National Library of Australia

Convict uniform

Convict uniform and two caps 1830–1849

leather cap 15.0 x 10.8 x 27.5cm

knitted woollen cap 19.0 x 20.5 x 20.5cm

woollen trousers 107.0 x 51.0cm

woollen jacket 76.0cm (length)

Pictures Collection, nla.pic-an6393471

Presented to the National Library of Australia by Senator H.J.M. Payne in 1933

National Library of Australia
Convict uniform and two caps 1830–1849

The parti-coloured convict uniform, or ‘magpie’, was worn in Australia as a form of secondary punishment by offenders who repeatedly broke the law while serving their original sentence.

This dress was so powerful a symbol of humiliation, prison authorities often ordered its wearing rather than administering corporal punishment.

The first two-coloured uniforms in Australia were black and white (yellow was added later) and introduced by Governor Macquarie into New South Wales in 1814, and then into Van Diemen’s Land.

This uniform is the only known complete, original convict uniform in Australia, and has survived because it was probably never worn.

Male convicts in Australia typically wore prison ‘slops’, with calico, duff or canvas trousers, striped cotton shirt and grey wool jacket. In later years, inmates in female factories wore drab cotton clothing stencilled with a ‘C’, and convict women might have their heads shaved. Political prisoners, mostly Irish, wore all-yellow suits, as did all prisoners at Port Arthur.

The broad arrow, or pheon, was a symbol dating back to the 17th century, marking all government property to prevent theft.

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