Australian Dictionary

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Australia Decoded

Licuana Strangler Vine Forest

complex mesophyll vine forest
Licuana Strangler, Cooper Creek Wilderness

common law—any non-statutory law; customary or historical law which has been widely recognised, accepted and applied, despite not having been codified and legislated in a court of law. Common law is the basis of legislative law in Australia.

common law native title—the recognition by colonial settlers of the right to customary land usage by the indigenous population has been interpreted in court as having established native title under the English law that prevailed in the colonies. At the time of the establishment of the Colony of New South Wales in 1788, there existed, under the traditional laws of the Aboriginal peoples, widespread special entitlements to the use and occupation of defined lands of a kind that founded a presumptive common law native title under the law of a settled colony. In accordance with the basic principles of English constitutional law applicable to a settled colony, the sovereignty of the British Crown did not, after the act of state establishing the colony was complete, include a prerogative right to extinguish by legislation or to disregard by executive act the traditional Aboriginal rights in relation to the land, which were recognised and protected by the common law as true legal rights.

common lionfishPterois volitans is very widespread in tropical waters, from WA to New South Wales along the northern coast of Australia. It has a robust body with a red and white banded pattern. Large feathery fins with dark spots surround their body and white spots are present along the lateral line in adults. Leaf-like appendages are present around the mouth and eyes. The dorsal fin consists of 13 venomous spines. These spines are used as a protective mechanism from predators. (also known as: lionfish, devilfish, firefish and butterfly cod.

common rabbit-bandicootMacrotis lagotis, now called bilby and restricted to a few, small locations in remote Central and Northern Australia. Rabbit trappers in the immediate vicinity of Adelaide once took more rabbit-bandicoots from their traps than rabbits.

common reedPhragmites australis, a perennial grass of poorly drained soil such as the banks of creeks and rivers, especially near the coast. Provides habitat and food source for nesting waterbirds. The long stems were used by Aborigines for making light spears, and were cut up to make nose reeds and reed necklaces. The most sought-after reeds were traded from the north, especially the Murray River, in exchange for firedrills from the mountains.

Common Rule award—an award that applies to all employees in a particular industry, whether or not their employers are named in the award document. This does not, however, apply to employees already covered by a Certified Agreement or an Australian Workplace Agreement. Common rule awards exist in the Northern Territory, the Australian Capital Territory and Victoria. They are known in Victoria as Industry Sectors.

common wallarooMacropus robustus is abundant throughout Australia. The two best known subspecies are the eastern wallaroo, also known as the grey wallaroo or just wallaroo and the euro, or red wallaroo. The eastern wallaroo is found in the eastern and western slopes of the Great Dividing Range, and the euro is found in most areas west of the Great Dividing Range. Habitat for the common wallaroo is varied, but usually features rocky areas. Resting by day it becomes active at dusk, grazing mainly on grasses and some shrubs. Breeding can occur throughout the year, but is reduced in drought periods. Eastern wallaroo males are usually dark grey in colour, the females are a pale grey, and the euro has a reddish tinge to the coat. Males are considerably larger than females. The common wallaroo has a home range and is mainly solitary but can often be seen grazing together in highly populated areas. All species of the common wallaroo are protected under the Australian law. Also known as eastern wallaroo, grey wallaroo, euro, red wallaroo.

Commonwealth—(see: Commonwealth of Australia; British Commonwealth).

Commonwealth Bank Act, 1911—the Commonwealth Bank of Australia was founded under legislation, namely the Commonwealth Bank Act, enacted by Andrew Fisher's Labor Government in 1911. It was the culmination of a movement which went back over half a century and became more active following Federation in 1901. The Commonwealth Bank Act of 1911 empowered the Bank to conduct both savings and general (trading) bank business, with the security of a Federal Government guarantee. At this time no other institution in Australia was involved in both of these traditionally separate areas of banking, nor did any other bank have a Federal Government guarantee.

