrived on the Sea Park, under the guard of her husband’s ancestor.


    The Minister said Descendants Day recognised the importance of the convict system in establishing WA, following the arrival of the first convicts on June 1, 1850.


    “The Fremantle Prison ceremony is now in its 17th year and it recognises descendants of British convicts, pensioner guards and warders who were transported to WA from 1850 to 1868,” she said.


    “We may have kept our ancestry a closely guarded secret in the past, but today’s event shows that we now choose to embrace and celebrate our shared cultural heritage.”


    Mrs Roberts said the Fremantle Prison was a valuable link to WA’s past and of great importance to its future.


    “In January 2008, Fremantle Prison was nominated for inscription on the World Heritage List as part of a serial listing of 11 Australian Convict sites under the theme of forced migration,” she said.


    Visitors can experience Fremantle Prison on a range of Prison Day Tours, Tunnels Tours and Torchlight Tours.


    For more information, contact the Fremantle Prison on 9336 9200.


    Minister's office - 9213 6600