Van Diemen's Land

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Van Diemen's Land was the original name used by most Europeans for the island of Tasmania, now part of Australia. The Dutch explorer Abel Tasman was the first European to land on the shores of Tasmania. Landing at Blackman's Bay and later having the Dutch flag flown at North Bay, Tasman named the island Anthoonij van Diemenslandt in honour of Anthony van Diemen, the Governor-General of the Dutch East Indies who had sent Tasman on his voyage of discovery in 1642. Between 1772 and 1798 only the South East of the island was visited. Tasmania was not known to be an island until Matthew Flinders and George Bass circumnavigated it in the Norfolk in 1798-99.

In 1803, the island was colonised by the British as a penal colony with the name Van Diemen's Land, and became part of the British colony of New South Wales. In 1824, Van Diemen's Land became a colony in its own right.

The demonym for Van Diemen's Land was 'Van Diemonian', though contemporaries used Vandemonian, possibly as a play on words relating to the colony's penal origins.[1]

In 1856 the colony was granted responsible self-government with its own representative parliament, and the name of the island and colony was changed to Tasmania.

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Penal colony

From the 1830s to the 1853 abolition of penal transportation (known simply as "transportation"), Van Diemen's Land was the primary penal colony in Australia. Following the suspension of transportation to New South Wales, all transported convicts were sent to Van Diemen's Land. In total, some 75,000 convicts were transported to Van Diemen's Land, or about 40% of all convicts sent to Australia.

Male convicts served their sentences as assigned labour to free settlers or in gangs assigned to public works. Only the most difficult convicts (mostly re-offenders) were sent to the Tasman Peninsula prison known as Port Arthur. Female convicts were assigned as servants in free settler households or sent to a female factory (women's workhouse prison). There were five female factories in Van Diemen's Land.

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