Commonwealth Bank of Australia—established by the Commonwealth Bank Act, 1911, it opened facilities on 15 July, 1912 at both its solitary branch, 317 Collins Street, Melbourne and at 489 agencies located in post offices throughout Victoria. During the following year branches were established in the other capital cities, as well as in Canberra, Townsville and London. Postal agencies were also established across Australia. In 1916, the Commonwealth Bank moved its headquarters from Melbourne to its new head office building on the corner of Pitt Street and Martin Place, Sydney. The 1920s and 1930s saw the bank's functions expand to encompass those of a central bank. These powers were codified by emergency legislation enacted during the early days of World War Two.

Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission—(1956 – 1973) a federal regulatory body of industrial relations. The Commission was formed in 1956, following the demise of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration.

Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration—(1904-1956) the first federal industrial relations tribunal, established by the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904. In 1920, the High Court held that rulings of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court were binding on state governments. The function of the Arbitration Court, in accordance with the powers given to the Commonwealth by the Constitution, was to settle industrial disputes extending beyond state boundaries. (Disputes that did not extend beyond the jurisdiction of a particular state remained the responsibility of that state’s industrial process.) The Arbitration Court initially exercised both arbitral and judicial powers: for example, the court could settle a dispute by making an award, and it could also enforce that award. In 1956, these functions were split following a High Court decision in which it was held unconstitutional for the Arbitration Court to hold both arbitral and judicial powers. The conciliation and arbitral functions of the court passed to a Conciliation and Arbitration Commission (later transmuted to the Industrial Relations Commission under the Industrial Relations Act 1988), and the Commonwealth Industrial Court was established to interpret and enforce the decisions of the commission.

Commonwealth flag—consists of the Commonwealth symbol in gold on a blue background centred on a rectangle. The flag developed from the car pennants produced for the first time at the Ottawa Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in 1973. It is flown at Marlborough House, London, the headquarters of the Commonwealth Secretariat, throughout the year and for a limited period at other venues where Commonwealth meetings are held or when other Commonwealth events/visits are taking place.

Commonwealth Games—held every four years with competitors coming from the nations of the British Commonwealth. Australia has competed in all 16 Games and played host three times: Sydney 1938, Perth 1962 and Brisbane 1982.

Commonwealth government—the central, federal government, located in Canberra, which governs the entire nation. The Commonwealth government came into being with the Australian Constitution on which the Federation of States is based.

Commonwealth Heritage Act—the short name for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage Protection Act 1984 (Cth). This Act is the primary source of Indigenous heritage protection at the federal level. It constitutes the first recognition of the need to protect Indigenous cultural heritage for reasons other than scientific or archaeological research. It was the first recognition of the right of Indigenous people to preserve, protect, access and manage their own cultural material. This recognition formed part of a general move away from policies of assimilation and towards self-determination.

Commonwealth Heritage List—comprises natural, Indigenous and historic heritage places on Commonwealth lands and waters or under Australian government control, and identified by the Minister for the Environment and Heritage as having Commonwealth heritage values. This list has been established through amendments to the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act). Listed places are protected under the Act, which means that no-one can take an action that has, will have or is likely to have, a significant impact on the environment of a listed place, including its heritage values, without the approval of the Minister. It is a criminal offence not to comply with this legislation. Each place nominated for the List would be assessed by the Australian Heritage Council as having Commonwealth heritage values. As of November 2004, there are 335 places entered in the Commonwealth Heritage List.  

Commonwealth Housing Commission—established 1943, the short-lived commission reported on Australia's housing situation and post-war needs. The main outcome was the Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement (1945) under which the Commonwealth provided loan funds to the States for housing for the first time, which greatly expanded public housing construction.

Commonwealth Immigration Act—(see: Immigration Restriction Act, 1901).

Commonwealth Immigration Act 1958—abolished the dictation test as set by the Immigration Restriction Act of 1901.  

