The Convict Streak

The Convict Streak

Bernie Matthews

Bernie Matthews, multiple escapee from Australian prisons

Global Perspective is the BBC World Service's international documentary series.

Each year the BBC World Service collaborates with radio stations from around the world to make a documentary series on a contemporary subject of international importance and interest.

Each partner station contributes a documentary which gives a local interpretation of the chosen theme, and this year the theme is Escape.

Programme Five: The Convict Streak

From the late 18th century for over fifty years Australia was a penal colony, a land where dense bush, mountains and sea were a greater barrier to escape for the transported convicts than any prison walls.

But there were those who showed startling determination in their bid to gain their freedom, and their resourcefulness and resilience make Australians proud today to boast of their own inherited 'convict streak'.

Bernie Matthews was a professional criminal and a serial escapee from the late 1960's. And yet every time he escaped from prison (six times in all) he was caught and the length of his sentence for armed robbery increased.

Until he realised he could escape in another way - by taking up the pen and writing about his experiences in a process of self-rehabilitation.

Brad Manera, Curator of Convict and Military History at Hyde Park Barracks in Sydney contributes tales of attempted escape from the 19th century, when a convict's life was gruelling and desperate.

This programme was made by Ros Bluett, for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

First broadcast on April 25 2008

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