On arrival in the colony, the government assigned many convicts to work for free settlers. The free settlers provided accommodation, food and clothing. Others were ‘assigned’ into government service. The probation system replaced the assignment system for males in 1840. Female convicts continued to be assigned.
Certificate of Freedom
A certificate of freedom certified an ex-convict’s “free” status when his or her sentence had finished. Not all convicts collected a certificate of freedom, and some collected them long after their sentence had expired.
The Lieutenant-Governor could recommend the Crown grant a conditional pardon to a convict. The pardon stated what the convict could and could not do. It often limited the convict’s movement to the United Kingdom or other colonies.
Free by Servitude
When convicts had served their sentence they were ‘free by servitude’ Men and women sentenced to life could never be free by servitude. In time they could be granted a pardon.
The probation system replaced the assignment system for male convicts in 1840. When they arrived, the government no longer assigned them to free settlers. Instead convicts worked on government gangs for a period ‘on probation’. In time, and depending on their behaviour, they passed through stages of the probation process. Restrictions reduced as they moved towards ‘Ticket of Leave’ status.
A Ticket of leave was an indulgence given at the Lieutenant-Governor’s discretion. It entitled convicts to work for wages. They still had to report for regular musters. Convicts could only get a ticket of leave when they had served a certain proportion of their sentence.