Commonwealth Industrial Court—(1956-1977) assumed the judicial functions of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. This restructuring followed a judgment of the High Court in the Boilermakers case, which declared it unconstitutional for an arbitral body to exercise judicial power. Therefore the functions of award-making and the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes have since been separately exercised by the Industrial Relations Committee, while the judicial powers of interpretation and enforcement were retained by the Industrial Court. The Commonwealth Industrial Court was renamed the Australian Industrial Court in 1973, and was subsequently invested with jurisdiction in a number of areas other than industrial relations, under the Trade Practices Act 1974.

Commonwealth of Australia—a constitutional democracy as a federation of states, including the nearby island of Tasmania. Under the Australian Constitution, the legislative power of the Commonwealth of Australia is vested in the Parliament of the Commonwealth, which consists of the Queen, the Senate and the House of Representatives. The English monarch is the Head of State and a Governor-General is her representative. The Australian Commonwealth was established by the Australian Constitution Bill () and defined by the Australian Constitution. The Commonwealth was declared on the first of January in the first year of the twentieth century, at Sydney's Centennial Park. Also known as the Australian Commonwealth.

Commonwealth of Australia Gazette—an official government publication that gives information about government matters and makes government announcements, including proclamations.

Commonwealth of Nations—a voluntary association of independent sovereign states, mostly formed by the United Kingdom and its former colonies. It was formerly known as the British Commonwealth (or British Commonwealth of Nations), and many still call it by that name, either for historical reasons or to distinguish it from the many other commonwealths around the world. Not all members of the Commonwealth acknowledge the British monarch as head of state. Those that do are known as Commonwealth Realms; however, the majority of members are republics, and a handful of others are indigenous monarchies. All members recognise Queen Elizabeth II as Head of the Commonwealth, a role perhaps best likened to that of a ceremonial president, but this is not a hereditary position: there is no assumption that the next British monarch will necessarily inherit this title. The Commonwealth is the successor of the British Empire; in 1884, while visiting Adelaide, South Australia, Lord Rosebery had described the changing British Empire, as its former colonies became more independent, as a "Commonwealth of Nations". The formal organisation of the Commonwealth has its origins in the Imperial Conferences of the late 1920s (conferences of British and colonial prime ministers had occurred periodically since 1887), where the independence of the self-governing colonies and especially of dominions was recognized, particularly in the Balfour Declaration at the Imperial Conference in 1926, when the United Kingdom and its dominions agreed they were "equal in status, in no way subordinate one to another in any aspect of their domestic or external affairs, though united by common allegiance to the Crown, and freely associated as members of the British Commonwealth of Nations". This relationship was eventually formalized by the Statute of Westminster in 1931. The Commonwealth matters because it stands for the principles and values of democracy, respect for human rights, the rule of law, peace, justice, co-operation and for sustainable development.

Commonwealth Parliament—the legislative body of Australia, comprising the Queen of Great Britain and two Houses of Parliament. The Upper House is known as the Senate and the Lower House as the House of Representatives. The Senate comprises twelve members from each state and two members from each of the territories. The members of the House of Representatives represent electorates, each based on a population size of approximately 80,000 voters. Under the Australian Constitution, the legislative power of the Commonwealth of Australia is vested in the Parliament of the Commonwealth. The Constitution does not confer on the Commonwealth Parliament the power to make laws on all subjects. Instead, it lists the subjects about which the Commonwealth Parliament can make laws. Most of these subjects are listed in sections 51 and 52. They include taxation; defence; external affairs; interstate and international trade; foreign, trading and financial corporations; marriage and divorce; immigration; bankruptcy; and interstate industrial arbitration.

Commonwealth Parliamentary Association—an association of parliaments of the countries that make up the Commonwealth of Nations (e.g., Australia, the United Kingdom, Papua New Guinea, India, etc.)

Commonwealth Place—1. located at the junction of the Land Axis and the shore of Lake Burley Griffith. The Commonwealth Place provides a national forum for public activities. The vista surrounding Commonwealth Place includes the International Flag Display, across the lake to Anzac Parade and the Australian War Memorial and up to Old Parliament House. 2. Commonwealth place generally means a property that is owned by the Commonwealth.

