The Australian Convict Sites are of outstanding universal significance for their association with global developments in ideas and beliefs about punishment and reform of the criminal elements of humanity in the modern era. 


Criterion for Inscription

Criterion (iv) 

Collectively, the Australian Convict Sites are an outstanding example of an architectural ensemble which illustrates a significant stage in human history, that of the forced migration of convicts. Through these buildings the Australian Convict Sites demonstrate the main features of the global systems of transportation and convictism. 

Criterion (vi) 

Inscribed on the World Heritage List in 2010, the Australian Convict Sites collectively represent the global phenomenon of transportation and convictism, and its association with global developments in the punishment of crime in the modern era. The eleven sites are spread across Australia from Fremantle in Western Australia to Kingston and Arthur’s Vale on Norfolk Island, a distance of 5,500 kilometres. 

The transportation of convicts to penal colonies dates back to the 17th century and continued up until 1938. Britain, France, Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands, Russia and Argentina transported criminals to penal colonies across the world. British transportation to Australia was the world’s first conscious attempt to build a new society on the labour of convicted prisoners. Some 160,000 men, women and children were transported to Australia over a period of 80 years between 1787 and 1868.

All of the eleven sites included in this World Heritage inscription are also listed on the Australian National Heritage List and are protected by Commonwealth, state and territory legislation and site management plans. For more detail on the nomination, go to the Australian Convict Sites: World Heritage Nomination page on the Department of the Environment and Energy website.

The operating environment of the Australian Convict Sites includes heritage management, conservation of buildings and structures, tourism activities and visitor engagement. Each of the sites has differing levels of capacity. Some sites are relatively well resourced in terms of operating budgets and staffing levels, while other sites are comparatively under resourced and staffed. Most of the sites are owned by Government apart from Brickendon and Woolmers Estates which are privately owned. Although the sites are governed by different State legislative regimes, the sites are uniformly protected by the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 and managed according to the Australian Convict Sites Strategic Management Framework 2017. 



The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) seeks to encourage the identification, protection and preservation of cultural and natural heritage around the world considered to be of outstanding value to humanity. This is embodied in an international treaty called the Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage , adopted by UNESCO in 1972.



ICOMOS (International Council on Monuments and Sites) is a non-governmental professional organisation formed in 1965, with headquarters in Paris. ICOMOS is primarily concerned with the philosophy, terminology, methodology and techniques of cultural heritage conservation. It is closely linked to UNESCO, particularly in its role under the World Heritage Convention 1972 as UNESCO’s principal adviser on cultural matters related to World Heritage. The 11,000 members of ICOMOS include architects, town planners, demographers, archaeologists, geographers, historians, conservators, anthropologists, scientists, engineers and heritage administrators. Members in the 103 countries belonging to ICOMOS are formed into National Committees and participate in a range of conservation projects, research work, intercultural exchanges and cooperative activities. ICOMOS also has 27 International Scientific Committees that focus on particular aspects of the conservation field. ICOMOS members meet triennially in a General Assembly.

The Burra Charter provides guidance for the conservation and management of places of cultural significance (cultural heritage places), and is based on the knowledge and experience of Australia ICOMOS members.