|For the Term of His Natural Life|
|Based on||For the Term of His Natural Life by Marcus Clarke|
|Written by||Patricia Payne|
|Directed by||Rob Stewart|
|Starring|| Colin Friels |
|Theme music composer||Simon Walker|
|Country of origin||Australia|
|No. of episodes||3 x 2 hours|
|Original network||Nine Network|
|Original release||23 May –|
6 June 1983
For the Term of His Natural Life is a 1983 Australian three-part, six-hour television miniseries based on the classic novel of the same name by Marcus Clarke. Each episode aired for two hours on Nine Network on 23 May, 30 May and 6 June 1983.
Well-educated but adventurous young British aristocrat, Richard Devine, son of Sir Richard Devine, learns his Mother's secret - his biological father is in fact Lord Bellasis. To protect his mother's reputation, he leaves home to take ship to India, but is arrested after Lord Bellasis is murdered. He is tried for murder and acquitted but found guilty of theft of a pocket-watch which was given him by Lord Bellasis. Under the alias of Rufus Dawes, he is sentenced to transportation for life.
Dawes is shipped to Van Diemen's Land on the Malabar, which also carries Captain Vickers, who is to become the new commandant of the penal settlement at Macquarie Harbour, his wife Julia and child Sylvia, Julia's maid, Sarah Purfoy and Lieutenant Maurice Frere, During the voyage, Dawes starts to tutor an illiterate young convict boy, known as ‘Blinker’, in the basics of arithmetic.
Life is brutal for the convicts. Vickers tries to be relatively humane but Frere goes out of his way to be as brutal as possible. Because of his gardening knowledge, learned at the family home, Dawes is assigned to create and maintain a garden around the commandant's house.
Dawes is transferred to Port Arthur under Frere's command. As punishment for being involved in an attempt to escape, he is sent into solitary confinement on Grummet rock, a small island off the coast. Dawes manages to escape and is washed up on a beach, where he finds Frere, Mrs Vickers and Sylvia, who have been marooned there by escaped convicts. Dawes plans, and succeeds in building, a boat out of saplings and goat hide. Frere promises Dawes a pardon if they are saved. Sylvia calls him, "Good Mr. Dawes". They take to sea and are rescued by an American vessel, but Frere has Dawes arrested. Sylvia has blocked out all memory of the events and cannot defend Dawes. Mrs. Vickers dies.
Sylvia, now a young woman of sixteen, marries Frere, who has lied about the events and painted Dawes as a would-be murderer.
Dawes escapes again to see Sylvia, but in her amnesia she is afraid of him. John Rex, another convict, tries to persuade Dawes to join him in an escape. Rex reaches Sydney and travels on to London with Sarah, now his wife, where he presents himself as Richard Devine. Lady Ellinor Devine, Richard’s mother, accepts him as her long-lost son.
In Norfolk Island, by 1846, Reverend James North has been appointed prison chaplain. He is appalled at the horrible punishments inflicted. and also has strong feelings for Sylvia.
John Rex leads a life of debauchery, much to the disapproval of Lady Ellinor, and wishes to sell off the family estate. Lady Ellinor's suspicions have reached the point where she attempts to test her alleged son's knowledge of family secrets.
North visits Dawes in prison where he has been sentenced to death by Frere; he changes places with him and Dawes takes ship to Sydney without being discovered. He makes his way to the gold diggings at Ballarat, opening a general goods store. But Frere, now posted to Melbourne, tracks him down with the aid of a lawyer. The lawyer proves to be ‘Blinker’ now well educated, and Frere is shot dead.
Dawes travels to his home and is accepted by his Mother. Rex and his wife, now exposed as frauds, vanish into the night. Vickers arrives and hands Dawes a pardon, having personally lobbied on his behalf. It is assumed that Dawes and Sylvia will now marry.
The mini-series was based on the original serialised version of the novel For the Term of His Natural Life , which meant it featured scenes of Rufus Dawes in the Australian Gold Rush and a happy ending where Dawes is reunited with Sylvia.
The mini series was a passion project for Patricia Payne, who had wanted to adapt the novel since she read it in high school. She spent eight years raising the $6.5 million budget, which consisted of private investment. Payne's co producer was Wilton Schiller, an American with extensive TV experience. Shooting began before the series had been sold to an Australian network.
It was shot partly in Adelaide, Victor Harbour, Macquarie Harbour and Port Arthur.
An interactive app based on the mini series was released in 2012.
It was a ratings success. It was the eleventh highest rated Australian mini series on Sydney television between 1978 and 2000, with a rating of 37. It was the third highest on Melbourne television during that period with a rating of 45.
It aired in the United Kingdom in 1985, where the Guardian headlined its review "fair stinkum".
Van Diemen's Land was the original name used by most Europeans for the island of Tasmania, part of Australia. The name was changed from Van Diemen's Land to Tasmania in 1856.