Commonwealth Railways—Australia had six separate railway systems at the time of Federation in 1901, one for each State. The seventh system came into being when the Trans Australian line between Port Augusta and Kalgoorlie was constructed—and Commonwealth Railways ran their first train in 1917. Most of the State systems began as private railroad companies, except the Queensland and Western Australian systems. Every private system soon ran into financial straits and was subsequently acquired by the Government. The individual systems simply could not agree on railway gauges—i.e., the distance between the rails. Some were built to 1600mm (broad gauge), some to 1435mm (standard gauge) and some to 1067mm (narrow gauge). An even narrower gauge of 762mm was popular for certain tasks, and the sugar cane industry in Queensland used extensive permanent networks of 610mm. In 1930 standard gauge lines were completed from the New South Wales border to South Brisbane and, in 1962, from Wodonga, on the New South Wales-Victoria border, to Melbourne.

Commonwealth symbol—originally designed by the Gemini News Service, London in 1972 and approved by the first Commonwealth Secretary-General. In 1989 a second logo was introduced to appear on official Commonwealth Secretariat publications, and in 1999 a special commemorative logo was produced to mark the 50th Anniversary of the modern Commonwealth. In 2000 the current Secretary-General approved a new design that is now in use in place of the original designs. This design incorporates the image of the globe used in the original logo and the spears that make up the letter "C" from the 1989 design. The radiating spears do not represent the number of countries in the Commonwealth but symbolise the many facets of Commonwealth cooperation around the world. The symbol is used on all official documentation and, sometimes in association with other specially developed logos, for the documents and logos of all Commonwealth meetings. There is no fixed size or colour for the symbol but because of its frequent appearance on Commonwealth documentation, the black on white and gold on blue versions are commonly used.

Community Council—(see: Aboriginal Community Council).

Community Development Employment Projects—(CDEP) ATSIC’s largest program, providing employment and training opportunities to Indigenous participants in a range of activities. The CDEP Scheme allows Indigenous people to pool their entitlement to social security benefits and work on projects within their community. Participation in such schemes is voluntary and participants must work to receive payment.

Community Services (Aborigines) Act 1984 (Qld)—repealed the Aborigines Act, 1971 (QLD) and established a system of community-level councils to own and administer former reserves or missions under a Deed of Grant in Trust (DOGIT). Since 1984, Queensland Aboriginal communities (except Aurun and Mornington Island) have been administered under the provisions of the Community Services (Aborigines) Act 1984 and the Community Services (Torres Strait) Act 1984. Each council area has the status of a local government area with incorporated Councils able to make by-laws, and assumes responsibility for maintaining housing, infrastructure, the Community Development Employment Program, licenses, hunting and camping permits. The State transferred some of its functions to the new community councils: in particular roads, hygiene and sanitation, parks and gardens, and police. These communities were ineligible for Commonwealth equalisation grants or for specific purpose grants.

compassionate as a starving shark—said of someone who professes or exhibits no pity.


complex mesophyll vine forest—there are two types. Type 1a represents the optimum development of rainforest in Australia under the most favourable conditions of climate and soil on the tropical humid lowlands. It is the most complex forest in terms of structural features and the life-forms they represent, and is rich in species. Type 1b rainforest is excelled only by type 1a in the luxuriance of its development. Type 1b, at somewhat higher altitudes on high-fertility, mainly basaltic soils, exhibits a gradual reduction of leaf sizes in the canopy and characteristic changes in species composition reflecting less diversity of lowland life forms. These forests are, however, taller than those on the lowlands.

