R1551 'For the term of his natural life', 1927 - asset 2



This is a still image of a scene from the 1927 silent era film 'For the term of his natural life' based on the epic story by Marcus Clarke of Rufus Dawes, an English aristocrat wrongfully convicted of murder and transported to the Port Arthur penal settlement in Tasmania. The image depicts the flogging of Dawes by a fellow convict, who appears to be relishing the experience, while guards look on and the chaplain pleads with the officer in charge to bring an end to the inhumanity. In the foreground we see the doctor attending to a convict who has been flogged.

Acknowledgements: Reproduced courtesy of National Film and Sound Archive. Produced by Australasian Films.

Educational value
This asset depicts some of the experiences of convicts and the fate of convicts who broke prison rules or were insubordinate - Dawes was given 120 lashes for illegally possessing tobacco.
It provides an insight into the treatment and punishment of convicts in the Australian colonies and the attitudes of those involved in delivering punishments.
It is evidence of the accepted role of convicts in the delivery of punishment to other convicts.
It shows some of the instruments used for punishment and torture in colonial prisons.
It indicates that officers, the clergy and the medical profession all played an important role in the punishment and treatment of convicts in penal establishments.
It is a scene from a film believed to have been the biggest production in Australian history.
It indicates that the attitudes of Australians to their convict history have changed - at the time there was public opposition to the film being produced and screened in Australia because it showed an unfavourable aspect of Australia's past.
Penal colonies
© Curriculum Corporation and National Film and Sound Archive, 2008, except where indicated under Acknowledgements