From the World Heritage inscription:
The property includes a selection of eleven penal sites, among the thousands established by the British Empire on Australian soil in the 18th and 19th centuries. The sites are spread across Australia, from Fremantle in Western Australia to Kingston and Arthur’s Vale on Norfolk Island in the east; and from areas around Sydney in New South Wales in the north, to sites located in Tasmania in the south. Around 166,000 men, women and children were sent to Australia over 80 years between 1787 and 1868, condemned by British justice to transportation to the convict colonies. Each of the sites had a specific purpose, in terms both of punitive imprisonment and of rehabilitation through forced labour to help build the colony. The Australian Convict Sites presents the best surviving examples of large-scale convict transportation and the colonial expansion of European powers through the presence and labour of convicts.
The Australian Convict Sites is one of the few World Heritage Sites to have multiple locations across a entire country. There are 11 sites in total in New South Wales, Western Australia, Tasmania and Norfolk Island. I visited the 3 sites located in the Sydney area: Cockatoo Island (pictured), the Old Government House and the Hyde Park Barracks.
Cockatoo Island is the largest island in Sydney Harbor and was a prison up until the 1860′s. After that it was used as a dockyard up until the 1980′s. The convict parts of the island are small compared to the industrial areas, which quite honestly, are far more interesting.
The Old Government house was the home of the former colonial governors of New South Wales located in Paramatta. The house was the NSW equivalent of the White House. While I thought the convict ties were sort of dubious, it is historically interesting and I learned a lot about Australian history in visiting.
The Hyde Park Barracks was the primary housing for convict labor in Sydney. It is located in the central business district and is easy reachable on foot if you are visiting the harbor area and Sydney Opera House World Heritage Site.
View my complete list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.