complex notophyll vine forest—there are two similar forms of complex notophyll vine forest in Queensland: types 5a and 5b. These two vine forest types are highly restricted to soils derived primarily from basalt. However, due to the differing complexities of structure and floristics between those complex notophyll vine forests on basalt in the Wet Tropics bioregion and other notophyll vine forests in the state, complex notophyll vine forests 5a and 5b should be considered to be separate ecological communities. The most easily distinguished differences between Mabi Forest (complex notophyll vine forest 5b) and complex notophyll vine forest 5a are general location and structure. Complex notophyll vine forest 5a occurs on cool, wet (cloudy) uplands and highlands, and structurally tends to appear as a forest with two layers. The top layer is dense and forms between approximately 30m—36m above ground, while the lower layer is sparse, and occurs between 10m—20m. In this ecological community, epiphytes are common throughout the forest layers. Mabi Forest occurs on moist lowlands, foothills and uplands. The drier nature of this ecological community compared to 5a can be seen in the lack of epiphytes throughout the different layers of the forest. In Mabi Forest, epiphytes are generally found only in the upper branches of the canopy. The ecological community complex notophyll vine forest 5b is restricted to those mapped areas of Regional Ecosystem 7.8.3, and other patches identified as such in the Wet Tropics bioregion of Queensland.

compo—compensation payment for injury received at work.

concert pitch—complete state of readiness for something.

conciliation—the process used to resolve industrial disputes in which a neutral third party attempts to persuade the conflicting parties to settle their differences. It is the first formal stage in the settlement of an industrial dispute in the Australian industrial relations system. If an agreement is not reached, arbitration may follow.

Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904—introduced the rule of law in industrial relations for the whole nation by establishing the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court. The Conciliation and Arbitration Act had a difficult passage through Parliament – and brought down two governments, so that the new Commonwealth had four Prime Ministers in as many years. The Bill was drafted and introduced by Charles Cameron Kingston, Australia's pioneer of compulsory arbitration, drawing on New Zealand legislation. Kingston resigned when Cabinet refused to allow the Bill to cover seamen on coastal ships. Alfred Deakin, who had succeeded Edmund Barton as Prime Minister when Barton was appointed to the new High Court in 1903, resigned in April 1904 after he introduced this legislation a second time. Labor Members succeeded in introducing an amendment to have the Bill cover State government employees, a provision Deakin believed to be unconstitutional. The Labor leader, John Christian Watson, then became Australia's third Prime Minister, with the first Labor Government, but he too resigned in August 1904 after his Government was defeated in a vote on this Bill.

Condamine-Balonne—an important tributary of the Murray-Darling Basin, straddling the Queensland/New South Wales border. The National Salinity and Water Quality Action Plan has identified the Condamine-Balonne as one of the 20 most at-risk catchments in Australia. The increasing occurrence of algal blooms, primarily due to run-off into the river system, is also a growing concern. Millions of dollars will be spent to guard against land and environmental degradation in this region. Future water diversions in the Queensland section of the Condamine-Balonne river system has been identified as the greatest risk to the health of the New South Wales sections of this river system.

conditional pardons—(hist.) freed convicts and were granted on the condition that convicts did not return to England or Ireland. Original copies of the pardons were sent to England and duplicates remained in Australia. Copies were also given to convicts as a proof of pardon. Conditional pardon records give date, name, where and when tried, sentence, ship and date of arrival. Later records may also give master, native place, trade or calling, offence, sentence, year of birth and a physical description. Copies of butts of conditional pardons (1824-1827) and conditional pardons registered by the Colonial Secretary (1826-1870) are available. An alphabetical register of pardons (1828-1862) is on microfilm as well as a register of volonial pardons from 1788 to 1867.

conduct registers—there are 48 volumes of conduct registers in Tasmania, covering male convicts from 1803 to 1843. They give information about the convicts' history before arrival and details of their working career in the colony. The early history includes offence, date and place of trial, sentence, and from 1816 onwards, a gaol report, hulk report and marital status. By 1821 relatives and religion were also included. Convict confessions or statements of their crimes were also recorded and they often give clues to previous offences, connections and lifestyle. Ten volumes of conduct registers are also devoted to female convicts in Tasmania between 1803 and 1843, and they record similar details to the mens' registers. Most women were assigned to work, even after a new assignment system was implemented in 1844.

