PTSD in convicts and
the Australian psyche
Female Convicts arriving at Van Diemen's Land stepped off the ship at Constitution Dock, Hobart. In May 2015 the author attended a celebration at the very spot where they landed. This was organised by Roses from the Heart. Several thousand were present and are wearing convict bonnets bearing the names of particular women.
Previous histories have not explored the incidence of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in Australian convict history and the effect
on the Australian psyche. In A Traumatic Birth I have investigated psychic injury inflicted on female convicts in Van Diemen’s Land.This had an ‘intergenerational’ effect causing the development of resilience but sometimes a dark side in the minds of offspring. The book is also a ‘social history’, starting with the daily life of Peggie O’Hara, a peasant in a Quaker village in Ireland. I then followed Peggie’s life after she was transported to Van Diemen’s Land and to the Victorian Goldfields. Peggie’s descendants were pioneers in the Australian Outback and I have included a first-hand account of life on a Selection, describing what it was like to live in a slab-hut and experience isolation and drought. I have consulted with recognised experts such as historian Dr Alison Alexander, well known for her work on Tasmanian convict history and psychiatrist Professor Jayashri Kulkarni of Monash University. Both support my conclusions. I believe that Australians have a special form of resilience born during convict times. Examples of this resilience are seen in critical points of our history, the Eureka Stockade, the Outback and Gallipoli, all places where Peggie or her descendants were present.
This book gives an important insight into the Australian psyche. The title ‘A Traumatic Birth’ encapsulates a compelling thesis that many Australian convicts experienced significant levels of mental trauma during the process of Transportation and their early years in the country. The effects of this trauma ripple down the generations with psychological repercussions, including difficulties with relationships and in nurturing children. The psychological scars and the compensating resilience and coping mechanisms developed by the convicts are part of the early foundations of the nation, one born through trauma.
A fascinating story of an Australian family: from poverty-stricken Ireland, through convict transportation, the Eureka Stockade and an Outback Queensland selection, to service in Gallipoli, with a murder along the way. A special feature of the book is the discussion of the effect of trauma on a convict ancestor, thought to be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. This continued to have an effect through the generations, on the child the convict raised and then on the next generation. A compelling addition to Australia’s history, looking at the convict heritage from a new angle.
Stephen Lucas is a descendant of the Irish convict, Peggie O’Hara. He is a lawyer by profession and he has specialised in litigation
work for government. His expertise includes the assessment of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder claims. Stephen was born in Rockhampton
and now lives in Melbourne.