Marcus Andrew Hislop Clarke FRSA was an English-born Australian novelist, journalist, poet, editor, librarian and playwright. He is best-known for his 1874 novel For the Term of His Natural Life, widely regarded as a classic work about convictism in Australia. It has been adapted into many plays and films.
William Dawes Jr. was one of several men in April 1775 who alerted colonial minutemen in Massachusetts of the approach of British army troops prior to the Battles of Lexington and Concord at the outset of the American Revolution. For some years, Paul Revere had the most renown for his ride of warning of this event.
Metamorpho is a fictional superhero appearing in American comic books published by DC Comics. He was created by writer Bob Haney and artist Ramona Fradon. He is a founding member of the Outsiders, and has also joined multiple incarnations of the Justice League. The character has been moderately popular since his introduction in 1965. Originally adventurer Rex Mason, he is converted into a man made of a shifting mass of chemicals after being cursed by an ancient artifact that he has retrieved.
The Macquarie Harbour Penal Station, a former British colonial penal settlement, established on Sarah Island, Macquarie Harbour, in the former colony of Van Diemen's Land, now Tasmania, operated between 1822 and 1833. The settlement housed mainly male convicts, with a small number of women. During its 11 years of operation, the penal colony achieved a reputation as one of the harshest penal settlements in the Australian colonies. The formal penal station is located on the eight-hectare (twenty-acre) Sarah Island that now operates as an historic site under the direction of the Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service.
John Giles Price, was a colonial administrator in Australia. He served as governor of the convict settlement at Norfolk Island from 6 August 1846 to 18 January 1853, and later as the inspector-general of penal establishments in Victoria, during which he was "stoned to death" by angry prisoners.
The West Coast of Tasmania has a significant convict heritage. The use of the West Coast as an outpost to house convicts in isolated penal settlements occurred in the eras 1822–33, and 1846–47.
Colin Friels is a Scottish-born Australian actor.
Between 1788 and 1868, about 162,000 convicts were transported from Britain and Ireland to various penal colonies in Australia.
William Westwood, also known as Jackey Jackey, was an English-born convict who became a bushranger in Australia.
Rufus R. Dawes was a military officer in the Union Army during the American Civil War. He used the middle initial "R" but had no middle name. He was noted for his service in the famed Iron Brigade, particularly during the Battle of Gettysburg. He was a post-war businessman, Congressman, and author, and the father of four nationally known sons, one of whom, Charles G. Dawes, won the Nobel Peace Prize and served as Vice President of the United States, and of two daughters. He was himself a great-grandson of William Dawes, who alerted colonial minutemen of the approach of the British army prior to the Battles of Lexington and Concord at the outset of the American Revolution, and a maternal great-grandson of the Rev. Manasseh Cutler, who was instrumental in adoption of the Northwest ordinance of 1787, led the formation of the Ohio Company of Associates, and became "Father of Ohio University".
For the Term of His Natural Life is a story written by Marcus Clarke and published in The Australian Journal between 1870 and 1872. It was published as a novel in 1874 and is the best known novelisation of life as a convict in early Australian history. At times relying on seemingly implausible coincidences, the story follows the fortunes of Rufus Dawes, a young man transported for a murder that he did not commit. The book clearly conveys the harsh and inhumane treatment meted out to the convicts, some of whom were transported for relatively minor crimes, and graphically describes the conditions the convicts experienced. The novel was based on research by the author as well as a visit to the penal settlement of Port Arthur, Tasmania.
Sir William Dawes, 3rd Baronet, was an Anglican prelate. He served as Bishop of Chester from 1708 to 1714 and then as Archbishop of York from 1714 to 1724. Politically he was a Hanoverian Tory, who favoured the Hanoverian Succession.
Damon Herriman is an Australian actor known for his film and television work in Australia and the United States. He is perhaps best known for his portrayal of Dewey Crowe in Justified. He portrays the cult leader and criminal Charles Manson in both the Netflix series Mindhunter and the Quentin Tarantino film Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.
Thomas Watling, was an early Australian painter and illustrator, notable for his natural history drawings and landscapes.
For the Term of His Natural Life is a 1927 Australian film, based on the novel by Marcus Clarke, directed, produced and co-written by Norman Dawn. It was the most expensive Australian silent film ever made and remains one of the most famous Australian films of the silent era.
William Buelow Gould was an English and Van Diemonian (Tasmanian) painter. He was transported to Australia as a convict in 1827, after which he would become one of the most important early artists in the colony, despite never really separating himself from his life of crime.
For the Term of His Natural Life is a 1908 Australian silent film based on the 1874 novel by the same name by Marcus Clarke. The film is an adaptation of MacMahon's stage adaptation of the novel.
The Life of Rufus Dawes is a 1911 Australian silent film based on Alfred Dampier's stage adaptation of the novel For the Term of His Natural Life produced by Charles Cozens Spencer.
A convict melodrama is a type of melodrama set in Australia during the convict era. They normally revolved around stories of innocent people wrongly accused of a crime who were transported to Australia as convicts.The best known work in this field was the novel For the Term of His Natural Life, which was adapted into various plays and films.