condylarth—a primitive mammal group. Mammals in this group may be the ancestors of hooved mammals, carnivores and whales. The site at Murgon in south-eastern Queensland has yielded a range of marsupial fossils, many with strong South American connections. At Murgon there is also evidence of a placental mammal, known as a condylarth. Placental mammals were also found in North America and South America at this time. The Australia/America link is not surprising—Australia was linked to South America by Antarctica when Australia was part of the ancient land of Gondwana. This connection between Australia and the Americas also enabled Australia's fauna to migrate, with the result that a platypus has been found in 63 million year old rocks in Patagonia, South America. The presence of the placental condylarth in Australia suggests that marsupials and placentals were in Australia at the same time, and that in the battle for supremacy the marsupials won.

confidence vote—a formal parliamentary vote to approve or disapprove of a government, leader or minister. Following a vote of "no confidence" in the prime minister on the floor of the House of Representatives, the governor-general dismisses the prime minister and a new executive government is formed.

confined aquifer—a permeable geological formation or group of formations, saturated with water and lying between upper and lower confining layers of low permeability.

Congruus congruus—a new fossil wallaby (Marsupialia: Macropodidae) from the south-east of South Australia at Naracoorte. Belongs to Congruus according to J. A. McNamara, 1994, Sister taxa: none. Ecology: saltatorial herbivore. Distribution: unknown. Full reference: Mammalia - Diprotodontia - Macropodidae, J. A. McNamara, 1994.

conifer—a cone-bearing group of ancient plants that survive to this day. Typically, they are evergreen trees, with cones and needle-like leaves that thrive in temperate climates. They are pollinated by wind. Conifers date back to the Carboniferous age, more than 300 million years ago.

conkerberry bush—either of two species of small shrubs of the genus Carissa, especially Carissa lanceolata, a spiny shrub or small tree with edible fruits. It was used in traditional Aboriginal bush medicine for its antibiotic properties.

consent determination—a decision made by an Australian court (or a recognised state or territory body) that native title does or does not exist in a particular area of land or waters, after the parties have reached an agreement as to the terms of the determination.

Conservation and Land Management—(CALM) the Western Australian State Government agency responsible for managing more than 24 million hectares of national, marine, conversation and regional parks; State forests and timber reserves; and nature and marine nature reserves. CALM implements Government policy in relation to those areas of land and water, and has responsibility for the conservation of native plants, animals and natural ecosystems.

conshie—1. conscientious objector. 2. one who is conscientious to the extreme.

constitution—the laws that define the powers and responsibilities of a government. The Australian Constitution is the supreme law of Australia and neither the Federal Parliament nor the Parliaments of any State or Territory can pass laws inconsistent with its provisions.

Constitution Act 1889 (WA)—Western Australia gained responsible self-government under this Act, first passed by the partly elected Legislative Council in 1889 and then by the British Parliament in 1890. The new constitution established two Houses of Parliament with an elected Legislative Assembly and a nominated Legislative Council, though this latter body became elective within three years. The Cabinet, comprising the premier and four other ministers, was drawn from the ranks of parliamentary members and not appointed by the governor. This system of responsible government was of the kind advocated by Lord Durham for Canada fifty years before. The franchise was still restricted, along the same lines as had prevailed under the old Legislative Council. Men who owned freehold property worth 100 pounds, or who rented or leased property for 10 pounds a year, could vote. Women were still barred from voting.

Constitution Act Amendment Act 1893 (WA)—this Act of the new Western Australian Parliament introduced manhood suffrage for Legislative Assembly elections, subject to residency requirements. The Act also specifically discriminated against Aboriginal, Asian and African men—all of whom were only allowed to vote if they owned freehold property worth 50 pounds. The Act also increased the size of the Assembly and established a new fully elected Legislative Council, though with a restricted property franchise.

Constitution Act Amendment Act 1896 (WA)—this colonial Act increased the members in both Houses of Parliament and added another minister to the Cabinet.

