Open Access Repository

Convict ancestry: a neglected aspect of Australian identity

Tranter, BK and Donoghue, J 2003 , 'Convict ancestry: a neglected aspect of Australian identity' , Nations and Nationalism, vol. 9, no. 4 , pp. 555-577 , doi:

Convict_ancestr...pdf | Download (153kB)
Available under University of Tasmania Standard License.


Claiming descent from convicts who were sent to Australia during the early period of British settlement is more than just about blood ties, it is also an aspect of national identity for many Australians. Analyses of nationally representative survey data show that younger, left-leaning, working class Australians are most likely to identify as convict descendants, while older, high income, educated, city dwellers are least likely to identify. Our findings also suggest that the ‘hated stain’ of convict ancestry is senescent, and will diminish with intergenerational replacement. Yet claims to convict descent remain divided along status lines. Interest in convicts and claims of convict heritage may comprise an element of ‘popular taste’, but as a consequence of this popularity, ‘convict chic’ is rejected by educated elites. Embraced by ‘middle Australia’, but shunned by cosmopolitan elites, convict ancestry is a neglected aspect of Australian identity. Whether claims of convict ancestry are ‘real’ or ‘imaginary’, the power of foundation myths to provide shared memories is evident in the salience of convict connections in Australia.

Item Type: Article
Authors/Creators:Tranter, BK and Donoghue, J
Keywords: convicts, Australian Identity
Journal or Publication Title: Nations and Nationalism
ISSN: 1354-5078
DOI / ID Number:
Additional Information:

The definitive published version is available online at:

Item Statistics: View statistics for this item

Actions (login required)

Item Control Page Item Control Page