Australian History: The Bushranger Act

By 1830 there were so many bushrangers roaming around New South Wales that the government passed a special Act to make it easier to catch people who might be bush- rangers. The Act said:

  • Anyone could arrest a person if he suspected him of being an escaped convict or bushranger. It was then up to the arrested per- son to prove that he was not an escaped convict. If he could not do so, he was taken to Sydney for questioning.
  • Police could break into a house and search it if they thought that weapons were hidden there. They could arrest anyone found in a place where weapons were discovered. They could search anyone they suspected of carrying weapons.
This was a tough law and many innocent people became angry and resentful when they were searched or, as sometimes happened, arrested as suspected bushmasters. Freed convicts had papers to show who they were. But immigrants often had no identification at all.

They were sometimes taken from lockup to lockup until they ended up in the convict bar- racks in Sydney. There they were questioned and their faces and bodies were checked against the government's records of escaped convicts. Sometimes it took weeks from the time they were arrested until they were allowed to go free. Then they had to make their own way back to where they were going when they had been arrested.