Constitution Acts Amendment Act 1899 (WA)—the colonial parliament passed several Acts in the first decade to self-government to amend the original Constitution Act 1889. The Constitution Acts Amendment Act consolidated these amendments and introduced some new provisions in a single piece of legislation. Since then, the courts have found that the Constitution Acts Amendment Act 1899 is a complete Act in its own right, and not simply an amendment of the original Constitution Act 1889. Much of the legislative rule for government in Western Australia is now contained in this later consolidating Act, and not in the original Constitution Act.

constitutional monarchy—a form of government that is established under a constitutional system, yet which acknowledges a hereditary or elected monarch as head of state. Modern constitutional monarchies usually have the monarch as the head of the executive branch. Today, constitutional monarchy is almost always combined with representative democracy. Though the king or queen may be regarded as the head of state, it is the prime minister, whose power derives directly or indirectly from elections, who actually governs the country. This power resides in the parliament.

Consuelo Tableland—known as the "Roof of Queensland", this area is the watershed for some of Australia's major river systems. From here, waters flow north to the Fitzroy and south to the Maranoa.

continental shelf—Australia's continental shelf covers about 2.5 million sq km, half of which is less than 50 metres deep. Its width varies from 15km off the coast of New South Wales to 400km in the Timor Sea. The North West Shelf is about 350km wide, and supports Australia's major offshore petroleum production activities.

convention—an agreement between states or nations; used synonymously with 'international treaty'. International conventions are binding as international law on governments that have signed them. When the United Nations (UN) General Assembly adopts a convention, it creates international norms and standards. Once a convention is adopted by the UN General Assembly, member states can then ratify the convention, promising to uphold it. Governments that violate the standards set forth in a convention will be subject to the enforcement mechanisms in that convention.

Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD)—a human rights treaty promulgated by the United Nations in 1966. The Convention is widely supported, with more than 156 countries (four-fifths of the membership of the UN) having ratified it. Australia ratified the Convention on 30 September 1975, and the Racial Discrimination Act, 1975 (Cth) was enacted in an attempt to fulfill the Government’s obligations to the Convention.

Convention on Wetlands—(see: Ramsar Convention).

convict—(hist.) a person serving a prison sentence, especially in an Australian penal colony.

convict assignment—the practice used in many penal colonies of assigning convicts to work for private individuals. Contemporary abolitionists characterised the practice as virtual slavery, and some, but by no means all, latter-day historians have agreed with this assessment. Under Governor Phillip most convicts were kept in government hands to construct buildings, roads and to cultivate the land needed to establish the settlement. Phillip's successors continued to make use of convicts. After the opening years the majority of convicts were assigned to private employers who were responsible for their discipline and who provided lodging, food and clothing in return for their labour. Assignment benefited government and private employers alike but the system was far from uniform in its operation. Benevolent, wealthy employers usually treated their convict workers well and gave them the opportunity to improve their position. Extra rations and indulgences such as tea, tobacco and rum, improved accomodation and wages were often offered to keep the services of the best men. Assigned male convicts were generally employed as field labourers or tradesmen; women became domestic servants. Misdemeanours such as insolence, laziness, disobedience and absconding were punished by flogging, time on the treadmill or assignment to a road gang. For more serious or frequent offences the most severe punishment, short of execution, was transportation to one of the penal settlements, such as Newcastle, Port Macquarie, Moreton Bay or Norfolk Island. Very few records of assignment and employment of convicts have survived. There are a number of indexes available in both the Sydney Records Centre and the Western Sydney Records Centre. In Australia, every penal colony except Western Australia had a system of convict assignment. The system was abolished in New South Wales and Van Diemen's Land on 1 July 1841 and replaced with the probation gang system.

convict cant—the thieves' argot, rhyming slang, and English and Irish idiomatic expressions that characterised early Australian speech. An interesting feature of convict language in the colonies was a tendency to invert the meanings of words—many words came to be used with an ironic twist: e.g., calling a redhead 'blue'.

convict colony—(hist.) a colony established by the British Crown with convict labour, ostensibly as a place of penal servitude.

