The early settlers of the Swan River Colony determined they would remain a free settlement, but after twenty years of inrelenting struggle, as their economic circumstances became perilous, they were forced to petition the British Government for convicts and the much needed labour their presence would bring.
Between 1850 and 1868 close to 10,000 male convicts arrived in Western Australia from Britain. Far from being the detrimental influence many predicted, these 'lags', the detritus from the iniquities of the English legal and penal systems, injected new life into a stagnant economy. Despite a high percentage of original, serious criminality among them, the vastly different environment in this most isolated of British settelements had a positive influence on these refugees from the cruel prisons and hulks of the Home country.
The convict system in Western australia proved to be forward thinking and benign by comparison with the systems of earlier decades in America, the West Indies, and in New South Wales and Tasmania. In consequence, many of the convicts who were landed at Fremantle subsequently became valuable citizens, helping to lay the foundations of early Western Australia.