The Convict Valley

The Convict Valley

Featured Image: ‘The Convict Valley’ by Mark Dunn. 2020. ISBN 978 1 76052 864 5 Allen & Unwin

The story of the second British penal settlement in Australia, where a notoriously brutal convict regime became the template for penal stations in other states. Mark Dunn explores relations between the white settlers and the local Aboriginal landholders and uncovers a long-forgotten massacre.

Shortlisted for the Prime Minister’s Award for Australian History 2021

In 1790, five convicts escaped Sydney by boat and were swept ashore near present-day Newcastle. They were taken in by the Worimi people, given Aboriginal names and started families. Thus began a long and at times dramatic series of encounters between Aboriginal people and convicts in the second penal settlement in Australia.

The fertile valley of the Hunter River was the first area outside the Sydney basin explored by the British, and it became one of the largest penal settlements. Today manicured lawns and prosperous vineyards hide the struggle, violence and toil of the thousands of convicts who laid its foundations. The Convict Valley uncovers this rich colonial past, as well as the story of the original Aboriginal landholders. While there were friendships and alliances in the early years, in the later scramble for land in the 1820s – as the Valley was opened to free settlers – tensions rose and bloodshed ensued.

With fascinating stories about convicts, white settlers and the Aboriginal inhabitants that have long been forgotten, The Convict Valley is a new Australian history classic.

‘Deeply researched and beautifully written.’ – Professor Grace Karskens

‘Interweaving the Aboriginal, convict and mining pasts of the Hunter Valley, gifted storyteller Dunn reveals the missing and misunderstood complexities of these histories.’ – Professor John Maynard

‘In this ground-breaking book, Mark Dunn shows how the Hunter Valley became the heartland of convict Australia.’ – Professor Lyndall Ryan

Personal Perspective

This is an excellent saga with exalted historical resonance. It’s the perfect complement to the celebrated original ‘Dawn in the Valley’ by W. Allen Wood. This latter is also featured among the ‘blog’ on this website.