convict constable—(hist.) a convict appointed as an officer of the peace.

convict establishment—(hist.) 1. the buildings and personnel of a convict station. 2. (cap.) Fremantle Prison in WA was originally known as the Convict Establishment; it required eight years of convict labour to quarry the limestone and build the prison that was to house them. Completed in 1860.

convict ident—the record of a convict's arrival in the Colony. Convicts were theoretically not slaves, but indentured servants entitled to a pardon, or ticket of leave, upon completion of their sentence to servitude.

convict overseer—(hist.) a convict appointed to supervise convict labour. The use of convict overseers was a recurring theme in the observations and the criticisms that were made of the system. They provided a vital layer in the structure of penal discipline because the creation of a hierarchy within the convict body itself divided the prisoners and incorporated some within the hegemony of penal power. Yet, as a class they generated profound anxieties because their inclusion embodied the very point where disciplinary rhetoric and practice might be breached. Rather than collusion and collaboration with the authorities, the overseer also represented the antitype of that figure. By the late 1840s efforts were still being made to phase out the use of convict overseers. In 1849, Thomas Rodgers suggested that the use of convicts as overseers at Norfolk Island subverted the principles of internal moral order. As he recalled, "of the night watch-men appointed to keep order, some were punished by Mr. Price himself for unnatural practices".

convict settlement—(hist.) following the American War of Independence, North America closed to further shipments of convicts from the British Isles. The jails of Britain could not cope with the massive strain imposed upon them, resulting in the overcrowding of the jails and prison hulks. Transportation seemed the only solution, and Australia the only venue. In May, 1787, the first convict fleet set sail from Portsmouth for eastern Australia via Rio de Janeiro and the Cape of Good Hope—a total of 15,900 miles, and carrying a total of 1,350 souls. The First Fleet arrived at Botany Bay on 20 January 1788, but found this anchorage of Cook's unsuitable and by 26 January had settled upon Port Jackson as the site of the first convict settlement. Of those that survived, sickness, hunger, and back-breaking hard work was the reality of life. Once the settlements survived the 'starvation years', as this early period has been named, a wider colonial society developed.

convict ships—(hist.) convicts were housed below decks on the prison deck and often further confined behind bars. In many cases they were restrained in chains and were only allowed on deck for fresh air and exercise. Conditions were cramped and they slept on hammocks. Very little information seems to be available about the layout of the convict ships, but a few books do contain artists' impressions and reproductions of images held in library collections. Although the convicts of the First Fleet arrived in relatively good condition, the same cannot be said for those that followed during the rest of the century. Cruel masters, harsh discipline and scurvy, dysentery and typhoid resulted in a huge loss of life. After the English authorities began to review the system in 1801 the ships were despatched twice a year, at the end of May and the beginning of September, to avoid the dangerous winters of the Southern Hemisphere. Surgeons employed by the early contractors had to obey to the master of the ship and on later voyages were replaced by independent Surgeon Superintendents whose sole responsibility was for the well being of the convicts. As time went on, successful procedures were developed and the surgeons were supplied with explicit instructions as to how life on board was to be organised. By then the charterers were also paid a bonus to land the prisoners safe and sound at the end of the voyage. By the time the exiles were being transported in the 1840s and onwards, a more enlightened routine was in place which even included the presence on board of a Religious Instructor to educate the convicts and attend to their spiritual needs.

convict society—between 1788 and 1842 some 80,000 convicts were transported to New South Wales. Of these, about 85% were men and 15% were women. About two thirds of these were English convicts (along with a small number of Scottish and Welsh), with the Irish making up the remaining one third. The majority came from towns and cities, and 75% were transported for crimes against property. The convicts were usually given sentences of transportation for 7 or 14 years, or for life, although some convicts in the 1830s received ten-year sentences.

convict stain—the social disgrace and personal shame suffered by descendants of the convicts transported to Australia.

convict station—(hist.) a place at which convicts were confined.

convict system—(hist.) the transportation of convicts and their treatment.

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